GARETH Ainsworth admitted his side had a stroke of luck with their goal but said there was nothing fortunate about the success of Wanderers’ game plan at Southend.
Blues’ goal at Roots Hall will surely go down as an own goal by Shrimpers keeper Daniel Bentley, as the ball struck him on the back and trickled into the net as he dived to try and keep out a Paris Cowan-Hall shot that struck the crossbar.
But Ainsworth said key to securing a point from a 1-1 draw was the performance from his side’s midfield.
United sent numerous long balls forward and although target man Barry Corr – who put them in front with a header from a corner – won most of his headers, it was what happened next that was important for Ainsworth.
He’d instructed Josh Scowen and Matt Bloomfield to stop their opponents in the middle of the park from winning the second balls and building attacks from there, and he was pleased at the way the combative duo stuck gamely to their task to frustrate the hosts.
The Blues boss said: “We handled the bombardment quite well. They went direct to Corr, who won a lot of headers. The runners off him, we handled well.
“We couldn’t get much pressure on their back lads and they went direct to Corr. It’s flicks that are going to be dangerous, there’s going to be runners off them, and I told the boys before the game that was going to be important – second balls were going to be important, tracking your runners is going to be important.
“Only once in the game, where we let a runner go and he got in our box – after that we stuck with our runners really well. Sometimes you have to do the dog work and that’s track your runners.”
Ainsworth was pleased at the response of his players to falling behind, with Blues equalising a mere five minutes later – although he was disappointed at the manner the Southend goal went in.
He said: “We like to play and get the ball down and pass through teams. When you do that you maybe sacrifice a bit of height in the team.
“It was a fantastic ball, it’s a very flat ball right to the near stick and someone like Barry Corr’s going to score goals like that.
“We didn’t drop our heads, when we started attacking in the second half on the counter we looked dangerous.
“We had a stroke of luck, I won’t beat about the bush, but how many times have I said we haven’t had the rub of the green? That definitely is the rub of the green today. Their keeper had a great game today and he didn’t deserve that, but maybe we did.
“We could have won it but they could won it as well. I’m pleased with the point. A point is a good point away from home, especially as a few teams have dropped points today.”
Cowan-Hall had only been on the pitch for five minutes when he struck the shot that led to Blues drawing level, but Ainsworth played down talk of an inspired tactical change by saying it was a substitution he’d planned to make before the game.
He said: “I felt that was the way the game would pan out today. They would be strong and we’d have to handle the physical challenge first – Matt McClure and Stevie Craig are very good at that – then you put your flair on at the end and maybe open things up when they are tired, and it worked like that. It’s really good when it does but by the same token we’re not getting carried away, it’s not a genius decision and a little bit of luck as well.
“In days gone by we’d maybe have not got back into games as quickly as we’d have liked, and that was a great response. Paris has hit a thunderous shot it probably deserved a goal. It was a great little run and jinking shot à la Max Kretzschmar.”