Southend United suffered their biggest defeat of the season as they were easily dispatched by the National League leaders Stockport County at Edgeley Park last night.
In front of the BT Sport cameras, a depleted Blues side were put to the sword by the Hatters who put five past goalkeeper Collin Andeng Ndi, who was making his league debut after Steve Arnold was struck down with an illness.
Goals from Will Collar and Myles Hippolyte in the first-half set Stockport on their way to a comfortable win, which was secured thanks to a second-half brace from Paddy Madden and a free-kick from sub Andy Cannon late on.
“We knew losing two or three players it was going to be a tough ask, but they were a team of men and we were found wanting in a lot of areas,” said Southend boss Kevin Maher following the defeat against the in-form Hatters.
Maher continued: “It hurts losing. I hate losing and there are ways of losing.
“Give them credit, they are a great team, a very good team, strong all over the park, and when we were on a run we were a lot stronger in terms of what we had.
“It shows the ones we had come out that we drop off too far.”
Blues knew coming in that it was going to be a big ask to get anything from Stockport who were flying and came into the game having won 22 of their last 24 games in all competitions.
But Southend were not helped by their defending of set-pieces with three of the five goals coming from dead balls, something Maher insists the players have to learn from.
“Lessons will be learnt, massively. On set-plays, the organisation hasn’t changed – we were good at set-plays up until one or two [left].
“When you lose personnel that want to head it, that becomes a problem. That’s something that we look at and something, when we go forward, we’ll address.
“It’s probably personnel more than anything and people who want to head it. You’ve got to do your job and if you don’t then we’ll look to change it.”
Southend had been dealt a huge blow even before arriving at Edgeley Park as goalkeeper Steve Arnold and defenders Shaun Hobson and Leon Davies were struck down with an illness.
It meant that young goalkeeper Collin Andeng Ndi came in for his league debut having only previously featured in the FA Trophy, but Maher laid no blame on the young goalie’s shoulders despite the heavy defeat.
“It’s obviously a blow. Arnie [Steve Arnold] has been very good for us and someone of his size and stature is a big loss.
“It’s a tough one for Collin to come into and there was nothing he could do with any of the goals.
“I’m delighted for him that he’s made his debut but disappointed in the circumstances.”
It’s now four straight defeats in the league for Maher’s Blues and they’ll be looking to arrest that recent poor run of form in their Easter double-header against Wealdstone and Barnet next weekend.
While acknowledging the disappointment of losing so heavily, Maher was keen just to remind Southend fans how far the club has come since his arrival.
“It is frustrating that we are losing games because I hate losing games, but the bigger picture of where we were is, when we were coming in the club was going down. Make no bones about it, the club were going out of this league.
“You look at what we’ve done as a group, as a club – the ins, the outs – and we changed the whole mentality of the club, which needed changing because there was a lot wrong.
“We’re just trying to remind ourselves just how far we have come, while still being disappointed to lose football matches as well.
“We’ll continue to work behind the scenes and make things better and I’m sure that in the near future, we’ll look back at this and think we’ve come a long way again.”