IN recent times, watching Southend United has nearly been as torturous as the bushtucker trials endured by Harry Redknapp in ‘I’m A Celebrity’.

But with the former Tottenham Hotspur boss watching on from the stands and his close friend Kevin Bond in charge of Blues for the first time there were at last signs of an improvement as the Shrimpers secured a 2-2 draw at Fleetwood Town on Saturday.

The draw means Southend have now gone 13 games without a win and remain 20th in the League One standings, just above the drop zone on goal difference.

However, the manner of the determined display left Blues fans feeling far more hopeful of avoiding relegation than they would have been before Saturday’s clash kicked off.

Too often in the past few weeks, the Shrimpers had been a soft touch lacking in spirit and fight which, in turn, made them far too nice and easy to play against.

Defensive frailties and lack of attacking options had also been a concern.

But, although not perfect, the performance at Fleetwood was a significant improvement on what had gone on before it. Harry Lennon, Simon Cox, Luke Hyam and Rob Kiernan all snapped and snarled into aggressive challenges early on and that – more than anything else – was perhaps the biggest difference.

Blues had previously been beaten without a whimper after failing to force their way onto the opposition as if almost trying to avoid defeat rather than win the game themselves.

Of course, not too much should be read into just one game but the early impressions were good.

Bond was a surprising selection as Shrimpers boss following the departure of Chris Powell and news of his arrival sparked a somewhat indifferent reaction from the supporters.

The 61-year-old had not managed for a number of years and had not featured among the names being linked to the job until just before his appointment.

But those who have worked with Bond in the past speak extremely highly of him and he certainly has plenty of experience to call upon during times as tough as these.

In truth, not many managers would have opted to take charge of the Shrimpers at this stage so in accepting the position Bond has already shown he is up for the fight.

The former Bournemouth boss has also been well accepted by the players who now have five games left to maintain the Shrimpers’ League One status.

Plenty more twists and turns lie in wait and, despite these initial signs of improvement, it will still be extremely tough for Blues who, despite playing well, still dropped points at the weekend.

As a result, this is a side who have not won since January, have taken just five points from the last 39 available and sit second from bottom in the current form guide, ahead of fellow strugglers Wycombe Wanderers who visit Roots Hall this weekend.

The clash could well be the biggest since the Shrimpers faced the Chairboys at Wembley in the League Two play-off final back in 2015 as Blues are running out of time to put things right.

Bond will not be able to work instant miracles but chose an interesting first line-up at Fleetwood.

On the face of it, selecting Kiernan in central midfield seemed quite an unusual decision, especially with more natural midfielders on the bench.

But Kiernan looked comfortable in the role and produced arguably his best performance since regaining full fitness.

Further forward, Blues looked more of a threat and will be significantly boosted by the return of Stephen Humphrys.

The striker suffered horrific facial injuries when scoring at Accrington Stanley in February and the Shrimpers were severely lacking in forwards during his absence.

However, Humphrys bravely put himself forward for selection on Saturday, despite not having fully trained, and entered the action wearing a protective mask.

Humphrys will now have a huge part to play in the remainder of the season and Blues do still have things in their own hands at this stage.

For, as well as Wycombe, the Shrimpers also take on Walsall and Rochdale, two of the teams currently below them in the standings and are likely to need another seven points to avoid relegation.

It is therefore certain to be tight and tense but Saturday’s standards must be replicated if Southend are to have any chance of survival.

Right now the club is at a huge crossroads and a return to League Two would have more than just Harry and his celebrity friends screaming get me out of here!