A WOUNDED Southend United await Rotherham United at Roots Hall tomorrow.
That is the opinion of Millers manager Steve Evans, who has admitted leading goal-scorer Daniel Nardiello (groin) faces a fitness test before the League Two clash.
The Shrimpers will lock horns with Crewe Alexandra in the final of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy next month but are in danger of losing touch with the top seven. Beaten 2-0 by lowly Barnet in midweek, Southend boss Paul Sturrock criticised his players attitude and has called for an immediate response. Having lost three out of their last four league outings, Southend have slipped to ninth in the standings, five points adrift of the play-off placings.
Evans has warned his side to beware of a Southend backlash as they chase a third successive away win.
“Southend’s result against Barnet does make our job a lot more difficult because I think if you look at the statistics in that game, Southend dominated but got beat,” he told The Star. “It is going to be very tough because they are well organised and they’ll be hurting after losing to Barnet.
“I think it is just another indicator of how hard it is to win games. I have seen Southend this season rip apart League One teams like we’ve done. But this is the toughest League Two has ever been.
“The top seven or eight League Two clubs could easily grace League One and probably two or three of them could be a force at that level.”
Evans, who watched Bradford’s draw with Dagenham and Redbridge on Wednesday, has paid tribute to the job Sturrock, the former Sheffield Wednesday manager, has done at Southend.
“Paul has done great because they don’t know if they are getting paid this week, next week or next month,” he said. “It is very hard to manage that and I’ve been there.
“I think their run to Wembley will help their financial situation. They’ve got a chairman who I know well who has put millions of pounds into that football club.
“It will be a tough test and Southend is always a difficult place to go. I’ve got a lot of respect for their management team.
“Paul is somebody I always look forward to having a glass of wine with after a game.”
But come Saturday afternoon, Evans will put his friendship on hold with Sturrock as the Millers look to avenge their dismal 3-0 loss to Southend last October.
Evans: “When they beat us, it could have been 8-0. They wanted the win more than us that day. The players will accept that we let ourselves down that day and we weren’t in good form. But this is a different dressing room now.”
The Rotherham chief, who has reiterated Danny Schofield has no future at the club and is available for transfer, has told his backline to keep a close eye on Southend striker Barry Corr.
He said: “Barry is a top player and a real character. He will be a big threat for them. He is just coming back to full fitness which is a big plus for Southend.”
No nonsense defender Ryan Cresswell is in line to start against his former employers but he insists his main focus is on spearheading a Southend revival.
“It’s a big game for us, not just myself,” he stressed. “The only thing I am concerned about is getting three points.”
A potential matchwinner for the Shrimpers is Britt Assombalonga. The striker, on loan from Watford, bagged a brace in their triumph at the New York Stadium.
Sturrock has also borrowed winger Danny Mayor and striker Caolan Lavery from the Owls.