PREVIEW: Southend United v Luton Town
There can’t be too many teams who blow as hot and cold as Southend United currently do.
Since November 24, Southend have played 10 League One matches, one week winning, the next week losing, with metronomic regularity.
There have been some fine results in there, especially last weekend’s 4-0 hammering of Bradford at Valley Parade which included some wonderful goals for the visitors.
They also triumphed at Oxford and defeated Accrington 3-0 in their five victories, but the five defeats has seen them beaten at home by the likes of Plymouth and Rochdale.
The consistently inconsistent sequence means United do occupy a comfortable mid-table position, sitting 11th in the league, although they will have to go some to reach the play-offs, some nine points away already.
Manager Chris Powell, who completed a year in charge of the Shrimpers this week, has been eager to bolster his squad in the transfer window.
The former Southend player acquired the permanent signing of striker Stephen Humphrys from Fulham, who had been on loan at Scunthorpe United in the first half of the season.
He was quick to announce himself to fans with two goals in last weekend’s hammering of the Bantams.
Joining the Cottagers attacker is Blackburn defender Sam Hart, who will stay in Essex until the end of the season.
Exiting the Shrimpers though is teenage defender Taylor Curran, who has joined Swindon Town for an undisclosed fee.
Off the pitch, thousands of Southend fans have backed the club’s ambitious bid to build a new stadium out of town.
More than 5,000 people signed a letter of support for the 21,000-seat stadium at Fossetts Farm.
It will now be passed on to planning officers at Southend Council, who have been reviewing the application for almost two years.
Planning permission for the club’s new home the north of Eastern Avenue was due to be granted by the end of 2018, but the council has said it is “impossible” to say if or when this will happen.
Team news: Luton will be without attacker Harry Cornick as he continues to recover from an ankle injury. Danny Hylton sits out the third game of his four match ban, while Glen Rea is absent until the end of the season with knee ligament damage.
For Southend, Jason Demetriou and Harry Lennon are both out, as is keeper Mark Oxley with a back problem.
Midfielder Harry Bunn and long-term absentees Tom Hopper, Ben Coker, Harry Kyprianou and Sam Barratt all miss the clash too.
Top scorers: Hatters: James Collins (14). Shrimpers: Simon Cox (11).
Man in the middle: Thomas Bramall - taken 31 games so far this season, showing 66 yellows and three reds, as he more often than not tends to keep his cards in his pocket.
Officiated Luton’s 1-0 FA Cup win at Bury back in December, his first Hatters match after being promoted from the National League last term.
Assistant referees are George Byrne and Nicholas Cooper, with the fourth official Bhupinder Gill.
In charge: Chris Powell – 49-year-old, who had a successful playing career that started by coming through the ranks at Crystal Palace before moving to Southend in August 1990.
Made almost 300 appearances for the Shrimpers, before a £750,000 move to Derby County in January 1996, followed by Charlton Athletic shelling out £825,000 to take him to the Valley in June 1998.
Brief spells with West Ham and Watford, each time returning to Charlton, and then headed to Bournemouth in July 2008, joining Leicester City a month later, as he racked up his 750th career appearance.
Became player coach at the Foxes a year, finally hanging up his boots at the end of the 2009-10 season.
Had one game in charge of Leicester as caretaker, his first managerial role then coming at former side Charlton in January 2011, winning promotion back to the Championship the following campaign.
Powell was sacked by the Addicks in March 2014, taking over at Huddersfield in September that year, dismissed in November 2015.
Back in the game in May 2016, named number two to Nigel Pearson at Derby County, leaving the club in March 2017, when his successor Steve McLaren was sacked.
Returned to first team management in January 2018, signing a two-and-a-half-year contract with Southend and is the only permanent Shrimpers manager to have won his first three matches.
View from the opposition: Southend boss Chris Powell talking to the club’s official website - “We’re playing against a side that have been unbeaten for a long time now and we know we’re going to be up against it regardless of what has gone on regards to losing Nathan Jones.
“Nathan is a coach I know really well from my Charlton days and he did a terrific job with them with regards to where that club was when he went in, to the momentum they’ve got from going up last year and carrying that on.
“I don’t see them changing much and why should they but when those teams come to town we have to turn up.
“We know we’ve got it in us, we’re capable, but it’s about trying to achieve it and playing at the pace and intensity that we have to, to get any sort of result.”
One to watch: Simon Cox - Vastly experienced striker who at 31, has scored well over 100 goals in his career.
Started out at Reading, before loans with Brentford, Northampton and Swindon, until the Robins paid £200k for his services in August 2007.
Netted 35 times in 62 league games to earn a £1.5m move to West Brom in July 2009, and then Nottingham Forest paid out £2m for his services in August 2012.
Returned to Reading in August 2014 and had a brief loan stint at Bristol City before heading to Roots Hall in July 2016.
Bagged 16 goals in his first season, 10 the following and this term has 11 from 33 matches including two in his last two games.
Friendly faces: Alan McCormack – Experienced midfielder joined Southend on loan in November 2006 from Preston.
He then made the move permanent in January 2007, leaving in July 2010 after playing 158 games in total, scoring 17 goals.
Joined Charlton in July 2010, with spells following with Swindon and Brentford, arriving at Luton in the summer of 2017.
Town’s Glen Rea joined Southend on loan from Brighton at the start of the 2015-16 season, playing 16 times for the Shrimpers.
He then moved to Luton in March 2016 on loan, with the club snapping him up permanently afterwards.
Elliot Lee headed to Southend on loan from West Ham United in October 2014, but picked up an injury before he could play a first team match.
He then signed for Luton later in that season, before spells at Blackpool, Colchester and Barnsley, rejoining the Hatters in July 2017.
Played for both: Dean Morgan – attacker who started his career with Colchester, moving to Reading in November 2003.
Releaed by the Royals at the end of the 2004-05 season, heading to Luton in summer of 2005.
Spent four years with the Hatters, playing 101 times an scoring 12 goals, before moving to Southend on loan in November 2007.
While at Roots Hall, netted three times in 11 matches, all his goals coming in the FA Cup, before a spell at Leyton Orient as he was released from Kenilworth Road in May 2009.
Since then, has played for clubs including Grays Athletic, MK Dons, Aldershot Town, Chesterfield, Oxford United, Wycombe Wanderers, Woking, Newport County, Throttur FC in Iceland and most recently Marate.
We’ve got form: Games between the Hatters and Southend at Roots Hall have often guaranteed a result over the years.
In total, Luton have made 43 visits, with 13 victories and 24 defeats, six ending all square, the last coming 19 games and almost 85 years ago, a Division Three South clash in 1934 that finished 3-3.
Town made a fine start to trips to Southend, a 4-2 FA Cup replay win in 1908.
They had a poor spell in the league during the 1960s, with three straight defeats, not scoring either, as they had to wait six games and over 30 years between triumphs, from 1964 to 1995, Tony Thorpe’s goal settling a Division One encounter.
Town have scored 45 goals, although conceded 75, shipping five goals on three separate occasions.
They have lost their last three visits as well, the last win back in April 2007, a 3-1 Championship success thanks to goals from Calvin Andrew, Matthew Spring and Besian Idrizaj.
Last time out: Town’s last trip to Roots Hall saw them lost 1-0 after a terrible error from keeper Elliot Justham.
The hosts had been reduced to 10 men on 67 minutes when Ben Coker saw red for a foul on Jack Marriott.
However, Southend won it after Michael Timlin’s hopeful long range shot was fumbled into the net by Justhan with just seven minutes to go.
Hatters: Elliot Justham, Michael Harriman, Scott Griffiths (Alex Wall 83), Steve McNulty, Luke Wilkinson, Jonathan Smith, Jake Howells, Nathan Doyle, Cameron McGeehan (Shaun Whalley 20), Mark Cullen, Elliot Lee (Luke Guttridge 65).
Subs not used: Mark Tyler, Lewis Kinsella, Alex Lacey, Ryan Hall.
Referee: Iain Williamson.