Published on 25th Sep 2018 by Rachel Garfirth
Southend Mens 3s 2-1 London Royals 1
Southend Men's 3s opened their new league campaign with an impressive victory away to London Royals at a rain sodden Redbridge. The visitors were forced to win the hard way after going one goal down mid-way through the second half.
New captain Steve Wilkinson named himself in goal as familiar faces returned along with summer recruits Lee Slowe and Aaron Harding.
Southend started the game shakily, with the home side forcing several mistakes from the midfield and were unfortunate to capitalise fully, with defender Lee Evans keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. A short corner was hit tamely wide. However, the Blues soon grew into the game and the evergreen Ian Richardson linked well with last season's top scorer Mickey Walsh and midfield maestro Marcus Kiamil. Southend forced multiple short corners, and, from a training ground routine, gave Mickey Walsh opportunities to find the target but each time the keeper was equal to it. Minutes before the interval, a Walsh deflected goal-bound effort was superbly padded away around the post.
After the break, Southend carried on from where they had left off on the front foot and pushing for more opportunities. New signing Aaron Harding almost notching on his debut but his near post flick from a cross was agonisingly inches wide. Wilkinson was then called into action, showing impressive reflexes to deflect the ball around the post with his kicker. Nevertheless, Southend were undone against the run of play by a fluid Royals move, the ball crossed in from the right and poked home from close range. Southend immediately responded and won a penalty flick after an obstruction by the goalkeeper. The ball had been swept in but the whistle had already been blown. Mickey Walsh duly converted to level matters and switch the momentum of the match with 12 minutes remaining. 1-1. Minutes later and Southend found themselves with the perfect chance to take control. A short corner was played out to Walsh, who played in Kiamil on his right. His initial shot was smothered but he made no mistake with the rebound smacking the top of the backboard sending the away fans into raptures. 2-1 and Southend had completed the turnaround. During the last few moments, Royals piled on the pressure but Southend stood firm and showed excellent resilience to contain the game and protect the result. The full time whistle cued celebrations from the players and set up a platform to build upon over the coming season.
Man of the Match went to Lee Evans who provided steel in the heart of defence, thwarting a number of dangerous attacks and setting his team up on the counter.
Captain Steve Wilkinson claimed: "That win was the result of the ultimate team performance. We have shown that we are to be taken seriously and that result will send shockwaves throughout the league."
Defender Evans admitted: "The lads are delighted in the dressing room- we would have been disappointed not to get anything after that performance."