The Football League Paper - - LEAGUE ONE - By Chris Bai­ley

NILE RANGER may just have finally seen the light. Not for his offthe-field in­dis­cre­tions – he was sus­pended by Southend in Jan­uary for a ‘breach of dis­ci­pline’ – but ful­fill­ing the tal­ent he has al­ways pos­sessed.

The former New­cas­tle striker’s su­perb solo ef­fort in the first half at Wim­ble­don marked the first time, at the age of 25, he has scored in three con­sec­u­tive league games.

Phil Brown, who cel­e­brated his fourth an­niver­sary in charge of the Shrimpers yes­ter­day, now must do all he can to en­sure Ranger’s trip down the straight and nar­row does not take another ugly turn.

“I just think a fit Nile Ranger, and some­one who is mo­ti­vated by the chal­lenge of play­ing week in week out, is grasp­ing the net­tle as far as that’s con­cerned,” said Brown.

“His goal, if you watch that on the TV you won’t see a bet­ter one across all four di­vi­sions – cer­tainly in the con­di­tions.

“We’ve got to keep him on the straight and nar­row now. That’s eas­ier said than done of course, but he’s got to un­der­stand that it’s a team sport and when­ever he lets him­self down he lets his team down.”

His opener aside, Ranger did not even play that well – he just has a habit of mak­ing things hap­pen. He some­how found his way past three play­ers be­fore guid­ing the ball into the cor­ner, all the while off bal­ance. His neat flick had cre­ated the first mean­ing­ful chance of the game – James Shea sav­ing well from Anthony Wordsworth – and even caused the re­bound in mid­field that led to Si­mon Cox’s strike.

Ranger could not take the credit for that, for Cox lashed home bril­liantly from 20 yards, but his pres­ence meant a third con­sec­u­tive league vic­tory for the play-off chas­ing Shrimpers.

“We’re given our­selves more than half a chance [of pro­mo­tion] by hit­ting form in the right time, hav­ing given the di­vi­sion a 12-game start,” added Brown.

While Southend are not short of mo­ti­va­tion, Wim­ble­don man­ager Neal Ard­ley’s mid-ta­ble side cer­tainly are.

Southend de­fend­ers Adam Thomp­son and An­ton Fer­di­nand put a muz­zle on striker Tom El­liott while Wim­ble­don were waste­ful in wide ar­eas than ks to the way­ward Andy Bar­cham and Ge­orge Fran­comb.

But Ard­ley wanted his play­ers to feel “em­bar­rassed” af­ter a per­for­mance that lacked punch.

“There are seven games to go – the hol­i­day and break times can wait un­til May,” he said. “It’s per­sonal pride. Lose games, ac­cept it, make mis­takes, ac­cept it, but we’ve got to have a bit about us.

“When the re­ports come out I want them to be em­bar­rassed, when they say Wim­ble­don rolled over – which they did.

“There was no tempo, there was no en­ergy, I was run­ning up and down the line to cre­ate a tempo more than the 11 out there.”

PIC­TURE: Ac­tion Images

TAR­GET MAN: Nile Ranger scores, be­low, and cel­e­brates

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