Bury Town manager Ben Chenery left his players alone in the dressing room for more than an hour after the Blues’ season sunk to a new low.
Chenery refused to speak to the team after their inept display left them beaten 4-1 at Witham Town and rooted to the foot of the Ryman League Premier Division on Saturday.
Four goals inside an eventful opening 15 minutes put Witham firmly on top and the hosts were in such control they could afford to take off hat-trick hero Luke Callander with more than half an hour remaining and leave Chenery tearing his hair out.
“What do I go in and say? They must get sick of me saying the same things to them,” said the Blues’ boss, speaking to the Free Press while he allowed the players to conduct their own inquest into their poor form. “To go in there now, you are at a point where you make knee-jerk reactions and say things because I’m a very instinctive person and a very passionate person.
“They will not leave that dressing room until I am ready for them to go and I will go in there when I’m ready.”
He added: “A lot of them forget it’s about your heart, determination, willingness to get hurt and willingness to scrap for your shirt.
“The majority of them didn’t do that and it was men against boys at the back at times.
“My name is against what they are producing, so it comes back on me and that’s frustrating for me.
“I have to be brave enough to know what ones to change
“Resources-wise, I have got to work with what I have got, but I will not stand for inept commitment or heart, whatever you want to call it.
“I have come a long way in my life by being a grafter — someone who works very hard, has a big heart and can be very ruthless if needs to be.
“At the moment, they are really letting the football club down.”
Bury made two changes to the side who started the previous Saturday’s 3-1 defeat to Hendon — one enforced.
Jordan Patrick was ruled out with a thigh injury, while Chris Benjamin — who had an injury-time penalty saved against Hendon — dropped to the bench, with Miles Smith — back from suspension — and Remi Garrett returning to the team.
Both sides made a pulsating start to the match and the Blues were close to going in front before falling behind seconds later.
Joe Whight’s free-kick was kept out low to the right of goalkeeper Harry Palmer and the Essex outfit broke at pace with Ellis Brown leaving Seb Dunbar in his wake before sliding the ball across Alex Archer into the bottom left corner.
Undettered, Bury levelled within 60 seconds when Connor Hall’s shot from Whight’s left-wing free-kick was stopped by the feet of Palmer and Justin Miller was on hand to casually stroke the ball into the bottom right corner.
There was no let-up in the goalscoring and Callander put Witham back in front inside two minutes when he flicked Ryan Blackman’s goal-bound shot through his legs past Archer.
The former Chelmsford City striker was not finished there and continued to bully the Blues’ backline.
When Bury captain Dunbar gave the ball away, Callander combined with Brown to add his second by sending the on-loan Southend United winger away down the right before sidefooting the pacy wideman’s cutback into the bottom right corner.
As the clock ticked past 15 minutes, the scoring was complete for the first half, but Witham remained a threat while Bury petered out as an attacking force.
With seemingly acres of space for Witham to play in between Bury’s midfield and defence, Archer denied Brown with his feet before Callander — on a hat-trick — headed a deep left-wing corner against the outside of the right post.
All the Blues mustered in reply was an off-target header from Miller and their defensive frailties were exposed again shortly after half-time.
Brown had already broken away from the attentions of Dunbar and clipped wide when Callander completed his hat-trick in the 50th minute.
The Blues were all over the shop at the back from a free-kick and Callander could not believe his luck when the ball somehow presented itself to him inside the six-yard area to gleefully drill the ball home from close range.
A superb treble save by Archer — two shots from Brown and one from Ryan Charles — stopped matters becoming embarrassing, but Witham knew they were in charge and took Callander off in the 59th minute before starting to wind down.
That allowed the Blues to press forward a little more in the closing stages and Palmer took the sting out of Garrett’s shot before it was hacked off the line, while substitute Phill Weavers also had an effort cleared from the whitewash in a 93rd-minute scramble.