MATCH REPORT: Fleetwood 2 Southend 4
They spent a week trying to shore up their Achilles heel of set-pieces on the training pitch but no amount of proverbial bandages, ointments or plasters can stop individual errors.
The key it seems for Town at the moment is confidence, or a lack of, and a youthful inexperience. Making the wrong decisions has prove dcostly in this current spree of conceding 15 goals in five games.
You have to go all the way back to last September to find the last time Town suffered back-to-back defeats and as coincidence might have it, those autumn defeats to Rochdale and MK Dons were followed by another loss at Bradford... with Town now heading to Valley Parade tomorrow on the back of consecutive defeats.
This 4-2 defeat owed a lot to a bad decision by Burnley loanee Aiden O’Neill but, as Town know, by investing in youth and blooding a young side they have to accept that this will be a learning curve and mistakes can happen.
There was goodwill and positivity in his play but when O’Neill picked the ball up from his keeper Alex Cairns to try to play out from the back and find a way to unlock Southend’s jam-packed midfield, he was caught in possession by Ryan Leonard.
Leonard brushed past him to sprint one-on-one with Cairns and in that moment instinct took hold.
The Australian instinctively opted to tug the Shrimpers man back rather than let him run free at goal.
It was a choice he lived to regret, with the man in purple Carl Boyeson making one of his only right calls on the day to brandish a red card.
O’Neill should have let Leonard run through and trust his keeper to try to save his skin, but at 19 he will only learn from it.
Though for Town it was costly. From then on it was an uphill battle and one that was too much for this young side to fight back from.
There were three new faces in the starting line-up as Rosler changed the side that lost 4-1 at Portsmouth.
George Glendon and Jordy Hiwula moved to the bench, while the suspended Kyle Dempsey watched from the sidelines. Baily Cargill and Conor McAleny could not shake off knocks to keep their places on the bench.
Striker Wes Burns, midfielder Markus Schwabl and Bobby Grant all came into the side as Rosler went 3-5-2.
But all that hard work on the training pitch fell apart in a real matchday scenario as last term’s player of the year Cian Bolger continued to be a shadow of last season’s heroic box-to-box giant.
Boyeson, a referee who loves the limelight, made sure the crowd knew he was on the pitch by awarding an early set-piece.
Devante Cole was ruled to have fouled Josh Wright just outside the box and McLaughlin’s curling set-piece towards the near post dropped to Cox.
He may lack Bolger’s stature but made up for it with grit and determination as he got ahead of the former Shrimpers man to nod Southend ahead, Town falling at the first hurdle in their bid to improve their defending in the box .
The response was swift. Straight from the kick-off, Town bounced back as O’Neill’s long ball up from the back was nodded home by Amari’i Bell.
Bell had raced up from his wing-back position on the left and went for a 50-50 ball with Oxley.
Bell got there first but did not even get to see his header drop over the line as the keeper left him sprawled on the ground.
But the full-back was made of stern stuff as he shook off a nosebleed to play on.
After that it was an even affair, with both sides sitting back, though the Shrimpers looked more dangerous.
Cox got a sight of goal once again as he got ahead of his man and beat keeper Cairns, but fortunately for Town Schwabl was there to clear the ball off the line.
But minutes later O’Neill saw red and the game changed.
It took the Shrimpers just 10 minutes to make their one-man advantage tell as McLaughlin rifled the ball home from inside the box.
Rosler responded by withdrawing striker Burns for Glendon and deploying Cole up top on his own as Town tried to get a foothold in midfield.
But it was Southend who got their all-important third goal just before the break. Pond was harshly judged to have fouled Nile Ranger in the box.
Ranger blasted home and then caused a stir as he whipped off his boot in celebration and took aim at the Fleetwood fans, though the striker has since taken to Twitter to state that he was trying to say he still has ammunition in his boots – still, the celebration was in bad taste.
That was on the stroke of half-time and as Boyeson walked off to boos and jeers you had a feeling Town’s game was dead and buried, with heads bowed as they headed for the dressing room.
It was a spirited second-half performance as Town tried to stop the rot at the back and showed flashes of attacking flair from distance, with Grant stinging Oxley’s palms with a fierce effort and Cole curling the ball over.
Southend seemed content with the 3-1 win but they showed their teeth again late on as Demetriou’s fierce effort was tipped over by Cairns.
They immediately got that fourth as substitute Jermaine McGlashen’s 87th- minute strike cannoned in off the post.
This Rosler side never gives up, though, and after a neat bit of skill on the right by Ash Hunter, Cole popped up to bundle the ball home. Fleetwood: Cairns, Bolger, Pond, Eastham (Hunter, 74), Coyle, O’Neill, Schwabl (Hiwula, 64), Grant, Bell, Burns (Glendon, 41), Cole. Subs not used: Neal, Ekpolo, Nadesan, Sowerby.
Southend: Oxley, Wordsworth (Hendrie, 77) Ferdinand, Timlin, Cox, McLaughlin (McGlashan, 60), Leonard, Demetriou, Kyprianou, Wright, Ranger (Fortune, 70). Sub not used: Bishop, Yearwood, Robinson, White.
Referee: Carl Boyeson