Backed by a noisy and enthusiastic crowd both teams set about the fixture with gusto with well crafted goals from each side. The referee blew kisses to the supporters before the blues emerged victorious. They’re great, those half time games aren’t they?
Southend United fans turned up in remarkably large numbers for Saturdays fixture as they said they would, many of whom wanting to pay homage to their former manager who rewarded them by sending them home potless in a manner that would have pleased him no end as Tilson won the tactical battle by playing a slightly unfamiliar 4-3-3 line up with a rare start for Ben Hutchinson, who acquitted himself very well, Delroy Facey slotting in to the left to deal with Shrimpers expected strength in that area. It worked a treat as City nullified an arguably better side, certainly in the first half to record a victory and put the team a win and a couple of draws short of the managers declared safety target of fifty points with eleven games to achieve it.
It’s a salutary thought that, impressive though the away following was the Imps were regularly backed by such numbers a few seasons ago, average home support hit the five thousand mark and away average over eight hundred, ironically around the time Steve Tilson was plotting Southend’s rise and as part of the process, a defeat for City at the Millennium Stadium. That all seems a long time ago and now the former Roots Hall man is ours whilst Tilson’s replacement is the unlikely figure of Paul Sturrock. They just about managed to shake hands at the end. City football fans are going to have to, once again, back the team in such numbers, if not more if Tilly is to emulate his success with Southend up in Lincolnshire.
If the manager was the architect of this win, Ashley Grimes was the means by which the victory was secured although Tilson will argue it’s a team game, once again it fell to the Millwall striker to supply the coup de grace, gambling, as all good strikers do, on Shrimpers keeper Evans making a mistake to sweep home the loose ball. As Grimes observed in the post match interview, nine times out of ten the keeper will claim. Good strikers make those runs ten times out of ten to capitalise on the odd mistake. It’s not rocket science.
Grimes’ second goal was worth subscribing to Imps player to have another look at as he carved his way through the Southend rearguard with crowd and team mates screaming for him to pass. Not on your Nelly, in it went! Not many City fans expect Grimes to be around next season, who will supply the goals? Hutchinson played very well but he’s not got that surgical strike ability despite that million pound price tag or is it millstone? Scott Spencer is waiting in the wings for his chance. What better opposition than his former employers to show his capabilities? Poor old Spencer. Admittedly, only granted the merest of cameo opportunities, he found himself with only the keeper to beat to add a third to City’s tally, in fact he seemingly only had to meet the ball to score. Over the bar it went. In his dreams, or nightmares, the ball would nestle in the net but he doesn’t see it as he’s wheeling over to his tormentor, Sturrock to celebrate and rub it in. Cheer up Scott, next time it will.