Graham Coughlan has revealed how Bristol Rovers’ recovery from two goals down to beat Southend 4-2 followed a half-time threat to cancel the players’ Christmas party.
Struggling Southend played some excellent first-half football and deservedly led at the break through Tom Hopper’s close-range shot and a side-footed finish from Brandon Goodship.
But a needless foul by Elvis Bwomono on Jonson Clarke-Harris saw the Rovers striker get up to convert a 48th-minute penalty that turned the game.
Abu Ogogo equalised in the 56th minute, before Ed Upson made it 3-2 with a glorious right-footed volley from 25 yards and Alfie Kilgour made sure of the points with a header.
Manager Coughlan found it hard to explain his side’s first-half failings.
“Who can understand footballers?” he said. “For 45 minutes our performance was totally unacceptable.
“We were second to everything and I felt embarrassed by what I saw. If we turn up like that for more games we will get punished.
“At half-time I told the players their Christmas party tonight was off and I would be having them in tomorrow. Thankfully, I was able to think again at the end.
“Yet again they have shown fantastic spirit. We are fifth in the table and no one could have imagined that a year ago.
“I don’t think we are getting the credit we deserve. It doesn’t bother me, but I would ask the fans to throw themselves fully behind the players.
“We have come such a long way because everyone is pulling together. The club is progressing and that is down to a great deal of hard work from a great many people.”
Southend boss Sol Campbell was outraged by his side’s capitulation.
“For 45 minutes we were brilliant,” he said. “Then we chucked everything that had made the performance so good out of the window.
“What were the players thinking? That we were 2-0 up and they weren’t going to fight back? Get in the real world.
“I am sick to the core of this sort of thing happening. Maybe the players don’t believe where we are in the league, but it is a fact.
“I try to give them confidence, but it is difficult when you are continually losing games. Somehow we have to keep going.
“It was disappointing to have to take Tom Hopper off because he was doing well. But he got a stud in a leg and there was a deep gash.
“We had chances to put the game to bed before they scored. But I just can’t accept how the performance changed in the second half.”