A night to forget for Cheltenham Town after slumping to a 4-0 defeat here at Roots Hall this evening.
An early red card for Sido Jombati was only the start of a dismal evening with first half goals coming courtesy of Kane Ferdinand and Ryan Hall. Two more goals from Freddy Eastwood and Bilel Mohsni in the second period hammered home a disappointing night for the Rubies with a final score of 4-0.
Plenty of work ahead for Cheltenham Town with automatic promotion well and truly out the window.
Just one change was made to the Cheltenham Town side that drew 0-0 with Oxford last weekend. Kaid Mohamed replaced on loan striker Steve MacLean with Mark Yates opting for a formation change back to the 4-5-1/4-3-3 formation used for the majority of the campaign. Ben Burgess held the lone striker role with both Mohamed and Duffy supplying support in the advanced wide positions.
Cheltenham Town began proceedings this evening with their normal away day formation only with Duffy and Mohamed pushed on a little more in an effort to take the game to promotion rivals Southend. Decent passing movement from the Rubies early on supplied good hope but it was Southend who had the first effort on goal when Mohsni was played through by Ferdiand but the big striker plowed his shot over the bar. Southend had the welcome addition of fan favourite Freddy Eastwood this evening too and he almost created an opening with a lovely cross across goal but there was no Southend striker on hand to capitalise.
The game settled into a calm pace until Trevor Kettle shook things up with what seemed a pretty harsh red card. Sido Jombati went in fairly rashly on Timlin and the referee wasted no time in producing the red card and sending the Portuguese full back back to the changing rooms. A decade ago that tackle would have perhaps been applauded. Jombati's departure prompted a substitution with Keith Lowe filling the hole at the expense of Darryl Duffy.
That early blow for Cheltenham became much worse when Kane Ferdinand headed in the opening goal after 28 minutes. The corner was whipped in and head back across goal allowing the young central midfielder to steer his effort in for 1-0. Gutting blow for Cheltenham. It was important that the Rubies settled down after that goal and attempted to find a way back into the game no matter what the cost but the closest they came soon after was through a 25 yard low drive from Marlon Pack but it was comfortable for Belford.
Matters only got worse for the Rubies when a speculative Ryan Hall strike from 30 yards caught Butland off guard and blew past for 2-0. An ambitious effort that paid off for the winger. The scoreline could have got even worse for Cheltenham had Hills' cross in the 41st minute had found Freddy Eastwood at the back post but the Coventry loanee was unable to pounce in time. In truth Southend were rampant every time they went on the attack and they were quite obviously going for the jugular but Cheltenham managed to hold until the break in desperate need of inspiration.
Half Time: Southend United 2-0 Cheltenham Town
Josh Low was introduced at the break at the expense of Russ Penn in an effort to somehow stop Southend's control and revitalise the Rubies. The first shot of the half fell to Freddy Eastwood on the edge of the area but the striker's effort was way over the bar. Any hopes of pulling the game back however were soon distinguished when Freddy Eastwood beat Alan Bennett to a ball and lifted an effort past Butland for 3-0. It seemed pretty much game over from this point.
The Southend supporters were on their feet again after 57 minutes when Ryan Hall snatched at a shot but the effort had only struck the side netting. Southend were looking confident at this point which didn't bode well for Cheltenham. Eastwood forced a very good save from Butland on 58 minutes and then the on loan goalkeeper was forced to produce another good save from Mohsni's low drive.
A long range effort from Summerfield floated wide of goal just past the hour mark and Jimmy Spencer was brought on for Burgess at the point too. Luke Garbutt was booked as frustration piled upon the Rubies who were struggling to show any kind of teeth in this fixture. Southend had Cheltenham by the scruff of the neck and they knew it. Bilel Mohsni made it 4-0 on 67 minutes and it was another effort that Jack Butland should have done better with. The striker's effort was well hit and Butland was unable to push it away and stop Southend from taking complete control.
Southend made a double substitution just past 70 minutes withdrawing both Ryan Halld and Bilel Mohnsi for David Martin and Elliott Benyon respectively. Chances were few and very far between for Cheltenham but Marlon Pack's header was decent enough late on from Low's cross although it was just over the bar. The best effort of the night was still to come though when Spencer's cross found Mohamed but his decent header was tipped over the bar by Belford.
Southend stood to applaud their returning hero Freddy Eastwood when he was replaced by Neil Harris just before 90 minutes and rightly so with the striker playing exceptionally well. Thankfully for Cheltenham they didn't concede any more on a poor night in Essex but that illusive goal is still nowhere to be seen and there is seemingly much work ahead of they are to find their form from earlier in the season.
Full Time: Southend United 4-0 Cheltenham Town
Southend United FC (4-4-2): Belford (GK); Clohessy, Barker (C), Prosser, Hill; Hall (Martin 71), Grant, Ferdinand, Timlin; Mohsni (Benyon 71), Eastwood (Harris 89)
Subs not used: Gilbert, Sawyer
Cheltenham Town FC (4-3-3): Butland (GK); Jombati, Bennett (C), Elliott, Garbutt; Summerfield, Pack, Penn (Low 46); Duffy (Lowe 21), Burgess (Spencer 63), Mohamed
Subs not used: McGlashan, MacLean
Referee: Mr. Trevor Kettle
Attendance: 6,525 (160 from Cheltenham)
James Brown from Roots Hall