The Grecians will be looking to quickly bounce back to winning ways as they face Southend United on Saturday in a 12:30pm kick-off at St James Park.
Ahead of the match, Sam Moakes picks three to look our for on the opposition...
Well, if Phil Brown is going to get Southend out of trouble, he’ll need the help of his captain John White to steady the ship. White, the archetypal Football League centre-back, is the club’s longest serving player, having joined in 2003. White had been at fellow Essex side Colchester United for nine years, before making the 50-minute trip to play at the Roots Hall stadium in a deal worth £180k.
Whilst the defender has only started 23 of Southend’s 41 games so far this campaign, which has been hampered with injuries, his impact if felt when he does. So much so that White won Southend’s Player of the Month for March. White’s leadership is going to be crucial if Southend are going to make ground on those above them as the defender recovers from an arm injury for their final fixtures.
Picking a key man for a side that sit 23rd in the table, having scored six goals fewer than the next lowest-scoring side in the league, is going to mean two things. One - it is going to be a difficult pick, and two – it won’t be an attacker. Instead, I’m going with Jason Demetriou. In the absence of John White, Demetriou has captained the side from midfield on occasion, and has been an ever-present in the centre of the park. This has been the same story for the last five seasons, after he joined the club on a free in the summer of 2016.
Since then, Demetriou has made 150 appearances for the Essex side, scoring 15 from the base of midfield. In fact, his only goal this campaign came in a 2-2 draw against Exeter, marking a slump in goalscoring form that has previously seen him net eight times in a campaign. Jason Demetriou's career-high 11 yellow cards tell the story of a frustrating season, but the midfielder is still an integral part of Southend United.
Oh, I’ve got to pick another key man? Right, okay, let’s take Tom Clifford then. The youngster is one of the only positive aspects to come out of this season, with fan forums showing some excitement toward the full-back. Clifford is just 21 years of age (yes, he’s born in the 2000s), and has played his way into the starting XI to lay claim to the left-back position.
Clifford’s potential was beginning to be known toward the end of the last campaign, as he played nine matches before Covid put a stop to the season. This year he has featured in 28 of the Shrimpers matches, and is, unbelievably, the joint top-scorer for the club with a massive three goals. A team of the week appearance has also not hurt the youngsters cause but staying up will be the ultimate present.