When the season is young there is always good reason to give an inferior side a thumping in order to send out messages of intent. Queen's Park Rangers had that opportunity at Loftus Road yesterday but let Southend escape with a mild smack.
Despite gaining promotion twice in as many seasons, Southend are well aware that the Championship is not likely to be a division through which they will comfortably pass en route to even higher things. Not that the quality of their football, as they swept into the game with a succession of bright, enterprising attacks, was anything less than ambitious.
QPR's new signing, 20-year-old Dexter Blackstock, from Southampton, may have got an early caution for diving, but he plunged quickly into the Southend penalty area with sharp-eyed menace. He might have done a little better in the 11th minute, forcing Darryl Flahavan to deflect his shot over the bar, but generally he linked well with Gareth Ainsworth and his strike partner Ray Jones.
The striker who had been anticipated to catch most of the attention was, of course, Southend's Freddy Eastwood. Yesterday, he found it difficult to get in his stride and Rangers dictated the pace so that they took a 30th-minute lead when Lee Cook tapped a free-kick to Martin Rowlands, who sent a shot into the top corner.
Southend's situation got worse when, after 43 minutes, Flahavan made a tentative attempt to clear a cross from Ainsworth but succeeded only in colliding with Jones, who headed towards an empty goal. Nick Ward chased the ball in. Flahavan's game was over with a cut head and a sore memory of his unhappy intervention.
Southend certainly felt sore enough all round to take a much more positive attitude into the second half, passing more accurately and tightening up in defence. Even so, they found it difficult to locate Eastwood and made little of their chances.
"We know it's going to be a tough year but the spirit we showed in the second half shows we can compete," said Southend manager Steve Tilson. "We are going to need an excellent team spirit and togetherness to get through this season."
Southend's progress is likely to be hesitant in this division. But, considering their recent rise, that should be sufficient.Reuse content