SOUTHEND United manager Phil Brown is demanding defensive improvements when his side take on Hartlepool at Roots Hall tonight.

The Shrimpers have conceded five goals in their last two games.

And, although they will again be missing the influential Luke Prosser this evening, Brown wants to see his side looking far more solid at the back.

“It’s a shame to be without Luke but Adam Thompson and Mark Phillips have the opportunity to step up and help us get back to picking up clean sheets again,” said Brown.

“I’m a manager that is more than happy to win every game 1-0, so it’s been very frustrating in the last couple of games, conceding five goals.

“We have been built on a solid defence for much of the season, so it’s disappointing, and we’ve worked hard in training to try and sort out our shape.

“We’ve done very well for a lot of this season playing the way we know best, and it’s paid off, so we need to get back to that.”

Brown’s side are now seventh in the League Two table after going five games without a win.

And, with Hartlepool sitting in eighth, the Blues boss, knows how important victory tonight could prove to be.

“With Hartlepool having closed the gap on us, it’s a big game and a six pointer for us in terms of moving clear of the rest.

“But, that said, we’re still looking at the six teams above us rather than the ones below.”

With that in mind, Brown is considering making changes to the starting line-up and hinted that winger Anthony Straker could return to action.

The 25-year-old, who has not started in the last three games, became a father for the first time at the weekend.

And he could well figure this evening.

“Anthony has had a mental last week or so with his partner giving birth to their first child on Saturday, but he’s firmly in my mind for Tuesday night now,” said Brown.

“Hopefully we’ll have Luke O’Neill back in contention too and Barry Corr should be OK as well despite having to ice his knee after the game on Saturday.”

Julian Bennett (cruciate ligaments) remains unavailable for the Shrimpers along with the suspended Conor Clifford.