Ryan: We must grab this chance

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By John Lyons

SOUTHEND United mid­fielder Ryan Leonard is urg­ing his team-mates to grab their play-off ‘life­line’ when they host rel­e­ga­tion-threat­ened Bury this af­ter­noon.

The Shrimpers could be down in the dumps after slip­ping to shock de­feats against MK Dons and Shrews­bury in their last two out­ings.

It means they head into to­day’s fi­nal match sev­enth in the ta­ble, a point be­hind Mill­wall, who oc­cupy the fi­nal play-off spot.

But it could have been worse – or, for that mat­ter, all over. The Lions have also lost their last two, at Fleet­wood and, more sur­pris­ingly, at home against Ox­ford.

Leonard said: “Maybe re­cent re­sults have come down to a bit of pres­sure and anx­i­ety for both clubs, but we have a bit of a life­line.

“How­ever, we know this is our last-chance sa­loon and we need 100 per cent to win our game and see what hap­pens else­where.”

And the 24-year-old in­sists he and his col­leagues won’t be tak­ing Lee Clark’s Shak­ers – who need a point to se­cure their sta­tus – for granted fol­low­ing their re­cent slip-ups.

“We’ve played a team mid-ta­ble (MK Dons) and a team fight­ing for their lives (Shrews­bury) and dropped points in both games – you never know,” he said.

“Most of the teams in this league have very good play­ers and Bury are go­ing to be dan­ger­ous, but we need to get the win. We are go­ing into it with the mind­set that a point isn’t good enough.

“If we don’t win, we don’t de­serve to get in the play-offs.”

Leonard has spent al­most six years at Roots Hall since join­ing from Ply­mouth, notch­ing up more than 200 ap­pear­ances and a pro­mo­tion from League Two via the play-offs two years ago.

And he be­lieves they will be a force to be reck­oned with in the League One play-offs this time – if they can squeeze into them.

“We’ve had a re­ally good sea­son and we tend to play bet­ter against the top teams so if we can get into the play-offs, I would fancy it,” he said.

“To get the club up two leagues would be a great achieve­ment and the per­fect way to re­pay the fans.

“There are some big teams in League One, but vir­tu­ally ev­ery Cham­pi­onship team has played in the Premier League at some stage and it would be a mas­sive achieve­ment to play against those teams week in, week out.

“But there’s no point look­ing at that un­less we get a re­sult on Sun­day.”

Fum­ing Shrimpers boss Phil Brown ques­tioned his side’s bot­tle last week after their 1-0 re­verse at Shrews­bury, but Leonard has no prob­lem with that crit­i­cism.

“We know we didn’t per­form and it wasn’t good enough,” he ad­mit­ted. “The gaffer’s done bril­liantly with the squad and he’s re­ally pushed us on to the next level.

“He’s stay­ing pos­i­tive and he’ll be push­ing us on. He’s done a great job and another pro­mo­tion would top things off.”

The Gills will be with­out striker Rory Don­nelly, 25, who has been sus­pended by the club for un­spec­i­fied rea­sons.

Ryan Leonard

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