“The best team we’ve played so far” - that was the verdict on Wigan Athletic from beaten Southend boss Phil Brown.
Goals from Michael Jacobs, Nick Powell and Ivan Toney gave Latics a 3-0 victory at the DW, which saw them overtake Shrewsbury at the top of League One.
And that’s where Shrimpers manager Brown expects Latics to finish the season.
“You know you’re going to be up against it here, at the DW Stadium, against the league leaders,” acknowledged Brown.
“They’ve got a decent side, a decent budget, you name it.
“But hats off to Wigan and Paul Cook - they play football the right way.
“They certainly played the right way today, we had to defend in numbers for long periods.
“But you’d expect them to be up there in the table.”
Despite goals two and three coming inside the last six minutes, Brown can have few complaints at the result, which was fully deserved on the balance of play.
“We came here two years ago, and it was much of the same, a similar story,” Brown recognised.
“Wigan beat us by four, and they went on to win the league.
“We caught them at the wrong time, there was four or five games to go, and Wigan were in a real rich vein of form and won the league.
“There is a long way to go, but they are the best team we have played so far.”
Southend were still in the game after an hour, at 1-0 down, only to lose Jermaine McGlashan to a straight red card following an awful two-footed lunge on Callum Elder.
Brown, however, felt his men were hard-done by.
“I haven’t seen it again, but for me I saw a two-footed challenge in the first minute of the game by a Wigan player, that wasn’t even given as a foul,” he insisted.
“It does look like a two-footer from Jermaine, but the fact he slipped doesn’t do him any favours.
“Consequently we had to shuffle the pack again, and we’re not being given any favours with injuries and suspensions.
“Having said that, I thought our counter-attacking looked better with 10 men than 11.
“The mentality of the group, until the last five minutes, was great and it made it a decent contest.
“We stood up to their threats, and it looks like we capitulated at the end - but we didn’t.
“It was just a couple of bad decisions at the back that cost us.
“We’ve worked all week on a game-plan, and it wasn’t to go behind as early as we did.
“But we then got a foothold in the game, a genuine foothold.
“They’re a good team, they pass it well, but I was proud of our back four today.
“The scoreline at the end doesn’t reflect what the scoreline was on 85 minutes.
“It was 1-0, we’re in good possession of the ball, and I’m looking for us to equalise rather than concede any more goals.
“The work-rate of the team, and genuine honesty of some of the players, was there to be admired.”