Tuesday, October 04, 2011


The Johnstone's Paint Trophy takes centre stage tonight and the key here is to read between the lines.
Unlike in the past, clubs are forced to name "strong" line ups, with at least six players who started the last league game, or, who are regular first team players. That still leaves plenty of room to manoeuvre of course, but with the threat of a £5000 fine for non compliance, clubs are very guarded in what they say. So you almost always read that "they are motivated to do well", "see this as a chance to get to Wembley" etc etc. Normally the teams that are more focused and I don't believe that anyone really is through the early rounds, are those that are fairly sure that they are in for a mid table campaign,or those that are very strong, pushing for the title, but secure that a run in this competition is not going to cost them promotion.

Swindon Town have taken this competition quite seriously in recent years , but having just missed out on promotion in the first of those and been relegated in the second, I wonder how motivated they will be tonight ? They have only really put in one road performance this season and that came at Crawley Town, who were in the middle of an injury crisis and in poor form at the time. Paulo di Canio has said he wants to go to Wembley, but we have already spoken about that. His team simply have to get promotion, or at least go very close this season and I think they could do without involvement in this. Looking at the league table, you could also say the same about League 1 strugglers Exeter City, but after five games without a win they finally broke their duck at the weekend and surely boss Paul Tisdale (pictured in his normal cap and scarf, we might see the cap tonight, scarf is unlikely) will want to keep the momentum up.

We spoke about the Grecians quite a lot earlier in the season and how they were good enough box to box, but had no strikers due to injuries and lack of investment in the summer and were toothless up front. They were waiting for the loan market to open up and the treatment room to clear and then, for these players to gel, well, they have five strikers now and Bauza, Nardiello and Whichelow do have a touch of class. They started well at home to Oldham on saturday, like they have in several recent games, but the difference this time was that the goal came and with it, the confidence returned, they scored a second and then chose to sit on their lead. That was understandable, as it was desperately needed, it did allow the visitors back into things somewhat, but the clean sheet was also fantastic for the mood at the club and having reached the Area Final in this last year, I think they will be up for the tie tonight. Exeter City -0.25 ball 2.07 asian line.

Southend United are top of League 2 and have won their last four with a 1o-0 goal difference, the last two against big promotion rivals Rotherham and Shrewsbury by a combined 7-0, it is hard to be more impressive than that. Huge credit to boss Paul Sturrock who has done miracles in his 14-15 months in charge, about two weeks before the start of last season he had no registered players. His squad is in good shape, with only two long term injuries, he will rotate his eleven, giving the league trip to Crewe priority over tonight's "derby" fixture with Dagenham. But there is now huge competition for places and those coming in, Hall, Sturrock ( junior) and especially Bilel Mohsni, who was the clubs saviour before quality players like Neil Harris and Liam Dickenson were brought in, will be very hungry to impress and win a starting place back. Their supporters will travel in force for tonight, they had 800 in this competition travel to Barnet last year at the same stage ( won 3-1) and are in much better form now. Over 1,000 are expected to make the very short journey, which is likely to give them over half the crowd and United will not want to disappoint such support and it can make a huge difference at games like this. Support, competition for places and momentum to keep up and build upon, off level ball I have to take the Shrimpers. Southend level ball 2.06 asian line.

Good Luck.

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