Despite yet another international break and another installment of FA Trophy action, we are being treated to a full slate of National League games. The pick of the bunch is arguably Southend vs. Chesterfield, an opinion shared by those at TNT Sport who have selected it as their live television game.
It has been a season of contrasting fortunes for the two teams, with Southend’s promotion hopes being made more difficult due to off-field issues and point deductions, whereas Chesterfield are sitting comfortably at the top.
The Shrimpers were hit with a 10-point deduction to start the season due to the torrid ownership of Ron Martin. However, this was the least of Southend’s worries, with the club days away from liquidating. However, new owners have saved the club, and things can only go up from here. They currently have a transfer embargo and have a thread-bare squad, but Southend are slowly getting back to normal.
On the pitch, performances have been resilient and passionate, giving supporters light in the darkest moments in the club's history. Despite the 10-point deduction imposed, Kevin Maher’s side currently ranks 16th with 21 points. Without the deduction, they’d be sitting in 6th, but they have to settle for the bottom half, eight points off the top 7.
Last weekend's 2-0 defeat at an in-form Altrincham side halted a run of seven league games unbeaten. The Shrimpers fine defensive performances have been imperative in their start to the season, with only FC Halifax (18) and Bromley (19) conceding fewer goals than Maher’s side. The injury to promising young goalkeeper Collin Andeng Ndi prompted Southend to dip into the transfer market and sign veteran goalkeeper David Martin, who has proven to be a shrewd signing.
Roots Hall has proven a happy hunting ground for the hosts, with Southend picking up 21 points from nine home games, winning seven and losing two. They’ve also conceded a league-low six goals in the process. Despite Kevin Maher recently being named National League Manager Of The Month, they face their toughest challenge yet on Saturday.
Chesterfield are absolutely flying at the top of the National League and have lost just once in 20 games in all competitions, including winning an impressive seven on the bounce. In fact, the 1-1 draw at Maidenhead on the 30th of September is the only game the Spireites have not won in 15. This includes a shock 1-0 victory at home to League 1 leaders Portsmouth in the FA Cup.
Paul Cook’s side are currently five points clear at the summit of the table with a game in hand after defeating their closest competitors in Barnet 4-2 last weekend. Chesterfield boast the best away record in the league, winning seven, drawing one, and losing one of their nine away games, scoring 20 goals in the process.
Overall, Chesterfield boasts the best attacking record in the league, scoring 47 goals in 18 games for an average of 2.61 goals per game.
Southend were unlucky to miss out on the playoffs last season, finishing two points off seventh-place Bromley. There have been a lot of similarities between the last campaign and this one, with the Shrimpers strong at home and strong defensively. Maher’s side conceded 45 goals, with only 6th place Boreham Wood (40) and runaway top two Notts County (42) and Wrexham (43) conceding more goals. They also picked up 40 of their 69 points in front of their own fans. Jack Bridge was crucial in an attacking sense, scoring 13 goals.
Chesterfield had a heartbreaking end to the National League season. Despite leading for 82 minutes in normal time, Chesterfield conceded an 87th-minute John Bostock goal to take the playoff final to penalties. Armando Dobra scored three minutes into extra time before Ruben Rodrigues pinned them back with 12 minutes to go. Notts County then went on to win on penalties.
In terms of the normal season, Paul Cook's side were potent in front of goal, scoring 81 goals. Unsurprisingly, Wrexham (116) and Notts County (117) were the only teams to outscore the Spireites. However, defensively, they were fragile, conceding 52 goals in the regular season and another four in the playoffs.
The games between these two last season were certainly entertaining. Despite going into the break at 1-1 and down to 10 men due to an Ollie Banks red card on the brink of halftime, Chesterfield ran out 3-2 winners in the opening game at the SMH Group Stadium. Chesterfield completed the double over the Shrimpers, running out 2-1 winners at Root Hall in March. Goals have been a familiar theme when these two teams meet, with the last six games seeing over 2.5 goals.
Despite Harry Cardwell being one goal away from the top scorers with 11 goals, Jack Bridge is arguably Southend’s key man. The 28-year-old was the Shrimpers top scorer last season and has been an attacking catalyst this season. Bridge has six assists and three goals to his name already and will need to be in fine fettle if his side are to emerge victorious on Saturday.
Chesterfield have a plethora of attacking options, with Will Grigg, Tom Naylor, Ryan Colclough, and Joe Quigley all contributing to the 47 goals scored. However, one man who has stood out is Liam Mandeville. The 27-year-old hit double digits for goals last season, scoring 10 goals, and has continued his fine form into this season. Mandeville has five goals and 10 assists in all competitions.
1-2 Chesterfield - @ 8.50 (Bet365)
Chesterfield win - @ 1.85 (Bet365)
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