Arriving at Glanford Park without a win in ten games, play-off hopefuls Southend United will still pose a tough challenge, according to manager Russ Wilcox.Looking back to a slender 1-0 victory at Roots Hall in which Chris Iwelumo capitalised on an error to net the easiest goal of his career, the Iron boss will expect a reaction from the Shrimpers.
“I thought they were very, very good when we played down there,” he told The Iron Player.
“Obviously that was back in September. Phil Brown has got a good squad together and he’s a very experienced manager as well. He’s also got Dave Penney with him who has managerial experience at Doncaster and a few other clubs.
“I’m surprised they’ve dipped, but we’ve looked at the report from Saturday’s game and they’ve got a good outfit there. It’ll be similar to Northampton, there’s no “gimme’s” or freebies. Looking at Accrington beating Chesterfield says everything about this league. I repeat myself, but it’s the truth. Anybody can beat anybody on any given day.”
He added: “We have to be on our game and play on the front foot like we did in the second half and if we do; I think we will be okay.”
The fact that Southend, whose last victory came against the league leaders Chesterfield back in January, still occupy the final play-off spot identifies what the division is all about. In addition, looking at the points totals of the promotion candidates, the Scunthorpe gaffer expects the total required for promotion could be significantly lower than normal.
“It will be interesting to see what you will need this year (in terms of points),” said Wilcox.
“First and foremost the number of points to be in the top three and secondly in the play-offs. The seventh spot this year could be really low. A lot of points have gone to teams at the bottom of the table. Northampton have got 34 and the next team has 40. That’s a lot of points for a team down there to have at this stage of the season with eleven to play.
“There’s a lot more points at the bottom end of the table and a lot more draws in the division. Every season is different. Last season, it was 78 points for Port Vale to get promoted from third, yet the season before Southend missed out with 83.”
He added: “We’re still pushing for that 80 point mark, but this season I think it will be less.”
The Shrimpers’ dismal record of late also extends further with them not winning on the road in this calendar year. Their last three points away from Roots Hall came on Boxing Day – with Wilcox and his players ready to fully take advantage of that statistic.
“We’ve certainly got to turn these draws into wins,” said Wilcox.
“It is nice to pick up points in every game, but we’re not going to hide away from the fact that we were very disappointed on Saturday. I wanted the lads to press the ball when they had ten men, but cheap free kicks and a lack of discipline has cost us dearly.
“It’s difficult to use the word ‘respond’, because we’re on a fantastic run. We’re unbeaten since November and unbeaten away since October, so it’s very difficult to be negative about anything. What we’ve done is debrief and gone through the game and we have to learn from it and not make the same mistakes.
“We’ve got to stay on our feet, stay disciplined and stay organised. If you watch the Football League Show, there are a lot of goals at our level scored from set-plays. Both goals on Saturday were from set-plays.
“Going through the stats on previous games and against Southend away on a wet surface on a Friday night, we conceded seven fouls over the 90 minutes and we won the game 1-0. Against Mansfield away, we conceded 3 fouls – which is unbelievable – and we won 2-0.”
He added: “There’s no coincidence, concede fouls and balls come into your box and sometimes they’re going to get a head on one of those balls.”
See much more from Russ Wilcox and Sam Winnall on The Iron Player.