As the Premier League and EFL Championship pause for a fortnight due to the international break, the grind continues in the lower levels of English football, bar a few exceptions due to postponements caused by international call-ups. In recent weeks, we’ve focused on the teams at the top of the table in these previews but the fixture that stands out in League One this weekend is between two teams struggling near the bottom of the table. That is of course, Southend United F.C. vs AFC Wimbledon.
Both of these sides have suffered a horrific start to the 2019/20 season. The hosts find themselves in 22nd place, wallowing in the relegation zone whilst the visitors occupy the heady heights of 21st, also in the relegation places. Furthermore, with two wins between them so far in the league this season, it’s safe to say both sides will be seeing this as a perfect opportunity to register another three points and take one step nearer to safety.
Southend United What To Watch
The Shrimpers have only kept one league clean sheet so far this season and have also conceded the most goals in the division with 28 goals in 11 games finding their way into the Southend net. The goalkeeper who will be trying for a second clean sheet is Mark Oxley. Starting his career with Rotherham United F.C., Oxley played for a number of clubs before joining Southend in 2016, establishing himself as the first-choice goalkeeper. Against one of the lowest scorers in the league, Oxley will see this as an opportunity to prove why he should keep his place for the foreseeable future.
Even though it is early on in the season it is clear to see Southend are in a relegation battle. Therefore, they will be grateful to have players in the squad who have the knowhow to get them out of the position they find themselves in. One of these players is on loan Manchester United F.C. midfielder Ethan Hamilton. The youngster enjoyed a loan spell at Rochdale A.F.C. last season where his impressive performances helped Dale to safety when it was looking bleak for long periods of time. Southend fans will be hoping to see more of those inspired performances for the rest of the period he is with the club.
Goals have been an issue for Southend. Their main man up front Simon Cox has experience at a higher level but yet he has only managed two goals in the opening part of the season. Manager Gary Waddock will be hoping Cox can find his form as without his potency up front, the Shrimpers are going to find it extremely hard to drag themselves to safety.
AFC Wimbledon What To Watch
Wimbledon’s defence is better than their counterparts, but not by a great deal. The Wombles have conceded only five goals fewer than Southend in the league and their defensive frailties nearly cost them their first win of the season last week after being forced to hold on for a 3-2 victory against Rochdale after initially leading 3-0. Centre-back Will Nightingale will be desperate to tighten up the defence as having been at the club from a very young age, Nightingale has a strong affiliation with the club. His spirit at the back could be vital in inspiring those around him.
Feeling the need to strengthen the midfield, manager Wally Downes brought in young central midfielder Max Sanders in on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.. This is Sanders’ first loan move away from Brighton so it is no surprise that he has needed some time to adapt to League One but hopefully for Wimbledon fans, every game will see an improvement in his performance. A good display on Saturday would certainly go a long way to endearing himself towards everyone at the club.
Up front Wimbledon have the distinctive figure of Joe Pigott available to them. The target man has been with the club since 2017 when joined the club midway through the season and has been a regular starter ever since. His goals last campaign helped Wimbledon to another year in the third tier but with only goal this season, his influence has not been as noticeable. Despite this, the figure of Pigott offers an alternative to how a lot of clubs play in League One now. The desire to keep the ball on the ground is admirable in a sense, however playing route one football can deliver results on occasion. If Wimbledon choose to take the latter option, Pigott may become a nuisance for Southend.
Southend United vs AFC Wimbledon Prediction
With both teams being so abject in the first quarter of the season, it is hard to decipher who will come out on top on this one. It could well turn out that neither have the ability to punish the other’s mistakes or defensive weaknesses could turn the game into a goal-fest. Ultimately though, I believe the away side will take confidence from their first win in the league last week and will build on that against Southend.
Prediction: AFC Wimbledon - 2 Southend United - 1