A few hours sleep, exhausted and Guinnessed out, only 24 hours after returning home, I was somehow up at 5.30, armed with a couple of cheap fares, and ready to start another marathon day to watch a Blues team that has started to look fragile again.
The five hour coach ride to Liverpool from London Victoria was made easier at £3.00 but went quickly enough, the motorways were quiet and I slept through most of it anyway!
By 13.00 I was in one of the wonderful chain of northern railway station pubs, the Head of Steam. It was empty! Liverpool had kicked off at Bolton and there was no TV, service was quick!
A choice of four real ales, it would have been rude not to try them all, especially at £2.30 a pint. A couple of Phoenix efforts, including the autumn ale Snowbound, were good enough, but the exceptional beer of choice was Thwaites 4.5% Liberation. First launched in 2004 to mark the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the sale of Liberation Ale has raised over £100,000 towards the Royal British Legion, 5p of every pint poured goes to the charity, so you do your bit to help an excellent cause while helping cure your thirst at the same time. Giving was never so easy.
Charity begins not only at home but in the pub!
The ten minute walk to the Wirrall line platform ended with buying a £2.70 return to Rock Ferry where there was a small delay as 'engineering works' had hit the service that ends up at Chester. A small concern for the trip back with connecting times so tight but in the end OK in both directions.
A brisk 20 minute walk to one of the better League One stadiums, Prenton Park, and the 200 odd brave souls were rewarded with a game that is first best read in the TLG report here: www.thelittlegazette.com/news/loadnews.asp?cid=TMNW&id=417474, but second could only be described as a thriller which the Yellow shirted Blues somehow grabbed a very important point.
Defence runs right through the team said Tilly when we were lambasting the defence during our dark spell earlier this season. True Tills. No wonder Captain Adam and Clarkey make errors when the ball is whizzing past them every thirty seconds, and when they have yet another 'big bloke' up front, this time our old friend Savage, we'd all make the odd slip up.
The loss of Barnard and, especially, Freedman has seen a return to the ball coming back into our last third at an alarming rate. not helped by Betsy, Revell and Laurent, losing possession in key areas on a regular basis.
Sawyer, farewell for now Lee, and Christophe, do their best in central midfield but need to see some of their good work actually held up for long enough for the back four to get a breather, especially Francis who needs longer than the others to get back as he is caught out of position so often.
Take a bow Adam Federici, my man of the match with a huge 9 as without his outstanding work, including one early save which was one of the best I've seen by any Southend keeper, kept us in a match that could have been over after the first half hour. I'm all for Mildenhall but if this guy wants another few games I'd keep him, he has won us a few points already. (I see he's off to Brisbane for a Wednesday international, be good to see how he performs against Oldham only three days later in his, potentially, last game!)
The referee I've gone on at length in the report and the players, who had to try and perform under this idiot, have agreed he made a rod for his own back by not sending the appalling Kay off early in the opening period.
It really made my blood boil that the Moose, who knows how that decision has affected Franck's long term career at Southend, and Harding, received red cards for nothing compared to the challange Dan received from the Tranmere central defender. The fact he went on to be the home side's most influential player just rubbed salt into an already large wound. Respect my arse. (I loved Warnock on the Championship reading an article by Harry Redknapp slagging off refs so it was not his words, not sure it'll work but good value as ever. Bad luck Flavs with the penalty.)
This was certainly a point well won at the final whistle, we might have even nicked it, so the trip home should have been a happy one, a bargin £14.00 Lime Street to London single leaving at 17.52.
Sadly, first Virgin have stopped the direct service that left just after six and you have to catch a suburban service to Manchester Piccadilly, packed with returning shoppers, then, real bad luck, the connection to Euston coincided with the end of Manchester United's one, maybe two, 3pm Saturday kick-offs at Old Trafford. So 90% of the home crows were returning to Milton Keynes, and this wasn't an old joke! They did get off at Milton Keynes, and Stoke, and Wolverhampton, Coventry and, eventually the capital itself!
I even heard up a couple of Russian kids, covered in the most expensive gear, chatting about the match while knocking back a bottle of Smirnoff mixed with Tropicana! I didn't say anything, their Uncle might buy our club one day.
Again, could have been worse but for the merciful release of sleep and some good tunes on the I-pod I found on the way back from Doncaster, something good had to come out of that game, and, if you forget the statistic that shows that only the bottom two, Cheltenham and Crewe, have let in more goals away from home than us, Southend United have somehow only lost one in twelve.
Could be worse!
Federici - 9; He's here, he's there, he's a very good keeper. And working on the principle that 9's should only go to players who have had a real impact on the game, stand up the Aussie, and he did, several times, to hold back the early Tranmere onslaught almost single handily at times.
Francis - 5; Had his best period in the 12 minutes when we were down to 10 men. I'm willing Simon to do well and he showed at Scunthorpe it's not all doom and gloom, it's just we're not seeing a lot of sunlight at the moment. Radar completely blown.
Clarke - 6; See last ten, no make that twenty, rating summaries. Did what Clarkey always does and we got a point.
Barrett - 7; Same as above but Captain Adam always seems to get the extra mark, because we love him I suppose.
Harding - 6; Not surprisingly affected by the attempted Kay magician's trick of 'cutting the fall back in half'. Only flashes of Dan's obvious skill and vision instead of the usual full package over 90 minutes.
Betsy - 6; TB is going to think there's a conspiracy here, especially with those talented people at NOW giving him an 8 an a place in their Team of the Day. Yes, his pass was lobbed in by Alex, he was on hand to put away the equaliser and he's just become a Dad for the second time, congrats Kevin, however, he still flatters to deceive for long periods, hardly ever going past his man, giving the ball away too easily. I'll err on the side of a 7 next time if he shows he can do the business consistently. He must play, we might not have any other regular forwards for the cup replay!
Sawyer - 7; I have not enjoyed watching a player as much as young Lee since Freddie left the club. I really hope we can work something out with him and Chelsea before anyone else nips in. Tried to open things up but was hacked down in every attempt, still skilful enough to embarrass several of the home side and eventually even this ref had to send one of them off.
Christophe -6; Was more affected by Laurent's hello to Merseyside than any other player. Maybe he lost a bet on who would do it first. Before that though didn't seem fully up to speed but still fully in the game doing his best to break up Tranmere attacks, and there were a few of them!
Hal-Kanu - 7; Another sad farewell and the one forward at the moment who doesn't seem to be scared of keeping the ball at his feet for longer than a few seconds. I hope one of Barney and Dougie are fit for next week or the back four might be in for a lot more defensive practice. Deserved the goal when a terrific run was finished off with a shot of such power it nearly broke the post, luckily just rebounding to Betsy who finished well.
Revell - 7; I'm being naughty here after Kev's six. Revell didn't do much more than usual, well he did score, somehow. There really is a lot of effort at times for little reward. However, after the Frenchman's sending off, and obviously carrying an injury, he ran around with such ferocity it forced a couple of dodgy back passes and a poor clearance by Tranny keeper Coyne. Pats on back, a real team player.
Laurent - 6; The wonderkid has come down to earth a bit after his fantastic opening appearances, well he couldn't keep that up! A good game though ruined by his involvement in the incident that saw him sent off. We had already won the free-kick. A head butt though, very tacky for a French bloke! Be interesting to know what he said to the ref when he saw red? Maybe that was what Christophe was trying to give the man in black when Adam held him back, a translation! Sacre bleu!
Subs: Grant (for Scannell 77) - 6; Betsy sacrificed to allow Snoop to shore up the midfield and he did well enough, involved in a couple of decent breaks out of defence.
McCormack (for Sawyer 87) - No mark, on to save Sawyer from any further harm, allow him a deserved standing ovation, to run down the clock. Didn't get booked.