SOUTHEND United manager Chris Powell wants the New Year to signal a change in the Shrimpers’ fortunes.

Blues - who host Gillingham at Roots Hall this afternoon - are currently 12th in the League One standings.

But Powell is keen for Blues to work their way up the standings, starting with success against the Gills.

“The first half of the season has been very tough and we’ve had to overcome some setbacks which are a little bit unknown but we’re still in the top half,” said Powell.

“We would like to remain there and build on it.

“It’s very tight but I would like to go up a few levels.

“We’ve lost major players who would be regulars and we’ve had to introduce others but hopefully the second half of the season will bring more joy and more points.”

That quest begins against Gillingham this afternoon.

And Powell is keen for Blues to produce another positive performance.

“We want to bounce back from losing at Coventry but we deserved more there and we’ve had two decent performances now,” said Powell.

“It would be great to get another win at home but Gillingham will be a tough proposition.

“Things have been a bit up and down against them but they had a good win against Portsmouth on Boxing Day and they seem to have the Indian sign over them this season.

“We’ve won one then lost one so it would be great to start 2019 with a win.”

This afternoon’s clash with the Kent club is the first of a run of fixtures which sees the Shrimpers playing five of their next six games at Roots Hall.

And Powell is keen to improve the home form.

“Our home form has been mixed and it’s been tough,” said the Blues boss.

“We’re a side that should have got more points, even with what’s gone on, but we have a few home games coming up now to try and put that right.”

The Shrimpers will again be without goalkeeper Mark Oxley this afternoon as the shot-stopper misses out with a back problem.

But midfielder Luke Hyam - who missed Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Coventry City through illness - is back in contention.

“Luke trained yesterday,” confirmed Powell.

“He’s still not 100 per cent to be honest but we’ll see how he is.”

Jason Demetriou (knee) and Harry Lennon (broken leg) are also still out injured but the defensive duo are due back before the end of the month.