Southend boss Phil Brown refused to accept that the fight for survival was over for his Blues side, despite losing 2-0 to neighbours Colchester United at the JobServe Community Stadium on Tuesday night.
First-half goals from Michael Folivi and Harry Pell secured the U’s their second successive victory and put them within touching distance of safety, in a game which Southend ended with 10 men after Jason Demetriou was shown a straight red for a foul on Pell.
But with Barrow still within reach with three games remaining, the Southend manager vowed to continue fighting on, and after the full-time whistle in Colchester, he gave his thoughts on the evening.
On the defeat…
"I don’t think it’s virtually condemned us at all [to non-league]. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep going and I’ll keep on doing my job to the best of my ability.
"I thought there was a spell in the first-half that was almost like they’d lost the script. We set a script out and we set a game-plan out with regards to the three games we’ve been involved in.
"Colchester tonight surprised me, so if anybody got it wrong tactically it was me because Colchester all season have been playing from the back but tonight they didn’t try and play. They didn’t try and play at all, they went physical and went up to the frontman, and the difference between the teams was the frontman.
"I’m not Frank’s [Nouble] biggest friend, I’m not his biggest enemy either, but I admired what he did. He held the ball up for them and that got them into the final third with a little bit more quality than what we did. To be disappointed with the fact that Frank Nouble was the difference between the two sides hurts me a little bit."
On trying to change the mentality…
"Mark Oxley has kept two clean sheets in our last two games and he’s pulled off a couple of great saves to keep those clean sheets, but we don’t have enough spirit, we don’t have the nous, we don’t have enough heart and drive and determination in front of Mark Oxley to bail him out [for the first goal].
"He keeps a clean sheet in the last two games – we should have had six points, but we don’t we get two 0-0 draws – and then we come into the game tonight and if we go a goal behind it looks to me as if the spirit of the squad is ‘we’re beaten’.
"Statistics are pointed to that with 24 goals in 43 games and I’m trying to break that belief, but it’s clearly endemic in the changing room and I’ve got to try and do that for the next three games. Am I down? Yes. Am I out? Not a chance."
On the remaining three games…
"The only beauty I can say about this week is that Timothee Dieng could possibly be with us for the weekend. If that gets us into a winning head, winning spirit, winning formula and we get three points on Saturday then who knows where the last two games are concerned.
"With nine points to play for, three games, I’ve just challenged everybody in there that if anybody dare says we’re finished they are out of the changing room, they’re finished, get out.
"We’ve got to get three wins. Football is a strange animal and am I standing here trying to convince you? Absolutely. But I’ve got try and convince that changing room in there that it’s possible. If there are three games to play for, there are nine points to play for and why wouldn’t you play for nine."