YORK City have been challenged to “grab the bull by its horns” by manager Nigel Worthington.
The Minstermen return to action at Bootham Crescent after last weekend’s 4-0 thumping of Plymouth, which represented the club’s biggest Football League win in almost 20 years.
That result also marked City’s second successive win on the road following a 2-1 triumph at promotion hopefuls Fleetwood.
On their own soil, however, Worthington’s men have gone three games without a goal and drawn four of their last seven fixtures 0-0.
City chief Worthington now wants his players to reward their home fans’ loyalty with the kind of performance that saw off title-challengers Scunthorpe 4-1 in October.
He said: “Southend are a tough side but it will be a good game as long as we are ready for it. They are seventh and not a million miles away from ourselves but have probably been more consistent than us over the season.
“We know that, if we do our jobs effectively, though, Southend will have something to think about and I am looking for a really big performance at home.
“Nine times out of ten, we have put in honest displays in front of our own fans and had some really good, competitive games, full of endeavour and commitment, but we could have been a bit more positive, like we have been in away games.
“We’ve got it in our locker and, with the crowd behind us, we can really get things moving forward because I would like us to go out and grab the bull by its horns, like we did against Scunthorpe. That means taking the game to the opposition and having a really good go at them, while keeping the back door shut at the same time.”
City can go to within six points of a play-off place with a victory tomorrow, although the Shrimpers have played a game less than their hosts tomorrow.
But Worthington is not giving any thought to a possible challenge on those top seven positions, explaining: “The play-offs are not coming into my mind at this moment because it would take a hell of a lot of work to achieve that.
“It’s best to focus on each individual game instead.
“We have played two or three matches more than some teams and we just need to do our jobs well, look after ourselves and see where that takes us.
“We can’t get carried away and I have been in this situation before but, with hard work, you can put yourselves in a good position.”
Midfielder Russell Penn is fit after picking up a knock at Plymouth and Worthington is also hoping to have top scorer Wes Fletcher available after he was substituted in Devon due to a groin problem.
Fellow striker Ryan Jarvis, meanwhile, is back in contention after missing the last four games during an injury-interrupted start to 2014.
On Jarvis’ return, Worthington added: “He has trained with us all week and, while he’s lacking a bit of sharpness, he’s the type of player who knows where the goal is and we know that, when he is required, he will go out and do his best.”
The City boss has also admitted the progress of Estonian international Sander Puri has been curtailed by hamstring problems this term.
Puri was on target twice for City reserves during a 5-0 friendly win against Billingham Town this week but is currently behind the likes of Josh Carson, Will Hayhurst and Michael Coulson in the pecking order for a starting place on the wings.
In the last 12 games he has been named as a substitute, Puri has only been hailed off the bench once and Worthington said: “Sander is a great pro but the one thing that has held him back is injury.
“As a result, it has taken him a period of time to get up and running so that’s been frustrating and disappointing from his point of view.”
Hayhurst will be available for the Minstermen’s next two games and not just tomorrow’s clash as initially thought, meaning any discussions about a loan extension from Preston will not take place until next week.
“We thought it expired tomorrow but he has got the Exeter game as well,” Worthington revealed.
“Preston won’t want to talk about it before next week because they will want to assess the situation at their end.”