Sunday, 27 April 2014

Thank you Browny

On Thursday night, I was at Whaddon Road for a fantastic evening with 11 former CTFC players, who all served the club with great distinction.
During the evening, they were asked what it was that made Cheltenham Town special for them. As director Tim Russon went along the line, all of them, from Mark Boyland, through Clive Walker, Bob Bloomer, Jimmy Smith, Jason Eaton, Russ Milton, Jamie Victory, Steve Book and Lee Howells to Shane Duff and Damian Spencer, one word kept cropping up.
They all pointed to the camaraderie in the dressing room, and the bond between the players, board, manager and fans which pushed them to great success, be it a Southern League Premier Division title, an FA Trophy win or a Conference crown.
How ironic then that 48 hours later we had Saturday's startling revelations from Scott Brown after the defeat at Rochdale, which finally laid bare what an utter shambles this miserable season has become.
Firstly, let me say well done to Browny. He came out of the dressing room after the game, and I noticed him sitting down at the bottom of the stand looking out at the pitch, where Dale fans and players were still celebrating their deserved promotion.
Then he came up, and spoke first to my BBC Glos colleague Pete Matthews, and then seperately to Jon Palmer, and what he said left me absolutely stunned.
I was literally stood there open-mouthed as he revealed that a couple of his team-mates told Mark Yates on Friday they had not been trying, not giving 100 per cent.
Whether he was talking about matches in general over the season, or in training that day, or in past training sessions is unclear, but still, it is an utter disgrace.
Browny was really angry. You could tell in his voice. It was unlike him to be like that - he always seems such a calm character.
But this revelation, coupled with the limp, weak display of most of those in front of him on Saturday, had tipped him over the edge.
He should be praised to the hilt. He deserves no reproachment at all.
There was no question to prompt his words. He just came out with it, like he had been holding it in and needed to release the pent-up anger - rather like I feel every week as I sit and construct this stream of consciousness. It is very cathartic...!
He was almost speaking through gritted teeth, and every word he said only served to confirm what we have known all season.
He deserves credit for sticking his head above the parapet and saying what he did. In fact, there is an argument to say that the manager should have come clean and told us and it should not have been left to a senior player to feel he had no option but to spill the beans.
Now is the time for the board and manager to act.
There are players at the club who do not care, and who effectively are cheating the supporters, and stealing a living from the football club.
The first question I have to ask is why, Mark Yates, was this player or these players part of your squad and/or your starting XI at Rochdale?
Why was this waste of space allowed to take the shirt of another player or a hungry youngster who does want to try? That decision is almost as shocking to me as the players' confession in the first place.
What is for certain in my eyes is that Saturday has to be the last time they will pull on the shirt. I don't care who they are - how important they are to the team and whether they have a contract for next year or not. I want them out. Over to you Mr Chairman and Mr Manager - let's have some decisive leadership here.
Name and shame if you have to, at the very least fine them a week's wages, but there is no Cheltenham Town fan I know who will countenance that player or players lining up for the club again, thank you very much.
It is an insult to those who have spent hard-earned money on season tickets, and been short-changed with terrible home performances. An insult to those who have spent good money travelling up and down the country from Plymouth to Hartlepool following this team.
They put more effort into their fancy dress costumes than some of our players did in the 90 minutes on Saturday.
We were miles away from Rochdale's level. They are going up, along with Scunthorpe and Chesterfield. Our combined record against those teams, played 6, lost 6, goals scored two, conceded 14.
So no surprise that we are not going anywhere. In fact, looking at next season, I have us in the bottom eight without major surgery on and off the field.
Mark Yates does deserve credit for putting Joe Hanks on at half-time, and the fact that he was our man of the match for a 45-minute display should show his fellow midfielders up. But I am not sure they care enough to take notice of it as long as they get their pay cheques.
Sign David Noble? No thanks. After watching him and Matt Richards stand and wave Bastien Hery through to set up the second goal, I will drive him back to Rotherham or wherever he lives myself.
It was reminiscent of that horrendous day at Crewe, the 8-1, or that 4-0 surrender at Stevenage. It could have been another 8-1 but Rochdale all but stopped playing at 2-0 and could taste the champagne which later came raining down on me in the stand as I tried to stop the radio equipment getting waterlogged.
A couple of others played themselves out of a contract once and for all, thank goodness. I also hope the club will suspend any thoughts of keeping Jermaine McGlashan as well after another in an ever-increasing line of insipid displays. Thanks Jermaine, but no thanks.
We have a young, hungry winger in Zack Kotwica who wants to play, can beat a man, and can cross a ball - I am not sure Mr McGlashan has all of those attributes.
While Yates deserves credit for playing Hanks, he is also culpable in his development being stunted. Why has it taken 18 months for Joe to get back on the field again after his promising cameo against Exeter in October 2013? Yes, it is that long ago.
In the meantime, we have seen Noble, Richards and Taylor strolling around with barely a care in the world, Sam Deering look busy without achieving very much and can't-be-bothered loanees like Lee Lucas and Kemar Roofe come in for a few games and waste the club's money.
Meanwhile Joe has kicked his heels on the bench, or in the stand, or been sent out on loan. Scandalous waste of talent, and poor management to leave him out for so long without getting a chance.
Yes he may have only played for 75 minutes in total for the first team, but he has showed in that time that he can do a job. He has done more than some of those loanees - and he could have saved us a lot of money.
So what now?
Something has to happen, and it has to happen soon.
I get the feeling that something is brewing, and it will all blow up in the next 48-72 hours.
What it is, I have no idea, but I just get that sense, and it will affect the management team I think.
We need new ideas, a new voice, and a new approach.
When Dave Kevan was part of the coaching staff, we turned in some decent displays. He brought in  fresh ideas, a new pair of eyes and a different approach. I think there needs to be some fresh blood in the coaching set-up.
Whether that is instead of or in addition to some of the current incumbents is open to question.
There is an argument for splitting up the Yates-Howarth axis - either with a new number two for Yatesy or a new number one with Howarth - or they both go and we completely start afresh.
Whatever it is, there needs to be a re-think.
If Yates is to stay, he needs to change his approach, and his attitude. He needs to find leaders, and he needs to make sure he doesn't fall out with them. Bennett, Lowe and Penn are big misses. I cannot see those three tolerating any non-tryers, can you?
And people could tolerate their departures a bit more if they were replaced by players of equal or better quality. On the whole, they haven't been (Bennett for Michael Hector then Troy Brown being the exception, although neither had or has Benno's leadership qualities).
But Noble for Penn, plus Lucas or Roofe? No. Michael Ihiekwe or Mitch Brundle for Keith Lowe? No way. See also Craig Braham-Barrett for Billy Jones. No comment needed.
As someone pointed out to me correctly on Twitter earlier on today, Yates' mantra when he came in was to find young, hungry footballers with a point to prove. That person also pointed out that as soon as he was given some decent money to spend, he went away from that to journeymen, who largely cannot give a toss.
The 'Yates is a good judge of a player' epithet has also taken a bit of a bashing as well, hasn't it?
Players like Marlon Pack (who fell into his lap it has to be said), Luke Summerfield, Bennett, Jombati (until Bennett left and he went downhill), Penn, Steve Elliott, Kaid Mohamed and the loans of the likes of  Jack Butland, Luke Garbutt and Jimmy Spencer were all good signings, who all performed well. But they are now tempered somewhat by having to endure the likes of Richards, Taylor, Craig Braham-Barrett and a lengthening series of unconvincing and at times downright useless loans, coupled with the reluctance to give our own kids a proper chance.
In my view, Harry Williams' youth team form deserved a chance in the side long before now. I would even say he deserved a pro contract long before now. Again, why use Roofe or Lucas when Harry was there?
Yates needs to take a bit more of the blame for his own mistakes and those of the team on himself. He has shifted a lot of flak on to the players and of course they do shoulder a lot of responsibility for this season, but ultimately the buck has to stop with you Mark.
Your failed recruitment. Your unloved squad. Your underwhelming tactics. Your obviously uninspiring training. Your now-poisonous environment.
Yes, the players have made some ridiculous mistakes in games. Over and over again. So why are they doing that? Is it that they don't care (partly, as we now know) or have they just stopped listening to the management team?
If so, or if they keep making the same mistakes, or following the game plan, then why have they then not been left out of the side? That is mainly because of our small squad, so threadbare due to players being sold, and then not replaced adequately (see above).
This has meant that players have known that how badly they perform, and whatever mistakes they make, there is likely to be no-one to take their shirt, so they are free to coast through training, and games, before picking up their money.
There are not many of this shower I want to see in our red and white stripes in July, whoever is in the dugout.
Along with Browny, who told us he has been made a 'fantastic' offer to stay - please sign it!, I would keep (as long as none of these are the non-tryers, and I don't believe any of them are) Troy Brown, Terry Gornell, Byron Harrison, Zack Kotwica, Joe Hanks, Jamie Cureton and Connor Roberts, plus the four youth team graduates. The rest can go (Steve Elliott reluctantly).
This is a massive summer. As I said earlier, I cannot see us - as we are now - being out of the bottom eight. If they stay up, Rovers and Northampton will have clear-outs and improve. Luton coming up will go through the division, and of the play-off sides I fancy Grimsby to come up. They won't be poor.
None of the relegated sides are bad enough to be dragged right down, so we need to get this summer right.
We need action from the board to sort out the managerial side of the club with the utmost urgency. We need to root the bad apples out of the playing staff as well, never to be seen again.
Then we need a clear plan for the summer, whoever the manager is. We need to get back to finding hungry players with energy, passion and drive to play a decent style of football, and get the loyal supporters, the bedrock of this club, enthused again. If we get this wrong, then this club is in big trouble next season.
There is a nasty stink about the place at the moment, a poisonous atmosphere that needs to be killed off, and killed off fast before it spreads irreparably. It can be done, but action is needed now.

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Decision time

It is traditional for Cheltenham Town fans to travel to the last away game of the season in fancy dress and some are now pondering their costumes for the trip to Spotland on Saturday.
Can I suggest that they look for clown suits - or maybe they could go dressed as footballers?
I am sorry, but this is the gallows humour we have been reduced to after some of the laughable fare we have had to endure this season.
I am one of the lucky ones - I don't usually have to pay to watch it, and yesterday I had to do some proper work so managed to avoid another '1-0 up, 2-1 down' shambles.
It was the third time that has happened at home, Rochdale and Southend being the others, and having not been there I cannot comment on whether this was as bad as those two.
But even from my desk on the other side of Cheltenham, I could almost hear the collective groans, and as soon as I saw news of the equaliser flash up, I was waiting for the second Fleetwood goal.
And sure enough within nine minutes there it was - all depressingly familiar and no reward whatsoever for the people who have dug deep in their pockets to watch it this season.
Five league wins at home equals (as someone said on Twitter yesterday) about £82.80 a victory if you are in the In2Print, which is probably about the same price as a season ticket at Bayern Munich, for you hipsters out there.
We don't know how much the season tickets are for next season as the club haven't told us yet. I cannot imagine, unless the offers are pretty stunning, that there will be a massive queue banging the club's doors down to buy one.
So we are still not officially safe. Three games left, Mansfield and Rochdale away and Dagenham at home, see us needing to eke something out while hoping teams below us don't overtake us.
It is still unlikely - Wycombe, Northampton and Bristol Rovers all need to win two games (and Wycombe play Rovers next Saturday), while Accrington, Portsmouth, Morecambe, Hartlepool and Exeter all need one win - assuming we lose all three of our games.
But we cannot make assumptions. More ridiculous things have happened, and teams have gone down in the past without being anywhere near the bottom two until the last day of the season - Lincoln being one which springs to mind.
We should not be in this position. Yesterday takes the tally of points lost from winning positions to a staggering 34. Six defeats and eight draws after being in front - 14 games thrown away.
It is the worst in the division. Last season, we held that record as well with 26 points lost, four wins and seven draws.
So it is not a new problem. Not confined to this group of players - so do we blame them for it, or do we look at the manager and his methods?
It suggests a lack of mental strength during games. Players all to easily switching off and reacting negatively to conceding a goal, meaning they all too often concede another one straight after.
Also, they lack the killer instinct after going ahead. They seem to lack the belief to go on from taking the lead and looking to consolidate it, or add to it.
All too often this season, we have put together a good 50-60 minutes then collapsed into a dire shambles.
Burton and Hartlepool at home - we led 2-0 at or near to half-time, and drew both games. Rochdale, Southend and yesterday we led 1-0 around the hour mark or later - and lost all three.
Away from home, Wimbledon was the worst of course, cruising after three quarters of the game before chucking it away and then you look at games like Burton, one up with 18 minutes to go - lost 2-1.
It is all too depressingly familiar, and the manager has failed to find an answer for it, so we are now in this precarious position.
It is decision time across the club - youth players will learn their fate this coming week, out of contract players in limbo, and also, the board has a big decision to make.
There is a two-year contract, unsigned, with the names of the manager and his assistant on it.
As it stands, there are many who would like it to stay that way and that number is growing.
After 34 points from winning positions lost, and four wins from the last 19 League Two games, the question has to be asked whether he deserves a new two-year contract, which he probably won't see through and will almost inevitably leave us paying him off at some point?
I am sorry to say it but the answer at the moment has to be no. No way should the club give him two more years - and it is highly doubtful that he should be given another 12 months.
The majority on the terraces are calling for a new broom through the playing side, and that could well extend to the dugout as well.
There is no love at all for this squad of the players. They have let the fans down too often, and not justified the faith placed in them by the manager.
Yates has not helped himself either. He has deflected the flak on to the players in the majority of his post-match interviews - I don't feel he has placed enough of the blame on his own shoulders.
The Lowe and Penn departures, and to a lesser extent that of Billy Jones, added to that of Alan Bennett last season, have constantly come back to haunt him as in the majority of cases their replacements have been inferior - Troy Brown for Bennett being the exception here I think.
While I wish everyone would move on from it, it is understandable that many fans cannot while we perform so poorly and Lowe and Penn's York seem to win every game 1-0 and are in the play-off places.
Lowe was deemed not good enough for a regular place as a centre-back for us and Penn could not get into our midfield, yet they have been stand-outs for York, and their arrivals at Bootham Crescent have co-incided with their upturn in form.
When they went there, York were in real fear of going down. Now we are in that position.
We talk about a lack of leadership in the team. Lowe, Penn and Bennett were leaders, but they have gone as the manager didn't want them in the side any more. But he has not found new leaders to replace them.
While Jones was not great defensively, his replacement has been worse, and we have lost the set-piece threat as well. Penn's replacement (s) have been largely inferior loanees, kids from Premier League clubs who have come and gone quickly.
Lowe's replacement in the squad have been two loanees, one of whom in Mitch Brundle has done ok, and Michael Ihiekwe who has never really convinced me - certainly not better replacements.
Marlon Pack was always going to be difficult to replace, Kaid Mohamed's replacement has barely played for one reason or another - all over the squad, good players have been replaced by inferior ones.
Yates' mantra has always been that players coming in have to be better than the ones they are replacing - this petently has not been adhered to this season.
Yates always gets flak for his substitutions. Either the lack of them, or the timing of them.
He can be reactive, rather than proactive. He seems to struggle at times to spot a weakness in the side, or where the opposition are getting on top and find a way to cure it.
Other managers don't have that problem, and on occasions their substitutions have changed games against us - Neal Ardley for Wimbledon did that with Danny Hylton at Kingsmeadow, and Gary Rowett with Dominic Knowles at Burton, both came on, scored twice and we lost both games.
I cannot remember the last time a sub came on for us and had a real effect on a game. These players who are on the bench should be champing at the bit to come on and make an impact, but they rarely do.
So - is that down to the manager? Is he motivating them properly? That is part of his job, but then equally the players have to motivate themselves as well.
That brings us to the usual question. Do we blame the players for these abject displays, or, as the manager put them together, is in charge of who trains them and how, decides the tactics etc, is the blame at his door?
It has to be a 50-50 split. Yatesy has to accept some of it and players equally have to look at themselves and accept that they have underperformed on a regular basis.
These are experienced players on the whole. The majority of the squad have 100 League games behind them or more. They are not kids. They have won plenty of matches down the years and should have the nous to see games through like yesterdays, but they don't.
Many of them won't be here in three games time - and it will be good riddance to the majority of them. So why should they care if we go down or not?
You would hope they would have professional pride. A relegation on their CVs will not help them find a new club, but they don't seem to.
Some attitudes are not helping endear them either. Jason Taylor was rumoured to have left the ground yesterday after being left out of the 18. Don't hurry back Jason.
Matt Richards was apparently jeered as he was substituted yesterday. Much as I don't like to hear that, it sums up the feelings on the terraces and he needs to think hard about why the fans are reacting like that to him.
These attitudes seem to be prevalent throughout the squad. When we score a goal, the celebrations always seem so incredibly muted.
A goal is meant to be the biggest thing you can do in a game, but our goals are almost greeted with a 'so what' feeling - a symptom of the general apathy around the place.
Someone made a very good point on Twitter yesterday, which I agree with - Yatesy has had an easy ride from the fans this year, and this must be down to his status at the club as a former captain.
I suspect that someone with no such link to the club would have had 'preferential' treatment like that, and would probably not be in the job right now.
We are told the reason for the contract not being signed is a 'clause' they are trying to sort out. I wonder.
There is no way that the board (if they are doing their job properly) can be happy with what they have seen this season, both on and off the field.
The club has a stale feeling about it. Fans seem to be losing interest and want to look back rather then forward, the players don't seem bothered, and everything seems to be hard work.
The board need to think very carefully. The club is in need of a massive lift and if they come to the conclusion that a change of manager would help to take that black cloud away, then they have to do it.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Which way is the beach...?

So now it is pretty much official - the season is over with four games to go, and we can get the travel brochures out.
The weather is telling us that at least, and there wasn't much at St James' Park on Saturday to persuade us that these last 360 minutes (plus stoppage time...) is going to be much other than a last chance for those without contracts for next season to change the manager's mind, bar a total collapse in form and some freak results below us.
By far the best part of Saturday was the debut of Harry Williams. Overdue in some eyes, including mine, after 38 goals at 'junior' levels this season and a succession of underwhelming loanees in his position in the side.
He didn't have to come in and rip trees up immediately. All I was looking for him to do was not to look out of place - the rabbit in the headlights effect (copyright Bagasan Graham, Swindon, March 2012).
I think he passed that test. He got involved, tried to keep it simple, made some good runs off the ball without getting the pass he should have, and without being spectacular, played his part in the side calmly and effectively.
I think the manager did the right thing, taking him off after an hour, and I now hope that he will keep his place on Friday and beyond, rather than giving Billy Daniels some time to get match practice for a side he won't give two hoots about in a few weeks' time.
It is good to see a truly local boy in CTFC colours. Cheltenham-born, a former Southside Tiger and Balcarras boy who has come up through the Academy all the way to the first team.
I am prepared to be corrected, but I can only think of Martin Devaney as another Cheltenham-born player who has played League football for us, as Dave Bird, Zack Kotwica and Joe Hanks were all born at the other end of the Golden Valley.
In these days where fans say there is a lack of connectivity with the side, to see players like Harry come through can only be a good thing - but only if they are good enough. It cannot be done for the sake of it.
But I don't think Yatesy is the sort of manager to do that. He will not put young players in unless he feels they deserve to be there on merit, so let's hope Harry can go on from here.
We started the game slowly, and were deservedly behind. Neither full-back covered themselves in glory defensively all game.
Exeter's threat came from out wide, and was always present. We never clamped down it with the restored CBB saved by his pace on more than one occasion, and Sido forced to resort to needless fouls with monotonous regularity which only served to put more pressure on our goal.
Neither of these two have contracts. This display won't have done them any favours on that front, and I am sure there will be better full-backs going spare in the summer meat market.
I know. There is a better right back playing in the centre of York's defence. Please. Let's not go down that road again...
Steve Elliott was back in central defence and had a very good game alongside Troy Brown. Apart from the messy Exeter goal, they looked pretty much untroubled, and I think Steve's presence just calms everyone down - including Scott Brown.
I wish Steve was 25, not 35. He is a true warrior, and one of the few players (if not the only one) who would want next to you in a battle - someone who would go through brick walls.
It seems inevitable he will go, and he has looked his age at times this season - but I wish we could keep him here somehow.
Coaching and playing the odd game, helping out the young centre-halves in the Academy maybe? I don't know, but it will be a shame to see him go. I am glad I have got his white shirt!
We struggled early on in midfield, until David Noble got hold of the game after the Exeter goal, and he ran the show until half-time.
That again has re-ignited an argument. Do we try and sign him for next season, and try to build a team round him?
I still say no. This is based on two things - money (I have no idea what he is on at Rotherham and would ask as a wage, yet I think he will be too expensive) and injury record.
He looks brittle, and we need players who will give value for money, ie the potential to play 35-40 games a season, and on the evidence we have seen we probably will not get that from Noble.
I can imagine the 'sicknote' barbs on everyone's favourite internet forum if he signs and then spends a lot of time in Ian Weston's company. Not worth the risk in my view - good player that he is.
What Noble's impact on Saturday added to the collapse against Southend after he went off does tell us however is that we need a 'passer' in the team - a quarterback to dictate things.
Matt Richards is certainly not that, and neither is Jason Taylor. Add that to the shopping list Mark...
Up front we had the same old problem - lack of service - so fair play to Byron Harrison for making a silk purse from a sow's ear with a goal from not even a half-chance.
That's 15 now, 13 in the League (all single goals) without penalties. A very good effort, only bettered by Sam Winnall (22), Scott Hogan (17) and Reuben Reid (16), and matched by Rhys Murphy, Luke James and Jonjo O'Toole.
As I said last time, in a mediocre side who barely creates a chance, he deserves a lot of credit. His job is to score goals, and he has done just that, and even if a lot of his performances are languid and bordering on the lazy, I have decided my player of the year vote will go to either him or Scott Brown.
Why? Because those two are the reasons why we are not right in the mire - without Byron's goals and Scott's saves we could be Torquay right now.
Byron played alongside Jamie Cureton, who also got little to work with, but while Byron took his quarter-chance, Jamie badly missed his more clear-cut one.
After the game he was brutally honest about that and the other chances he has missed. Not good enough basically, should have scored them, and can therefore understand why he has not started as many games as he would like. If only all players were as honest and self-critical as that. He knows he won't be here next year.
Zack Kotwica will be and he had a bright little cameo, coming as close as he has ever done to his first senior goal - denied by a good save from the goalkeeper.
It may be a little galling for Zack to see his mate Harry beat him to a starting role, but I hope it happens for Zack in the next four games. I think he has earned it on merit.
Finally to two more players who are out of contract. One, Jermaine McGlashan, who everyone seems resigned to losing, and who some will miss and others are not really fussed either way.
I am in the latter category, and Saturday was more evidence for that feeling, as Jermaine did his usual thing of getting into promising positions then failing to make the most of them, either by trying and failing to win a free-kick or corner, or by failing to produce a decent cross. He should have got a penalty though, when he was tripped and then bizarrely failed to appeal for it in any way shape or form.
Finally, Sam Deering. He has never scored for Cheltenham and after coming on for Williams had a chance right at the death which summed up a) why he will be leaving and b) why he will never score a goal for us.
I am still having nightmares about that miss. Before my knees gave in, I was a very average Sunday League striker turned even more average central defender, yet I think I would (just about) have backed myself to score.
Sam had done well along with Byron to carve out the chance, and all he had to do was slip it into the corner. I bet he has done it in training hundreds of times, but he basically passed it to the keeper.
It could yet be a pivotal moment. It gave Exeter a tiny bit more breathing space above the bottom two. If they stay up by a point, or on goal difference the drinks in Devon are on Sammy.
It has also stopped us from being to able to say we are safe with any real clarity.
I think we are, given the amount of traffic between us and the bottom two and the fact that many of those below us will take points off each other (Wycombe, for instance, have Northampton, Torquay and Bristol Rovers still to play), but it would have been nice to be a little more free from nagging doubts.
As I said at the top, some freak results and four defeats for us would be needed to make it happen, and even I am not that pessimistic.
Just roll on May 3 at 5pm, when I can down a few ciders (no doubt in the company of some mad Norwegians) and try to forget that season 2013-14 ever happened.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

An all too familiar story

Spineless, gutless, pathetic, unacceptable, bottle-job - pick your phrase or adjective of choice, as they are all an accurate description of our second-half 'performance' yesterday.
An all too familiar tale, a Ground hog Day of our season, and I am among the many who have had a gutful of it now.
Like the manager, I just want this season finished. Five more games, 450 minutes plus stoppage time - let's get it done and then move on to watching cricket and getting some sun (hopefully...).
The first half yesterday was - in the context of this season's home displays - not bad.
We looked as confident as we have on our own soil, I thought we passed the ball well, the movement was good, and the tempo was decent.
The downside was that once again we didn't create very much. The goal was all Byron's work, seizing on a loose ball on the edge of the box and smashing it low into the net.
Aside from that, we were tidy enough between the two penalty boxes, I thought David Noble, Sam Deering and Matt Richards had the best of the midfield tussles, and we were the better side.
Only just it has to be said, as Southend had the better chances - Scott Brown made two good saves, and down our left-hand side, we gave them far too much room.
Time after time, Kevan Hurst, John White or Michael Timlin had far too much space on that flank. Sido was being sucked inside and often Richards was left isolated against one of those three players and crosses were coming into our box.
It is a problem we constantly have. We simply never seem to be able to stop crosses. Every team we come against seems to have an outlet down one side of our defence or the other, and it puts us under pressure all the time.
Conversely, we don't seem to have that threat. Jermaine McGlashan barely got into the game, and when he did, the crosses were non-existent. He wasn't the only culprit on that front - when Mitch Brundle, or Deering, Richards, Jombati (or anyone) got into a promising position, there was no telling cross, no final ball of any significance at all.
I feel sorry for Byron. That goal yesterday was his first real shot on goal for three or four games. Some will say that is partly his fault, and that he can be lazy. He can, yes, but equally he cannot do it all himself, can he?
The goal yesterday was his 12th in the League, all 'single goals (he hasn't got two in one league game, but his other two were in one game - Crawley in the League Cup) - and in a side like we have had this season which doesn't score many goals, isn't free flowing and barely creates a chance, that is a very decent effort.
We are getting into player of the year territory, and that goal tally should get Byron high up in the voting, but I don't think it will as he is yet another 'Marmite' player with the fans.
Although surely the fact we now hold up players who were criticised severely when they were here as Messiahs the time has surely come to appreciate players like Byron and his contribution. He is a striker, a number nine, and is there to score goals.
That is his job, and he has delivered, and in a side which has produced a lot of pretty insipid stuff all season.
His goal yesterday was a rare moment of quality at Whaddon - but was then followed by 45 minutes of the most dreadful stuff we have seen.
The loss of Noble didn't help. He had been quietly influential in the first half, and to lose him so quickly in the second was undoubtedly a blow.
But we were winning the match, and the loss of one player should not totally disrupt the rhythm of a team, and should not lead to such a pathetic, spineless display.
Someone else should have put their hand up and taken on his mantle - Richards, Deering, Jason Taylor or Billy Daniels especially, but none of them did that. They all hid.
We should have been confident. On the front foot after a good half, and buoyed by getting a goal right at the end of the half - but it seemed to have exactly the opposite effect.
We barely strung three passes together, and gifted Southend two goals to add to the annals of easy goals we have let in this season - a very long list.
Phil Brown deserves some credit for the two changes he made, but the warning signs were there, even in that first half.
Scott Brown made those two saves, and an even better one which led to the long throw we conceded from. He did nothing wrong, but once again he was let down by the players in front of him.
Weak minds, said the manager afterwards. Spot on, weak defending, powder puff stuff in our own box, and a player in Barry Corr who showed more desire, and wanted to get to the ball, wanted to score a goal more than our gutless players wanted to clear the ball away.
It was no shock when we conceded again, a free kick to us was cleared, it was no shock that one of our players didn't win the second ball (we stopped doing that at half time, but haven't won many of them since about 2011) and two passes later it was in our net.
I am not sure where Sido had disappeared to, but Hurst had all the time he wanted to run down his channel to score.
After that, Southend had the easiest 23-minute procession to go away with the points. We didn't test the goalkeeper, never looked like equalising, and seemed to be almost going through the motions.
Only one ball in from Zack Kotwica which caused a little scramble - that was it as far as any nominal threat on the Southend goal in that last quarter of the game.
Kotwica had come on as one of two late changes, with Jamie Cureton replacing Daniels, who was totally and utterly ineffective - as poor an individual performance as I have seen all season.
So, once again, the question has to be asked - why is he here?
Hours before our defeat, the youth team beat Bournemouth 5-2, with Harry Williams scoring a hat-trick. He plays as an attacking midfielder, the position Daniels was apparently filling yesterday.
Those goals took Harry's tally for the season to 38 in youth league, Cup and reserve team matches, which must make him one of the leading youth level goalscorers in the country.
Yet we haven't seen him in our team bar a short spell against Morecambe, and instead we are helping a player who has a long-term contract at a team in a league above get some match fitness.
I think that is very wrong, and what message does that send out to people like Harry, Joe Hanks, James Bowen, Bobbie Dale and Adam Powell? Play as well as you like in our youth teams, and impress when you go out on loan, but I am going to bring in a loanee who is a year older than you to do a job which you might be able to do.
Now, I know Harry Williams is not the finished article, but surely that goal record alone deserves an opportunity in the side? Surely he deserves the chance to show what he can do? I will be very disappointed indeed if we don't see him, Zack and even Connor Roberts get at least one start in these last five meaningless games.
What have we got to lose? These players are meant to be the future, but unless they get a go, how are we meant to know if they are ever going to be good enough?
They will come in and make mistakes, but surely the fans will give them some leeway in these games, won't they? Surely fans will get behind players like that more than they will want to see players like Daniels, who frankly didn't look like he even wanted to be out there.
I know that has turned into a rant, and I know I champion these young players a lot, but if, as the chairman says money is going to be tight further down the line, then these players need to feel valued, not that they are banging their heads against a brick wall. We want them to be our future, not someone elses.
OK I feel better after that - now back to yesterday. The other substitution was Kotwica for Taylor - yes, Taylor, who had earlier come on for Noble. No injury, just the hook as we tried to chase the game.
Obviously, this has provoked a lot of debate, but I am siding with Mark Yates here.
He explained it that at 2-1 down, Taylor is not the sort of player who is going to get you back into the game, but is more the player we wanted at 1-0 (when he originally came on). I see that point, and it is a plausible reason for the change.
Taylor was also playing extremely poorly indeed, and therefore that is another reason why I have no issue with the change being made. The player understandably wasn't happy and gave Yatesy a volley before he sat down.
Yesterday's capitulation was the last chance for some players in my eyes.
Of those out of contract, I would not shed any tears if McGlashan, Deering and Jombati left.
McGlashan has six goals this season which is a decent return, but he does not make the most of his major asset, his pace. He beats players, leaves them for dust, but then what? Usually a cross which hits the first defender or doesn't even get that far. Not enough.
If he thinks he can get a contract higher up the leagues or in Scotland, then good luck to him. He might be a player who we miss further down the line, one of those who is appreciated more once he has gone, but I am prepared to take that chance.
Deering has played nearly 100 games for us in a central/attacking midfield role, and not scored a goal. His assists can be counted on two hands in that time, I would guess. Not good enough.
There is no faulting his effort. He is a 100 per cent man every time, rare in our current team, but looking busy and running around a lot isn't always enough. I was delighted when we signed him two years ago, but he hasn't been the player I hoped he would be.
Now Sido. A folk hero. Brilliant when he came into the side, now a mistake-prone shadow of that player. If his name was Simon Johnson, and he wasn't Portugese with an exotic name, he probably wouldn't be the cult figure he is. There is better out there I think, much as I love Sido.
Scott Brown is the only regularly-playing out of contract player I would keep. I hope Roberts and Hanks are also kept on if they want to stay, but that is about it.
I cannot see Cureton and Steve Elliott being here next season. Cureton has also not lived up to expectations, and Steve I am afraid has looked a bit leggy recently and it seems Old Father Time is catching up with him - but what a servant he has been. He will be missed if this is the end.
Vincent as well will go I think. After being ignored for whatever reason, he had a decent burst but has been out back in the ice box again. Same goes for everyone's favourite left-back CBB. Five more games sat on the bench, and then time to look for a new club.
Of the players under contract, I would not shed any tears if any clubs came along and wanted Taylor. He has never fitted in here.
I am not sure his heart was ever in it - after all he wanted a loan move a month after the season started when he wasn't getting in.
It is a shame as he was brilliant when I saw him for Rotherham - another of those players who looks excellent for other clubs, and a shadow of that player when he comes here (see also Deering, Richards, Gornell etc etc etc...).
I feel sorry for Gornell. I like him as a player, good, technical player, clever (but so was Jeff Goulding...!) and I don't feel he has been given a fair crack in his best position, up front.
The attacking midfield role was one which never suited him, but he tried his best. I want to see him where he was effective for Accrington and Shrewsbury in the past, scoring goals against us, through the middle as a forward. If Cureton is going, then don't use him - give Terry the nod instead. He will be here, after all.
So if Brown stays, we will have a 'spine' of him, Troy Brown, Richards and Harrison to build something around, which is something to start from, plus Gornell and Kotwica, assuming Taylor goes elsewhere.
I wouldn't sign Noble if he is available, as if these injuries are going to keep recurring we will not get value out of him, and there must be someone of quality out there in our budget who can do that job.
Same goes for Michael Ihiekwe, I wouldn't sign him. Mitch Brundle I might be tempted to have a gamble on - as I think he has done okay at right back in six of his seven games... but he is a centre-back really, so if we were to sign him, where do we play him?
The summer is massive for Yatesy (assuming he finally does sign this contract!). He has to get it right and then start next season on the front foot.
The pressure will be on him not only from the fans but also massively from the boardroom as well, as they know that turgid home performances like we have seen for the vast majority of this season have alienated a lot of fans who might not ever come back, and more may join them if it continues.
If it goes wrong, and, say, we are in the bottom half after 10-15 games, then that might be the end for him, and the board will be answering questions about why this much-protracted new contract was given in the first place as we have to pay compensation, which could have been saved etc etc.
But I am getting ahead of myself - let's cross that bridge if it happens - but let's hope it doesn't come to that.
In the meantime, let's just enjoy the last five games. Or at least try to...