PHIL FRIES ‘SHOCKING’ SHRIMPERS
F URIOUS Phil Brown labelled his players’ performance ‘dishonest’ as Southend lost ground in the League One promotion race.
The manager was seething, having seen his side concede inside a minute, and accepted they should have been dead and buried by the interval.
Brown made a double substitution after only 37 minutes with Southend 2-0 down and was in no way placated by an improved second-half display.
There were raised voices in the visiting dressing room after the game before the boss emerged to say: “I was disgusted with my team’s performance in the first half and that led to the early changes.
“The way we played really shocked me. The only positive was that I was able to get 65 minutes out of Nile Ranger and Stephen McLaughlin as substitutes, which I didn’t expect.
“You saw an honest performance from Bristol Rovers and a dishonest display from my players.
“It seems as though there are a few lads in our dressing room who actually fear getting promotion, which has to be a concern.”
Rovers needed only 55 seconds to take the lead, Billy Bodin cutting in from the right to bury a leftfooted shot into the bottom corner.
Rory Gaffney doubled the advantage from a similar position on 37 minutes via the inside of the far post with a right-footed strike.
Rovers might have been out of sight by half-time as Chris Lines and Cristian Montano went close, while Southend goalkeeper Ted Smith made fine saves from Montano and Gaffney.
At the other end Southend offered a threat with Joe Lumley saving from Michael Timlin and Marc Antoine-Fortune.
But Brown had seen enough by the 37th minute when he sent on Ranger and McLaughlin for Fortune and Will Atkinson.
The second half saw Southend control possession without end product. Lumley made one notable save, turning away a Simon Cox freekick. At the other end Rovers hit a post through Luke James and never looked like conceding their lead.
Manager Darrell Clarke said: “I was as pleased with the way we defended as the chances we created. “Joe Lumley did make an important stop at a vital stage of the game, which is something he has brought to the team. We have been defending well in front of him for weeks. “Billy Bodin and Rory Gaffney have produced great strikes for the goals and, even though Southend hit back after the break, we still created the better chances. “How far can we go? Put it this way. We already have more points with nine games left than the club achieved the last time they were promoted to League One.”
HIT THE GAS: Rory Gaffney celebrates scoring Rovers’ second, inset
SEETHING: Southend manager Phil Brown
STAR MAN RORY GAFFNEY Bristol Rovers