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Sunday, January 4, 2009
Scolari rues poor finishing after Southend draw

Luiz Felipe Scolari insists the absence of suspended captain John Terry from their last three games has not been the reason behind a string of defensive lapses.

Coca-Cola League One Southend became the latest side to make the most of Chelsea's home jitters and Terry's enforced absence by claiming a deserved 1-1 draw in the FA Cup third round on Saturday.

Chelsea had gone in front in the 31st minute thanks to a headed goal from Salomon Kalou but Peter Clarke, celebrating his 27th birthday, scored a shock equaliser in the 90th minute to earn the Shrimpers a second chance at Roots Hall.

Scolari's side dominated the game but once again their poor finishing let them down.

Terry, banned for three games following his red card in the goalless draw at Everton, has watched his team-mates beat West Brom and then draw with both Fulham and Southend.

It is the manner in which late goals have been conceded against the latter two opponents that has further underlined Terry's importance to the side.

But Scolari insists his absence was not a factor in another disappointing home draw - it was the glut of missed chances.

''John is captain and he is a very good player, but it is not because he did not play that we drew,'' said Scolari. ''He is a good player, he is a captain and he is a man who can sometimes change the game on the pitch, because he is a strong man. But it was not because John was not here that we drew.

''Our mistake was not scoring a second goal. We created 15 chances and won all the balls defensively - only one we didn't win. But I believe in these players.''

Much has been made of an alleged lack of dressing-room spirit at Chelsea in recent weeks but whatever the reasons for their inconsistent displays, it did not stop Terry issuing a rallying call to both the fans and team-mates before their latest stalemate.

The England captain watched the draw against Southend after insisting: ''I'll tell you what we need and want more than anything in 2009.

''Firstly we must all stick together. We take on the world as one - us players, management and staff and especially the supporters.

''Secondly, we want some winners' medals. We didn't get any in 2008 and we need to put that right.

''So far this season we are not doing badly. Going out of the Carling Cup on penalties was a sickener and we've drifted three points off Liverpool in the Premier League and we have got the FA Cup.

''We can win the FA Cup. We can win the Premier League and the Champions League too.

''We need to be more consistent, we need to play better and sometimes we need to be together more, including the fans, but we can certainly do all that.''

Terry's return will certainly help them at Roots Hall in the replay and Scolari may now resist another attempt at resting players.

Southend will pose more problems for Chelsea in their own backyard but United manager Steve Tilson is counting on being able to use the cash from their cup run to boost their mid-table league position.

The league remains Tilson's priority and in the current economic climate, he knows any cash windfall is a real bonus for the League One club.

''I think all clubs at our level are in a tight money situation and a good cup run is always going to benefit you,'' said Tilson.

''With the transfer window opening, it could not have come at a better time.

''This match will bring in good money and when we play the replay, we will again give it our best shot.

''I am not sure how much we have made or if any of the cash will be made available to me. I will have to speak to the chairman about that.''

Tilson's side were outplayed for the majority of the game but Clarke had served up a warning by hitting the bar before claiming the shock leveller.

And it still required a last-gasp save from United goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall to keep them in the tie.

Tilson added: ''Our goalkeeper made some great saves and Chelsea could have been comfortably in front from the chances they created. But my players were brilliant.''




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