It’s the Essex boys for the first home game of the season and a chance to try and make up for the disappointments of the League Cup exit on Tuesday night.
Hutchings has a fully fit and available squad for the game, other than the suspended Rhys Weston. Richard Taundry or first-year professional, Darryl Westlake, could replace him at right-back.
Saddlers’ skipper Mark Hughes missed Tuesday’s defeat with a thigh strain but is fit again, while his replacement in defence for that game, Stephen Roberts, is over a niggling back injury, for the time being!
Hutchings was also without midfielder Peter Till, but that was thought to be purely a precautionary measure after the player bruised his foot. He will be back in contention tomorrow.
Walsall left-back Netan Sansara is training again after an ankle injury sustained in the non friendly with the Dingles last month, but is short of match fitness which might just cost him his place tomorrow.
Hutchings said: “We also have goalkeeper Clayton Ince back from his international duties with Trinidad and Tobago and Mark Bradley has returned after his appearance for Wales Under-21s in midweek. We are fit and raring to go.”
I would expect Hutchings to go with what seems to be his first choice line up, with the exception of Taundry, in for Weston (although Nicholls may be pushing for a start after scoring our only goal this season by a Saddler on Tuesday!):-
Ince, Taundry, Smith, Hughes, Vincent, Till, Mattis, Richards, Jones, Parkin, Deeney.
As for Southend, what of them? They finished eighth last year, which was a massive achievement by Steve Tilson as he managed a small squad with little or no money at his disposal. But for some inconsistency right at the end they could have made the play-offs, but eighth was more than many fans dared to dream of.
One of the country’s longest-serving managers, Tilson is a Southend United legend as a player and has got an excellent reputation as a boss, overseeing two promotions, two Johnstone’s Paint Trophy finals and a play-off semi-final. Other clubs have tried to tease him away but without success so far. A happy-go-lucky exterior covers a steely determination to succeed.
The Blues look like they are going to have to make do with a small squad once again this year, but the return of Lee Sawyer on loan from Chelsea has given the fans hope. The midfielder was excellent in a loan spell last season and he will have to take a large workload on his shoulders to drive the side forward this year. Captain Adam Barrett will again lead from the front but the loss of Peter Clarke is a huge blow
They have gone for the loan option to boost the squad again this season and have, from Colchester, Matt Heath and Jamie White.
Lee Sawyer was injured for the opener against Huddersfield (2 -2 at home), but will be fit for tomorrow. Jean-Yves M’voto, a centre back on loan from Sunderland, could make the starting line-up.
We ought to be full of confidence in the League, following our win at Brighton last week, but this is likely to be a true test of the squad’s potential, with Southend having drawn against highly fancied Huddersfield in their opener. They even lead 2 – 0 at one point. Last season’s weakness at home under Hutchings (I’ll ignore the aberration of Mullen’s tenure) was an inability to win when having to make the running, as opposed to playing on the counter away. It’ll be interesting to see if our lack of creativity last season (especially in the absence of Ricketts or Zaaboub) has been addressed by the signings of Till, Jones and Richards. I think we’ll just about shade this. Home win.