Clarke isn’t usually the emotional type but he was visibly crestfallen after seeing his side embarrassed by a team 75 places below them in the football pyramid. The Gas had 25 shots on goal and put 17 crosses into the box but were unable to find the net, leaving themselves open to the sucker punch duly delivered by the right boot of Ryan Blake from 25 yards on 77 minutes.
For Rovers, this problem is nothing new and they must now take their profligacy on the road to a team 24 places higher up the Football League in a competition where success at this stage hardly brings plaudits, so lifting the spirits to the level required in such a short space of time is a big ask. Even if the Pirates were to win this game, it still wouldn’t make up for what happened at the weekend, and they know it in advance.
The visitors might be encouraged if they suspected for a moment that Southend will take the game lightly. However, Phil Brown has been nothing other than utterly committed in both words and actions, and the Shrimpers were dominant 3-0 winners at Crawley in the last round. Now they head into this clash on the back of their own FA Cup disappointment, albeit one that’s likely to spark an instant response.
Southend were beaten by Scunthorpe on Saturday, sparking an angry response from Brown about the bad habits that have crept into their defending and now he’s threatening to ring the changes by shuffling his back four here. Clean sheets have always gone hand in hand with Brown’s best work. Nearly 70 per cent of all his wins as Southend manager (38 out of 55) have been achieved by the win-to-nil method.
Meanwhile, Barnsley will be smarting on the back of their much-publicised FA Cup exit at Altrincham and a home game against York could be the ideal opportunity for them to end a miserable sequence of eight straight defeats. However, given their fragile confidence, they might be made to sweat for the result and backing the Draw/Barnsley half-time/full-time outcome at 39/10 is the way to go here.
It’s a bet backed up by Jackie McNamara’s comments in the wake of York’s 3-2 defeat at Accrington. The former Dundee United boss is a big advocate of attacking football but he’s vowing to dedicate his first full working week in charge at Bootham Crecsent to improving the back four as a unit as he believes the perpetual errors, such as those witnessed at the Wham Stadium, are easily preventable with a bit of communication and collective thinking.
It doesn’t change the fact that Barnsley are superior and Lee Johnson has always taken this competition very seriously, and we shouldn’t expect McNamara to yield instant results, but with so much focus on shape out of possession, we should at least expect the visitors to put up better resistance than was evident in the end days under Russ Wilcox.
For more information about Mike Holden’s shot-based ratings system, follow this link.