THE start of a new season should offer plenty of fresh enthusiasm and hope.

But all of that was blown away inside just 37 minutes for Southend United at a breezy Roots Hall on Saturday.

The Shrimpers conceded a trio of soft goals during a sub-standard start against Blackpool.

And the manner of the setback brought back the familiar feeling of frustration which was regularly felt last season.

At the heart of the struggle was a reoccurring theme for Blues, who just cannot keep a clean sheet.

Quite remarkably, the last time Southend were able to shut out the opposition was against Bradford City back in January.

Since then, Blues have gone 20 League games without a clean sheet during a run of matches which has seen them concede 38 goals.

Furthermore, the Shrimpers also failed to secure a shut out in seven pre-season friendlies and goalkeeper Mark Oxley has yet to keep a clean sheet in 2019.

And that, more than anything else right now, is the reason behind Southend’s struggles.

Time and time again Blues are breached from a seemingly nothing situation and that was certainly the case on Saturday.

Blackpool’s first goal came following a weak punch from a tentative Oxley while the second saw debutant defender Liam Ridgewell horribly exposed as Nathan Delfouneso raced in behind him to score.

The experienced Ridgewell signed for the Shrimpers on the eve of the League One season, meaning he had not featured in a single pre-season clash.

And, in truth, that lack of fitness showed as he struggled to deal with what came his way against the Tangerines.

Blackpool ruthlessly exposed Blues’ frailties and exposed another of their hosts’ weaknesses with their third goal of the afternoon by scoring from another set piece.

The struggles at the back are by now well known by the Shrimpers.

But it is how to stop them which is obviously now key.

Blues boss Kevin Bond looked to address the weakness with his summer signings and three of those started at the back against Blackpool.

However, right now it appears to be a case of new season, same old struggles.

To be fair, the Shrimpers looked fairly solid on the opening day of the campaign against Coventry and the only goal they conceded was a well-taken effort from long range.

Blues started that clash with a back four before switching to 5-3-2 for the game with Blackpool.

Bond was keen to stress after the game that the change of system was not to blame for what went wrong.

But Blues saw last season what a lack of continuity and consistency can cause and must avoid another campaign of constant chopping and changing to avoid unnecessary confusion.

For me, a back four seems to be the best bet and Bond is certainly not short of defensive options.

Even with Rob Kiernan sidelined with an ankle problem, the Shrimpers chief has four centre-backs to choose from and must quickly find his best pairing.

John White has yet to feature so far this term and deserves his chance to stake a claim for a place when Blues head to Stevenage in the Carabao Cup tomorrow.

But Saturday’s showing simply must be improved upon as, quite simply, the first 45 minutes was one of the worst I have ever seen during my 29 years following the Shrimpers.

Most realistic fans are aware that it takes time to turn things around and, after just avoiding relegation last term, nobody is expecting miracles. However, even when taking all of that into consideration, the weekend’s woeful performance cannot be accepted and must immediately be improved upon.

Bond himself was hugely critical of the display and chose to single out members of his starting line-up in the post-match interview for the first time in his tenure.

The Shrimpers chief is very considered in his answers when dealing with the media and is normally keen to not give much away. On Saturday though, he was more forthcoming than normal and voluntarily labelled the front two as ‘shocking’ at the end of an answer about a completely different topic.

The response was criticised by supporters on social media but Bond is not one to speak for the sake of it and will now want to see an immediate improvement.

But, in truth, it would be hard to get much worse.