IF ever there was a game to perfectly demonstrate Southend United’s shortage of players then Saturday’s 2-2 draw with struggling Barnet was it.
Blues boss Paul Sturrock had just 15 senior members of his squad available to take on the bottom-of-the-table Bees at Roots Hall.
And among the substitutes the Scotsman was forced to select four teenagers and his assistant manager Graham Coughlan.
That showed up Sturrock’s limited options and that also led to him having to field a weakened and unbalanced midfield.
Because with John Spicer out suspended, Sturrock had just one natural senior central midfielder available and opted to line up with a diamond shape four in the middle of the park which consisted of Michael Timlin, Kevan Hurst, Anthony Straker and Freddy Eastwood.
But, amid that quartet, was a left back, a winger and a striker and it therefore did not come as much of a surprise that Southend failed to impose themselves in that area of the pitch.
There were few other options for Sturrock though and he is still unable to bring in new recruits due to the club being under a transfer embargo.
That was confirmed by former Sheffield Wednesday midfielder Sean McAllister just before the game when he revealed on Twitter how he was unable to join Blues due to the restrictions in place.
The midfielder would have strengthened the side in the centre of the park for Saturday’s game but, without him, Sturrock again had to conjure up a way of getting the very best out of what was at his disposal.
Subsequently, Southend were only able to pick up a point against a Barnet team who have yet to win this season and much tougher tests now lie ahead with the next two league games away at Rotherham United and Morecambe.
Both of those sides would relish coming up against Blues’ makeshift midfield and things could actually soon get worse for Sturrock as Timlin, the only available senior central midfielder at present, is now only one yellow card away from a one-match ban.
And, if that comes against Dagenham & Redbridge in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy tomorrow night, then Southend would be without any recognised midfielders for Saturday’s clash with Rotherham.
It is a far from ideal situation for Blues to be in and much criticism has been aimed at chairman Ron Martin for the part he has played in the problems.
Supporters in the North Bank on Saturday chanted for his dismissal during the second half and it is easy to understand their frustrations.
The club are currently in a real mess, with a long list of problems being revealed in last week’s Echosport.
And it is hard to see how they can all soon be sorted to enable the club to move forward and progress.
The dream scenario, which would also probably be the most successful, would be for new backers to emerge and steady what is currently a sinking ship.
But that remains unrealistic as Martin will not be willing to depart due to the money he will receive if Blues ever move to Fossetts Farm.
That means the current concerns are likely to continue and, if that is the case, then the supporters deserve to know.
For those backing the Blues from the stands care more for the club than anyone else and will be associated with Southend United far longer than any player, manager or chairman.
They pay hard-earned cash and frequently travel many miles to see their side in action and need to be told what is going on.
An ostrich-type approach to the problems from the Roots Hall hierarchy only intensifies the anger of the supporters and honesty is therefore definitely the best policy for those in charge of Blues .
On top of that, they also need to a find a way to lift the embargo to stop what happened both on and off the pitch on Saturday, becoming a regular occurrence.