FOUR hours in a car is a long time to contemplate things. As the daylight fades, there’s less sightseeing to be done and more passing the time delving into your inner sanctum thinking about what was witnessed during the afternoon.

More often than not when returning from an away game there is time to ponder where it’s all gone wrong this week. Had we not taken our chances? Was the midfield overrun? Were defensive mistakes our downfall? There is usually a negative to focus on as to why three points are not accompanying us back up the motorway. Saturday was no different with the exception that we had more time than any other game to digest the shambles which had unfolded before our eyes.

What happened at Edgar Street, Hereford was the story of our season. Yet again, a game unravelled before our eyes having been in a relative position of strength. Yet again, a lead was squandered. Yet again, a two-goal lead was squandered. Yet again, at the end of a game there were Darlo players on the pitch looking shell-shocked at what had happened almost as if this was an exception rather than the norm.

In a season of few highs and many lows, it almost felt impossible to lower the bar following the defeat to Nuneaton at home back in November, and yet Saturday’s defeat took low to a whole new level. I’d like to say the only way is up after such an abysmal loss, but I don’t think even the most ardently optimistic fan could make such a statement, yet alone support it with any confidence.

At half time, things looked pretty rosy. Bearing in mind Hereford were arguably the worst side to visit Blackwell Meadows since last season’s dreadful North Ferriby side, the first 45 minutes provided no real evidence to suggest they had significantly improved. In a pretty open first half, yes, they’d had possession and chances but we’d clinically opened up a two-goal lead by the break. We looked solid, pressed well and justified our lead. There was little in the opening 45 minutes to hint at what was going to happen in the second half.

On numerous occasions this season, our worst enemy has been the half-time break. Goodness knows what happens in the dressing room during those 15 minutes. On the nine occasions we have held a two-goal lead, we have failed to win four times now. On two of those occasions, we took the two-goal lead in to the break only to see it evaporate in the second half.

To throw away one two-goal lead is sloppy, but tolerable over a season. Two is annoying but it is a long season. Three and four is simply unacceptable. It becomes symptomatic of a more fundamental problem which needs rectifying. Peaking early is clearly an issue. We have scored the first goal of the game on 16 occasions this season only to convert those advantages in to seven wins. It’s simply not good enough.

With the defensive line in front of me during the second half, it got me thinking about how we are trying to set up and, to be brutally honest, at times we look a right shambles. Two things in particular stood out. Firstly, I couldn’t determine whether we were playing a three-man defence or a flat back four. Terry Galbraith (to his credit!) was having to cover so much territory it was hard to ascertain whether he was the left-hand centre back or left-back. It was simply too much ground for one man to cover behind the left wing back.

Secondly, with play well ensconced in our half, midfielder Tom Elliott was having to defend over by our right-hand corner flag in what would be the right back position while our right wing back was trotting back with little urgency about 20 yards further up the pitch. Again, this is too much ground to expect one of only two central midfielders to cover.

I’ve never hidden my dislike for a three-man defence but from watching us struggle in the second half against a side like Hereford, tactically it feels like we are our own worst enemies. In a season where conceding goals has been our Achilles heel – only four teams have conceded more – it seems like Tommy’s tactical approach is to try and be as expansive as possible.

The problem is, when poor sides try to be as expansive as a Manchester City, they are going to get beat. Frequently. With a seven-point gap to the drop zone and eight games to go, realistically, we should be safe. Sadly, I am at a point now where my faith in us being able to determine our own survival has pretty much ebbed away.

If we do survive, it will be because there are three worse teams than us. That’s not how we intended this season to pan out but it is our reality. To simply keep making the same mistakes week in week out is not sustainable. Something needs to change and it needs to be sooner rather than later.