Ryan: We must grab this chance
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.