WHAT initially appeared to be a convincing defeat eventually turned into a controversial one for Southend United against Barnsley on Saturday.

The Tykes were on top for the majority of the FA Cup second round clash at Roots Hall and seemed set for a comfortable win when ex-Shrimpers loanee Cauley Woodrow put them 3-1 up just 20 minutes from time.

However, Blues staged a late fightback with Timothee Dieng heading home Stephen McLaughlin’s left wing corner before the game’s most contentious moment saw Michael Turner have what would have been an equaliser ruled out for offside.

The centre-back volleyed home from close range after Harry Bunn’s header had been parried out by Barnsley goalkeeper Adam Davies.

And it was exceptionally harsh for the effort to be disallowed.

Replays of the footage showed Dieng and McCoulsky were both beyond the Tykes shot-stopper when Turner fired home and, despite a defender being on the line, the duo were technically in an offside position.

However, they were certainly not interfering with play and did not hinder the defender’s attempts to get to the ball as it flew into the other side of the goal.

More than anything else, the incident underlined the unnecessary complications involved with the interpretations of the offside law.

Things need to get back to basics where that is concerned as the officials’ reason for ruling out the goal was quite simply frightening as they somehow thought Turner himself was in an offside position.

The assistant on the far side also seemed to take an age before raising his flag and, after walking over for talks, referee Paul Marsden seemed to point for a goal before then deciding to disallow the effort in farcical fashion.

But that was not the only dubious decision at the weekend and the level of officiating was more Sceptre League than Football League.

However, time and time again this season lower League teams are undone by bizarre decisions and something seriously needs to be done to improve the levels of those taking charge.

Saturday, for instance, saw the winners pick up £54,000 in prize money plus the possibility of being paired with a Premier League side in the next stage of the competition.

But, that aside, Southend should not let the controversial late decision hide the real reasons for the defeat.

For Blues produced a largely tentative performance and were again undone by set piece situations.

The Shrimpers lost 1-0 when they last faced Barnsley, just four weeks ago, with the only goal of the game coming from an Alex Mowatt right wing corner which was headed home by Kieffer Moore. However, Southend did not learn from that painful lesson as the Tykes took the lead in exactly the same manner at the weekend.

Two more goals from right wing corners followed in the second half as Barnsley capitalised on two individual errors.

The first mistake was made by Blues goalkeeper Mark Oxley, who punched Mowatt’s corner straight into Woodrow who gleefully fired home from close range.

Oxley was a key performer for the Shrimpers last season and was deservedly voted player of the year by both his team-mates and the club’s supporters.

But Oxley has not quite reached those standards this time around and the custodian’s reluctance to leave his line from set piece situations is certainly becoming a concern.

Dru Yearwood was also punished for a mistake for Barnsley’s third goal and the youngster, who was being watched by QPR’s director of football Les Ferdinand, was way below his best against the Tykes.

It could well be that the youngster is still struggling with the hip problem he picked up against Blackpool in mid November.

But, irrespective of his fitness levels, it is important to remember that Yearwood remains an 18-year-old midfielder with just 42 appearances to his name.

And, despite the high standards he has already set himself, the midfielder should not be overhyped or over-criticised as he bids to rediscover his top form.

That will certainly come in the weeks ahead and Blues will be hoping that coincides with an upturn in their fortunes.

The ever increasing injury list has of course hit the Shrimpers hard.

But Southend remain a better side when on the front foot and almost seemed to show Barnsley too much respect before adopting a more attacking formation late on.

That very nearly saw them rescue a draw but you sense Blues must remain positive in more ways than one if they are to avoid further frustration in the next few weeks.