Savour it - but don't get carried away

JOB done.Three points - thanks very much, now let's look forward to Luton at home.Everyone around Portman Road will sleep easier this week, after halting a run of three straight defeats, but all the back-slapping and hugging should stop this morning because there is still a lot of work to be done.

By Derek Davis

JOB done.

Three points - thanks very much, now let's look forward to Luton at home.

Everyone around Portman Road will sleep easier this week, after halting a run of three straight defeats, but all the back-slapping and hugging should stop this morning because there is still a lot of work to be done.

While the players and management team will have been unhappy at recent results, and more importantly performances, they will not have been suicidal.

The first 45 minutes against Preston showed the Blues are not a bad side, certainly not among the worst three, or even half-dozen teams, in the championship, which is why Jim Magilton stuck with the same starting XI as Tuesday.

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The debate of whether that was the right thing to do or not became academic within 25 minutes when first Lewis Price and then Jon Macken were forced off with injury.

Many thought Shane Supple and Billy Clarke should have started anyway but you have to admire Magilton's loyalty in the duo, who he hopes, by showing faith in them, will in turn become more confident and play to their best.

Price was taken out in the first five minutes by a Matt Harrold charge that the referee deemed fair play, although even in rugby it would be seen as a late hit.

Macken followed midway through the first half when he suffered a hamstring pull.

Cue Billy Clarke, who only needed six minutes to make Town's gradual dominance count for something.

Jaime Peters had been his usual frustrating self, teasing runs without actually delivering much but this time he cut inside and floated in a left-footed ball that Clarke met with a superbly guided header.

Quite what the two central defenders were doing to allow him to nip in only they will know but Town were grateful nonetheless.

Confident Clarke brought gasps from the sell-out crowd with a blistering 35-yard effort that drifted wide and his very presence twisted the Southend backbone.

The 18-year showed his maturity too when he raced onto another clever Mark Noble pass and, as the Seasiders' players gravitated towards him like seagulls to a shoal of fish, he dinked the ball neatly over them all to Alan Lee.

The fellow Irishman had done well to make up the ground and had time to control the pass before beating the keeper with a low, powerful drive.

Clarke was excellent, and not just with the goal. Yes, he might have done better in the dying minutes when he nodded down a Lee cross but credit should go to Darryl Flahavan for his instinctive save.

In between those two goals, Sylvain Legwinski capped arguably his best performance in a Town shirt with a superbly-struck 22-yard half-volley after a Dan Harding cross was cleared by Adam Barrett but only as far as the 'D'.

The Frenchman showed plenty of fight, a little too much at one stage and was fortunate only to get a yellow when he clashed with Simon Francis, but he also showed some of the flair Town have brought him in for.

Town were handed six bookings, which will earn them a fine from the FA. Such indiscipline will be costly, not just financially but goals coming from free-kicks in the short term and more suspensions in the long run.

They got away with it pretty much at Roots Hall but, in fairness, Southend look a poor side and every inch a bottom-three side, which they will probably remain.

On and off the pitch, they don't look Championship material although Steve Tilson's side still managed to scare Ipswich.

Even at three up, Town looked nervous at times and, with slightly more belief. Southend might have taken more advantage of the amount of balls gifted to them.

Town also looked fragile at the back against a team whose two strikers were suffering from a virus and clearly under par.

Freddy Eastwood scorned a glorious chance when he got onto the end of a Steven Hammell through ball, only to drag the ball wide with only Supple to beat.

When the £5m-rated top-scorer Eastwood and Harrold went off ill, Francis was used as a stand-in striker and banged in his first goal of the season after outwitting Alex Bruce before shooting between Jason De Vos' legs.

Bang went Town's hopes of a first clean sheet in 10 attempts and they might have conceded another when they were outdone at a short corner and Peter Clarke's header hit the inside of a post before rolling along the line and into Supple's grateful arms.

Town held on but at a cost. Not only were Price and Macken injured but so too was the influential Noble.

He will miss Sunday's game with Luton through suspension anyway but any longer lay-off will hurt Town. But what will be, will be - and the Blues should enjoy this win this week.

A win is a win even against a not very good side, the important thing now though is not to get carried away and be ready on Sunday to meet Luton head on.

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