SOUTHEND United may have struggled to establish a pattern of play this season but the same cannot be said of their recent results.

For since beating Southampton’s under-23 team in the Checkatrade Trophy in mid-November, the Shrimpers’ scorelines have followed the same pattern with a victory always being followed by a defeat.

And Saturday’s 1-0 setback at Coventry City extended the sequence into a 12th game.

Blues headed into the clash at the Ricoh Arena looking to adopt the same tactics and system which had seen them triumph at Oxford United on Boxing Day.

The plan was to clearly frustrate the home side, be hard to break down and to stay in the game for as long as possible.

The same ploy proved successful at Oxford and was perhaps understandable given how easily Blues had been brushed aside in previous away games when adopting a more open style of play.

But the system, which often sees five men in midfield, can often leave the striker short of support and means goalscoring opportunities are few and far between.

Michael Kightly converted the only real chance against Oxford while an injury time effort from Harry Bunn was Blues’ only shot on target on Saturday.

The half chance was easily saved by Coventry custodian Lee Burge and came following a late change in formation which saw the Shrimpers on the front foot.

The alterations also led to Simon Cox wasting Blues’ best opportunity in the closing stages and led to Chris Powell’s side returning home empty handed.

The setback was greeted with frustration by everyone connected with the Shrimpers at the final whistle.

And it was certainly only natural to wonder what might have happened had Southend given it more of a go.

With the original set up, Blues seemed unlikely to score and, as such, it did seem slightly strange that after going behind in the 54th minute, no tactical or personnel changes were made until 11 minutes from time.

From then on, Southend enjoyed their best period of the game with more players lining up in their natural positions.

Up to that point, Cox was strangely used in a withdrawn wide role where, despite his admirable work-rate, he was unable to play to his strengths and get the best out of his creative qualities in the final third.

Similarly, Theo Robinson struggled in an isolated attacking role and it was not until Blues committed more men forward that they started to provide a threat.

Had the alterations been made earlier then Blues could well have secured a share of the spoils.

After all, without being disrespectful, the Shrimpers were not up against a Sunderland or a Portsmouth who are currently lighting up League One.

They were instead taking on a Coventry team sitting in mid-table who had gone nine games without a win before beating Charlton Athletic on Boxing Day.

As a result, Southend were probably guilty of showing the Sky Blues too much respect for too long but the hosts were fortunate with the goal which won them the game as television replays later showed Tom Bayliss was offside before playing in Jordy Hiwula to score.

Those kind of breaks continue to go against Blues.

But blaming officials is often the easy way out and the Shrimpers certainly contributed to their own downfall in what was their final outing of 2018.

Blues started the calendar year sitting 13th in the League One table having collected 31 points from 25 games.

And, 12 months later, Southend find themselves in a similar position as they currently occupy 12th in the table with 32 points from 25 games.

Blues will now be seeking greater consistency during the remainder of the current campaign and, with that in mind, they are about to enter the most important period of their season.

Four of the Shrimpers’ next five matches in League One are at home while five of the next six in all competitions are also at Roots Hall.

But, even more importantly, Blues boss Powell is now able to bolster his depleted squad.

An injury list like never before has left the Shrimpers chief severely short of options and he must beg, steal and borrow to ensure the required reinforcements are heading to Roots Hall. And, if that does happen, Blues will be in a far stronger position to perform well on a more regular basis.