Back-to-back wins has put us pretty much slap-bang in mid-table, slightly closer to the top six than the bottom four. From here, we can either kick on towards the play-offs, or allow ourselves to settle into mediocrity.
Taking at least a point from this away trip to a Southend United side with serious play-off ambitions would be a positive indication that this team is moving in the right direction. While there isn’t a great deal of pressure to come out of this game with a result, it is a test of the mentality of the team and Mark Robins’ motivational skills in maintaining the levels of intensity that we’ve seen against the bigger teams in the division or when we’ve been in bigger need of points.
As for the team selection, it is hard to see many, if any, changes being made from the side that edged past Wycombe Wanderers last week. While the likes of Brandon Mason, Dominic Hyam and Jodi Jones are close to full fitness, introducing them into the starting line-up possibly upsets the balance and continuity we’re looking to build.
The biggest decision looks set to be between keeping Jordy Hiwula on the left of midfield, or restoring Jordan Shipley. It seems to be a choice between attacking intent at the cost of defensive cover, or defensive cover at the cost of attacking intent. This being an away game may tip the balance in favour of Shipley, although Hiwula’s pace could provide a useful outlet to hit Southend on the counter – if Hiwula’s decision-making was more reliable, this probably wouldn’t even be a conversation to be had.
If Mark Robins is tempted to restore Liam Kelly to the side and push Tom Bayliss to make us tougher to break down in the center, he only has to look at the last time this was tried, away at Charlton, to know that it is something that vastly reduces our attacking threat to the extent that extra defensive solidity isn’t worth it.