When we look back over the season, no matter what has happened, yesterday will be a real low point.
Genuinely, what more is there to say about it? How can the abject display against a side comprising of kids and players lacking confidence be described? It was the best time to play Southend, reeling from losing players and not yet able to bring in the defensive reinforcements expected after some of Sol’s Macclesfield players quit last week.
On the flip side, they were unbeaten in three at home and have seen an upturn in form recently, but even so, this wasn’t a game I expected us to lose. A draw, sure I could see that. We too are a team in transition, a team boasting a lot of young players and lacking one or two big leaders. Michael Bostwick is a huge loss at present and I hope, from the bottom of my heart, Michael Appleton sees that and acts accordingly with a new deal. We’re missing O’Connor in midfield too, but Liam Bridcutt is the player I imagine will be looking to balance that out when he joins the first team on Friday.
I said in an impromptu ‘Morning Dog Walk’ show (patrons, you’ll get exclusive access soon) that we can’t judge the transfer window on one game in which one of the new faces didn’t play and another hasn’t been announced, but we should still have had enough to see off a spirited but limited Southend United team. We didn’t though, not at all.
The team selection didn’t really surprise me. Conor Coventry, a player with a huge future, has struggled with his first foray into men’s football and Tayo Edun seemed to have more experience. Edun really impressed against Blackpool and has played for Ipswich in the Championship, so it looked to me as though MA was getting a little more experience into the side. Zack Elbouzedi was a surprise inclusion for Harry Anderson though, disproving the theory. I can see why Harry was dropped, he struggled in the last two matches but he is a senior professional now.
Other than that it was a case of ‘as you were’ from the poor outing against Portsmouth. The first game of the post-Tyler Walker era looked to get off to a decent start, Jorge Grant’s free-kick could have been better but it made me suspect we were in for an afternoon of dominant football. It was the only really positive action fans got to witness until it was already too late.
To say we never got going is an understatement. The senior professionals should be standing up to be counted and when we talk about ‘young guns’ we shouldn’t forget the players we do have with lots of games: Eardley, Shackell, Bolger, Vickers, Grant, Morrell and Hopper. These are not young kids, these are players with plenty of senior football. Okay, Morrell and Grant can both come out of yesterday with some pride intact (not much), but the others? Not so much.
It wasn’t as if we were defending for our lives though, not in the first half. The back four weren’t struggling with Southend’s threat, not in so much as they looked like conceding. There was the odd moment, a long-range effort here or a cross that evaded everyone there, but in the main, we didn’t look like conceding. We just didn’t look like scoring either.
Tyreece John-Jules and Tom Hopper haven’t played a lot of football together and I’m not here to hang players out to dry before they’ve had a chance to settle, I’ll leave that to the Twitter trolls. What I would say is they looked as indifferent to each other yesterday as they did Tuesday. Hopper is struggling to find his feet, albeit after just two starts, but I’m not going to indulge those already writing him off. Some players get going quickly, others do not. As for John-Jules, he’s a player of immense potential but I’ve seen him sky two chances in a week, both of which would have given us something from games we lost. However, getting on his back will surely affect him as a young player, so again we have to move on.
Maybe if those players got a bit of service we might have had a chance, but even the scraps they did feed on came more from Southend’s slightly gung-ho attitude to defending as opposed to our own endeavour. I felt Jorge Grant had a decent game, perhaps more deserving of Man of the Match than the chap who got it, but he wasn’t ‘good’ in the strictest sense. I forgot Zack Elbouzedi was playing for long parts of the encounter and from the defensive flanks, Eardley and Melbourne were edgy, misplacing passes and struggling with what limited threat Southend had. A decent side, with a real attacking purpose, could have turned us over 4-0 yesterday.
Unpopular opinion: it isn’t to do with the transfer window as such, certainly not the decisions we made. Walker was recalled and that was out of our control; he came on for Forest yesterday. Harry Toffolo wasn’t a player we wanted to sell, but the money was too good to turn down as we are a selling club, that is our model now. Put those two players in yesterday and we’d look more balanced. Michael O’Connor and Bruno were both losses to the squad but, in my opinion, Liam Bridcutt will do a job in O’Connor’s place and Bruno didn’t have goals and assists exactly flowing out of his magical boots, did he? We had enough players in yesterday who had performed well before Christmas, and over Christmas, and even against Blackpool, to win the game.
No, yesterday was a bad day at the office, the second in a week. I felt we weren’t great against Ipswich last Saturday but we were playing top of the league away from home, so for me, the two concerning performances are Pompey and this. we’ve lost the vital supply of chances from the left in Toffolo leaving and young Max Melbourne has struggled, but it doesn’t mean he’s a bad player. We’ve lost 16 goals in Tyler Walker and the front two, starved of the service Walker did occasionally get, looked like pale imitations of the Forest man. No one player is to blame here, but if we’re lashing out let’s make sure it’s across the board and reflecting the full issues of the day, not just labelling one player ‘rubbish’.