Southend v Rochdale: depleted squads

Steven Davies – bbc.co.uk

On the opening day, Southend United beat promotion favourites Blackburn 2-1 with an excellent performance. Michael Kightly was the best player on the pitch, Jermaine McGlashan was at his speedy best while John White and Anton Ferdinand had strong games at centre-back.

That result, and the performances of White and Ferdinand, now looks like an anomaly. The duo were torn apart the following week at Rotherham and now both could be unavailable for this week’s hosting of Rochdale.

Whether that is a bad thing is debatable, because they had looked slow in previous weeks, but their likely absence gives Phil Brown a selection headache. Youngster Daniel Matsuzaka is the only natural centre-back around and he has no experience beyond the Development Squad. Stephen Hendrie is a left-back by trade while Ryan Leonard and Michael Timlin are ball-winners, but either could be forced to temporarily shift position.

The good news for Southend is that they face a Rochdale side that have failed to score in two of their four league games. The last blank they drew came on Saturday against rivals Bury, who played the final half hour with ten men.

Most of their defenders and midfielders did well, but the display also exposed a need for the team to be more ruthless in the final third. No player has scored a league goal for them this season other than Steven Davies – and two of his goals have come from the spot.

Davies himself had to be substituted at half-time due to illness, which suggests that the Dale squad is suffering from a bug right now. Once they have Callum Camps calling the shots in midfield, Joe Bunney charging forward and Calvin Andrew occupying defenders, they should pose more of a threat.

Jordan Williams showed flashes of potential though and while Matt Done and Ian Henderson haven’t started the season too well, they do have some pedigree at this level. Rochdale aren’t at their best right now but they should be good enough to pierce a makeshift Shrimpers back-line.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 1-2