Sickness, suspensions and storms might have played a part in Fleetwood Town’s defeat at Southend but the remedy is simple – stop your own defensive errors and capitalise on the opposition’s.
Cian Bolger was not the first Fleetwood man to make an error at Roots Hall but he was the one to be punished.
If Town want to be at the right end of the table they cannot lose the ball in their own half as many times as they did at Southend. Bolger’s fellow defenders and keeper Alex Cairns were all guilty of lapses of concentration.
Town’s firepower and wing wizardry were clipped until the arrival of Ross Wallace but we will get to him later.
Fleetwood had three huge chances. The first, in the first minute, was perfect aside from the end product. Kyle Dempsey to Paddy Madden to Ash Hunter, whose cross was dealt with by Turner.
Evans, back from illness and a niggle, was a huge miss in the 1-1 draw with Accrington but was not back at his best.
The forward made the wrong choice just before the break, opting to go for goal when the right option was to slide Madden through.
Two minutes inside the second half Town asked questions again. But with Hunter’s cross flying to the back stick Madden’s downward header kissed the post.
Three big scoring situations that you would back Town to convert.
But in between Fleetwood were outplayed, though Southend are yet to score this season at the end they were attacking in the first half. Timothee Dieng, Tom Hopper and Theo Robinson all asked questions of Town.
They lived to tell the tale but the number of shots being fired at Fleetwood’s goal is a worry.
All nine teams they have faced in the league have mustered 10 shots.
Cairns for once did not cover himself in glory – the keeper’s roll-out to Bolger leading to the goal as the ex-Shrimper was caught in possession by Robinson, who teed-up Simon Cox for the winner.
Craig Morgan was missed alongside Eastham, but even with their first-choice defensive partnership Town have managed to outshoot only Oxford so far.
You can argue that stats don’t tell the story – Town had two fewer shots than Scunthorpe but won 5-0, but that night Fleetwood were clinical and free from lapses at the back.
Town need to stop giving teams so many chances and start taking their own.
Apart from Madden’s header they had only two other attempts on goal, neither on target.
And though it was a defensive error that saw Town shoot themselves in the foot it was a lack of firepower.
This was only the second time this season that Town have fallen behind in the league, losing 1-0 both times. The other was against Wimbledon on the opening day but the performance at Roots Hall was their poorest yet.
The bug that sidelined James Husband and left many of his team-mates feeling unwell was a factor.
In his absence, Lewie Coyle switched to the left and Gethin Jones came in on the right, unsettling the back line.
To add to their problems, Town’s plans to travel down to Southend by plane on Friday were grounded by the cancellation of their flight from Manchester due to strong winds, while many of the squad were affected by a stomach bug.
Evans was back from a niggle and that bug, while Dean Marney (groin) also shook off a knock to play but was brought off at half-time.
With Morgan, Chris Long and Conor McAleny all nursing hamstring injuries, Town have plenty of injury doubts for Saturday’s Barnsley clash, though to challenge at the top they need to be able to cope with that.
Bolger proved he could reach the levels of Morgan and Eastham against Accrington but Town need to bring their A-game every week.
Wing power has been a big feature for Town and Wes Burns’ suspension has severely impeded their attack – two goals in their last three games testify to that.
That saw Barton snap up free agent Ross Wallace on Friday. The winger went straight into the side and his cameo off the bench afforded a glimpse of what is to come.
Like Hunter and Burns, Wallace is used to lighting up the pitch and tearing up the wing. The end product was lacking on Saturday but will come.
But to counter that Hunter picked up his fifth yellow and is now suspended after a needless trip on Michael Klass.
He will be a big miss next week but it is a chance for Wallace to get a start.
That brings me round to a final point of concern: discipline.
While Ross Wallace came off the bench and left a positive memory, his namesake James did not.
Fleetwood are second-bottom of the fair play table.
The Burns red card was harsh but 23 yellows and now a ban for a winger who will be key to Town’s hopes this term is not pretty reading.
Town need to cut out the silly fouls. Joey Barton felt Wallace’s two yellows were harsh but the midfielder gave the referee decisions to make.
Though the man in black, Charles Breakspear, did miss what Evans claimed was an elbow from Turner and he waved away a big Town penalty shout when Coyle looked to have been impeded at the back stick.
Town need to smarten up, sharpen up in front of goal and shape up at the back. Barton said there would be no excuses.
We saw a response after the Wimbledon defeat and now Town have bulked up their squad. Ross Wallace is Championship-class and in midfielder Ryan Taylor they have secured versatility and experience.
There were few positives from this game but those signings show that Barton means business.
A bad day at the office but after just two defeats in nine, certainly no need to hit the panic button.