Look, I wasn’t going to do the obvious “stuffing” joke, so you’ll have to put up with that one.
To be honest, I’m not going to write much (ie anything) about Southend. STTA has done that below, I’m still shaking off the last remnants of a rather nasty stomach bug that I picked up before Xmas, and you don’t want to read more than you have to.
More later this week. If I can be arsed.
I should have spotted the signs as we crawled through the Dartford Tunnel discussing the 3-1 win in 2013 and the 1-0 win in 2014, both big results on our way to staying up in those League 2 campaigns.
With 9 points from our last 3 visits maybe we were due a bad day at Roots Hall.
They’d been in good form winning 5 of their last 8 and unbeaten in the league since 8th October. We’d been faltering, our Jekyll & Hyde form producing as many defeats as victories.
Which Wimbledon would turn up yesterday?
We got our answer pretty early on. In truth this was as poor and ill-disciplined as I’ve seen us this season but there are critical moments that turn games and I noticed 4 of them.
The first came 10 minutes in as we went behind. Our defence couldn’t sort out who was marking who at a throw in. While Bazzer and Robbo were busy arguing the ball bounced and Simon Cox volleyed into the net from 8 yards out.
The second came on 41 minutes as poor judgement cost us a 2nd goal. Lyle tracked back to intercept a ball forward but instead of putting it into the crowd while we re-grouped he lost possession, 10 seconds later Atkinson put the ball in our net.
So we went in 2-0 behind. Such was the chaos at the back we could have gone on 4 adrift and nobody would have complained.
We made 2 changes at half-time, George ‘how am I getting in the team’ Francomb was withdrawn along with Dom ‘had too much to eat yesterday’ Poleon. On came Andy Barcham and Tyrone Barnett.
We were going to play our 4-4-2 to 4-2-4 formation that’s served us well getting back into games. But could we dig ourselves out of yet another hole?
The 49th minute saw the third key moment as Lyle raced to close down, he was never getting to the challenge but instead of pulling out he flew in leaving the full-back in a heap and the ref reaching for his yellow card.
We pick up plenty of unnecessary yellow cards but this one felt like it might come back to haunt us. And come back to haunt us it did.
We’d had the better of the 2nd half but the fourth and final key moment arrived on 71 minutes. Lyle over-ran the ball on the edge of the Southend area and went in to a 50/50 challenge with his foot up. A harsh yellow card maybe but wouldn’t have been a problem if he wasn’t already in the book.
Taylor departed and with him went any slim chance we had of saving this game.
As the ref re-started I noticed Neal sarcastically applaud him from the technical area. The ref also spotted it and Neal was dispatched to the stands. When our poor discipline extends to the manager you know we’re in trouble.
Southend added a third but we didn’t care, this away trip was already consigned to the instantly forgettable pile.
Plus points: Barnett & Barcham improved us. James Shea keeping the score down. Tom Elliot. Leaving Essex.
Minus points: Disappointing from Taylor, Fuller looking old, disorganized at the back, conceding goals, lack of consistency.
The referee’s a…: didn’t do us any favours but home sides always seem to get the best of the decisions at holiday games like this. No arguments on the sending off from me.
Them: good side that will likely finish in the play-off spots. Stood up to our physicality, played better football and have goalscorers in the side.
Anything else: 646 Wombles with no trains running. Not a bad turn out that for a 1pm kick off.
So what went wrong?
Let’s start with the team selection. Last week we looked a much better team when Parrett replaced Francomb so more than a few eyebrows raised that George went straight back in.
We hear from Neal that George reminds him of himself, that he’s an intelligent footballer, that he’s a team player. That might all be true but is he a good enough footballer? His dead ball delivery is average and I’ve seen ballboys that are harder to dispossess.
Secondly what’s going on in the build up to games that we are starting so poorly? It’s not just once or twice, we are regularly having to try and recover games from slow starts.
Is it a weak mentality, a lack of focus and concentration? And if so does that also explain the basics we are getting wrong?
You can blame Christmas or the ref or any number of other excuses but we got beat yesterday because we failed to mark properly when defending, we failed to put the ball out of play when we needed to and we were reduced to 10 men because of poor discipline when the game wasn’t going our way.
We need to get back on track quickly because this is a key period in the season. If we win one of the next two and get past Sutton a good season is within reach.
However, if we fail to win either and get knocked out the cup a lot of good work is at risk of coming undone.