FOR the second week in succession there were plaudits, pressure and possession for Southend United but ultimately no points.

The Shrimpers made the daunting trip to Sunderland on the back of a 3-1 defeat to title contenders Ipswich Town.

And, despite suffering a 1-0 setback at the Stadium of Light, there were again signs of promise under the guidance of new Blues boss Sol Campbell.

Southend have endured the worst start to the season in their 113 year history, have triumphed just once all season and currently have the worst defensive record in the country.

Yet while that perhaps tells just half of the story it does underline the size of the challenge facing Campbell.

The former England international was in charge of the Shrimpers for just the second time on Saturday.

And there was definitely more to be positive about.

Blues looked more compact and organised and conceded just once, something of a rarity this season – especially against one of the favourites for promotion.

Campbell again opted for a back five, with Timothee Dieng lining up as one of three centre-backs.

And the Frenchman again looked comfortable at the back as he read the game well and used his mobility to keep Sunderland’s strikers quiet for most of the match.

However, without sounding too harsh, given just how bad Blues have been so far this season it would not take much to be seen as an improvement.

But it was still encouraging to see the Shrimpers stick in the game and not roll over as has often been the case this term.

Small steps have certainly been taken in the right direction but there is, of course, plenty left to work on.

For, while Blues have looked better at the back following Campbell’s arrival, they have found it tough going at the other end of the pitch and have rarely troubled their opposition.

Southend rarely looked like scoring on Saturday as their winless streak extended to eight matches, leaving them eight points from safety with a vastly inferior goal difference to those above them in the table.

The seriousness of the situation meant it was always going to take time for Campbell to turn things around.

And it was not realistic to expect an immediate upturn in results, especially given the difficulty of Campbell’s first few matches in charge.

The former Arsenal international will also need time to find out more about the players and possible partnerships at his disposal.

Campbell went with Nathan Bishop in goal at the weekend and the youngster responded by producing a positive performance between the sticks.

Bishop has been battling for the number one slot with Mark Oxley throughout the course of 2019 but neither of them have been able to establish themselves a regular starter.

But after Oxley’s tentative display against Ipswich – in which he was stuck inside his six yard box for the Tractor Boys’ first goal – Bishop was given another opportunity and did very little wrong.

However, Campbell is short of quality options elsewhere – most notably in the centre of the park – where Blues are perhaps at their weakest.

Campbell will not be able to bring in much needed reinforcements until January, by which time Blues will still be hoping to be in with a chance of survival.

Right now, the Shrimpers are facing a huge fight on their hands to stay up, a fact underlined by bookmakers offering odds of 1/16 on them to go down.

A huge turnaround in fortune and form is required for Blues to even be in with a slight chance of survival.

And, while last season’s memorable meeting with Sunderland resulted in one great escape act for Blues, Saturday’s clash could not inspire the start of another