United manager Chris Beech revealed after the game on Saturday afternoon that he’d challenged the players in the team hotel on Friday night to make sure they improved their away record with, at that point, six away fixtures still left to play.
And the reaction was a very professional display at Roots Hall which saw goals either side of the break from Ozzy Zanzala and Gime Toure secure a solid two-goal victory.
“It’s our fifth away victory,” the gaffer said. “I did challenge the players, I showed them the home and away league table in the hotel, because we’ve got to be really proud that we’ve scored more than anybody at home.
“We were the best team in the league at home ahead of the weekend results, but our away record has not been good enough. We’ve been through all the turmoil we’ve been through, but I said last week that the lads are back to being more like I expect them to be.
“I did expect them to do well, but it was very professional. Ironically, every time we’ve won away this season we’ve kept a clean sheet. That’s very good, but we need to do it more.”
The second win of the week was also clean sheet number 11 of the season, with the target rarely troubled as the team in orange defended resolutely and attacked in numbers.
“I was pleased with the clean sheet, of course I was, but one thing we can control even better is giving away free-kicks that can come into your box,” he commented. “We did that a bit too much for my liking.
“I hope Southend can crack on after this game but we’ve just got to concentrate on us, and I’m pleased for everybody that we won in the way we did.
“It’s very difficult when you’re down there at the bottom. I experienced it helping Keit in his last year at Rochdale, players lose a bit of confidence in the last third and sometimes they just need any kind of lift.
“I spoke to the players at half time about taking caring of what we were doing, and to make sure we didn’t give a lift for them away too easily. I spoke to them in detail about it, I wasn’t happy about one or two things.
“They put themselves in great advantage, they got their goal, and they don’t do it on purpose - but don’t take liberties. If we do, we can make the game even, or against us, when we don’t need to.
“If we’re in control, stay in control, and make sure if the other team is going to get something they have to work for it.”
United’s first half goal was a beauty from Ozzy Zanzala as he chested his way into space from a Hayden header before striking the ball neatly into the bottom corner.
“People play formations, 4-4-2 in this case, and that meant we had an extra man in midfield that we could utilise,” he explained. “We could have utilised it more, but we did it enough to beat Southend.
“Ozzy is that kind of striker. He’s strong, and he’ll have enjoyed his goal. We took him off as a precaution because there’s some astroturf just by the dugouts, and when he tried to keep the ball in play he landed on it.
“He went over on his ankle but we’re hoping he’ll be ok. I haven’t spoken to the physio yet, but hopefully it’ll be settled and fine.”
On the moment that almost allowed the Shrimpers back into the game, he added: “It’s one of those frustrating moments we talked about, because we felt it was avoidable again.
“At the same time, and this is nothing to do with me, but those slow walk-ups, not run-ups, keepers tend to go early at that point and they roll it into the empty goal.
“Steve Collis and myself asked him to stand up because to be fair to Akinola, he’s scored a lot of penalties. He’s done well for Barnet scoring penalties, but Paul [Farman] stood up to the last second and read it really well.
“Again like at Port Vale, Jon Mellish followed up to make sure the rebound couldn’t be tapped home, so well done Jon.
“I hope Southend have a good go in the last few games they’ve got, and I hope we do at our games. We have to try and look after that home record and be the best in the league. We’ve got four left at home, and five more away, and we’ve just got to concentrate on that.”
And the Farman save was used as a springboard, with substitute Gime Toure notching his second league goal of the season to secure the points.
“It was good, and it’s from taking an extra touch again in the final third, like Omari Patrick did the other night,” he told us. “We’re telling the lads not to be too quick when they don’t have to be.
“When you’re quick and good on the ball, what’s the point in passing to you if you’re going to play just one touch. The point of giving it to the technically good players is so they take extra touches to do what they’re very good at.
“Gime expressed himself there. He needed it. I’ve challenged him about his assists and goals. He’s got great flair but there has to be a function to what you’re doing. The whole point of being an attacking player in our team is to score, and assist, and defend from the front.
“And his chance came from us regaining possession, having lost it in a good position. It’s vital, if we don’t get the ball back he doesn’t get the chance to do what he did.
“It’s the same with Ethan Walker, when he does that beautiful inside flick back to Lewi Alessandra. It’s unbelievable play really, but it’s vital that midfield players back up attacking waves. It creates the second wave of an attack, and opponents are generally out of shape in that second wave.
“We got our goals, that’s four decent finishes and two clean sheets this week, but it’s been and gone. As ever in this game it’s about what you do next that matters.”
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