STUNNER NILE HAS GOT HIS RANGE
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.”
TARGET MAN: Nile Ranger scores, below, and celebrates