Football - Shrimpers skipper in fitness race

Southend captain Chris Barker faces a race against time to prove his fitness ahead of Sunday's Johnstone's Paint Trophy final against Crewe at Wembley.

PA Sport

The defender finally returned to full training on Wednesday having overcome the Achilles injury which has kept him out of action for the past five weeks, although it remains to be seen whether he will have the sharpness required.

Luke Prosser (hip/ribs) and Ben Reeves (calf), who bagged the last-minute goal in the Area final second leg which secured the Shrimpers' place in the final, have also returned to training having missed Easter Monday's 1-1 draw against Fleetwood. All three will face late fitness tests.

Centre-back Mark Phillips made his comeback from a broken toe against The Cod Army and will be in contention to walk out at Wembley.

However, midfielders Marc Laird and Mickey Spillane are both cup-tied while Michael Timlin (broken leg) and Neil Harris (knee) remain sidelined.

Recently-appointed manager Phil Brown will lead Southend out for the final despite the initial possibility of Paul Sturrock making a stunning return for the game following his sacking two weeks ago.

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