SOUTHEND United came crashing back down to earth with a dismal and depressing 4-1 defeat at Doncaster Rovers on Saturday.

After securing four victories in succession, the Shrimpers made the trip to South Yorkshire in a good frame of mind having seemingly kick-started their season following a sluggish start to the campaign.

In contrast, a struggling Doncaster side headed into the clash just above the relegation zone and still seeking their first home success since April.

Early on, the encounter seemed to be heading the way the form guide suggested.

And when Anthony Wordsworth added to Doncaster’s anguish by nodding Blues in front, it seemed Phil Brown’s side would be maintaining their recent momentum due to the two teams’ contrasting levels of confidence.

Wordsworth had earlier infuriated his hosts when he controversially avoided being shown a red card following a clash with Rovers midfielder Jordan Houghton.

But Doncaster dug deep to kick back and John Marquis’ goal on the stroke of half-time proved to be the game’s decisive moment as it exposed a worryingly soft Shrimpers under-belly which appeared to have been eradicated in recent weeks.

However, Blues resembled a boxer with a weak chin at the weekend as the equalising effort enabled Doncaster to quickly kill the game off with on loan Sheffield United midfielder Ben Whiteman scoring a hat-trick in the space of just 10 minutes.

In doing so, Whiteman became the third player to have already bagged a trio of goals against the Shrimpers this season as their defensive frailties on the road were again exposed.

Subsequently, Southend are now almost averaging conceding three goals a game on their travels having been breached 17 times in just six outings.

In fact, so wretched is their record that out of the full 92 clubs in the top four divisions only Yeovil Town – who were beaten 8-2 at Luton on the opening day – have conceded more than the Shrimpers on their travels.

An early injury to Harry Kyprianou did not help Blues’ cause at the weekend as, despite his tender years, the Cypriot has become a key member of Southend’s back four.

In fact, prior to Saturday, Southend had lost just once in the seven games Kyprianou had started this season while all three of the clean sheets which have been secured so far also came during that run.

All four of Doncaster’s goals were scored following Kyprianou’s withdrawal and Blues will be hoping the quad injury he suffered will not prove to be too serious.

Without him on Saturday, Blues lacked mobility in key areas and that certainly contributed to a painful afternoon which saw Doncaster run riot to record their first home win since April.

Anton Ferdinand was certainly struggling with his movement and he added to a miserable afternoon by needlessly getting himself sent off after the game had finished.

The defender may well benefit from a break but his impending suspension and Kyprianou’s injury means the Shrimpers are now facing another shortage of centre-backs heading into two tough looking fixtures against Wigan Athletic and Peterborough United, who are both in the top five.

However, mobility is not just an issue in the back four as – at the other end of the field at the weekend – Nile Ranger struggled to make much of an impression and also failed to put himself about like he does when at his best.

That added to Blues’ problems at the weekend and some bizarre decisions from the officials should distract from that.

For, on this showing, the Shrimpers will not be heading anywhere fast, in more ways than one.