Football: Whelan misfortune as Southend plummet

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The Independent Online
Ronnie Whelan had little knowledge of relegation struggles in his time as a Liverpool player but two years as manager of Southend United has changed all that. A 2-1 home defeat by Huddersfield Town has condemned the Shrimpers to Second Division football.

Southend trailed to Andy Payton's 23rd-minute tap-in after David Beresford's shot had hit the goalkeeper Simon Royce and a post. Beresford added the second and in spite of Jeroen Boere's late effort, Southend were sunk.

The players, Whelan said, "did not give 100 per cent in a big, big game for this football club". He agreed that they deserved to go down. "We were patchy. We had one or two good results, but we were not consistent enough."

Vic Jobson, the club chairman, is also unimpressed. "The players we have will not be good enough to get us back into the First Division and you can take it from me that big changes will be made before next season. In this match we did not play with any passion at all. Huddersfield did and they had nothing to play for."

Of Whelan's position - he has a year remaining on his contract - Jobson said: "We'll have to sit down and discuss the matter with him."

Oldham Athletic will surely go down with them following a 2-0 defeat at Reading. Neville Roache, one of two 18-year-olds making his first start for the Royals, pounced on Andy Hughes's slack back-pass and curled a 10-yard shot past Gary Kelly.

The Latics' lifeline, thrown by a second-half penalty award, was snatched away when Steve Mautone saved Andy Ritchie's spot-kick and then Sean McCarthy had a goal disallowed before Stuart Lovell made it 2-0. "We didn't get the rub of the green this afternoon," Neil Warnock, the Oldham manager said. "I thought McCarthy's disallowed goal was a harsh decision. None of the Reading players or fans had any complaints about it, but the man who matters did. But you don't get relegated because of one game."

In the Second Division, Stockport County, who beat Wycombe Wanderers 2-1, will be promoted if they win at Chesterfield tomorrow night but Shrewsbury Town and Barry Fry's Peterborough United were both relegated to the Third.

This afternoon, Port Vale must beat Wolves to have a chance of making the First Division play-offs. "I doubt if the club has ever had a more important game," the Vale manager John Rudge said. "We have to take all three points and will go for it from the off."