Face Wycombe, who they haven’t beaten this season, in League Two play-off final

icon league2b23 May ~ Well that was easy. Almost two years ago, prior to Southend playing in a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final at Wembley, the pursuit of a ticket for the game entailed either an hour or two (if you were lucky) waiting in a queue snaking round the Roots Hall car park or an equally long time spent holding on the telephone being regularly reminded that one was number 13 in the queue. This time it was so much simpler. I went online on Saturday evening, booked two seats in block 123 and then the tickets dropped through my letterbox on Wednesday morning. It was even worth paying the admin charges.

Sadly, that was the only bit of the Blues’ route to Wembley that was simple which, having followed them for 50-odd years, came as little surprise to me. For most of the season it looked like we would be lucky to even scrape into the play-offs at all. Southend were a team that, in spite of having one of the meanest defences in the division, coupled this with a stubborn reluctance to score goals. Phil Brown’s seemingly insatiable fondness for 1-0 scorelines often appeared to set his team up for a last-minute sucker punch or (even worse) two.

For most of the season, on Shrimperzone at least, many contributors to the online forum have been calling for Brown’s head and bemoaning his 4-5-1 obsession, as well as the lack of that hungry young striker who always manages to elude our scouts. Had the season fizzled out into the damp squib that, at the turn of the year, it threatened to become then no doubt Brown would have been posting out his CV long before now.

But, as we know, the Shrimpers then proceeded to confound all expectations by embarking on an eight-game unbeaten run – during which they didn’t concede a goal – taking them to the brink of the automatics. Fate seemed on their side as both Bury and Wycombe fell at crucial hurdles, meaning that on the last day of the regular season Southend United were sitting comfortably in third place. All they had to do to secure promotion was to beat Morecambe. The same opponents who, up until then, Southend United had never beaten in a league game… and they still haven’t.

We haven’t managed to beat Wycombe Wanderers this season either, scoring three goals but shipping six in our two matches. In this regard Saturday’s game could go either way. Given that Southend are currently the bookies’ favourites and bearing in mind the club’s previous record on big occasions in front of big crowds, I have not planned my celebration party. Steven Heath

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