ORDINARILY the outcome of an opening day encounter should not cause too much of a reaction.

After all, promotion campaigns have often started with defeats for Southend United while struggling seasons have kicked off with memorable victories.

However, even the most optimistic of Shrimpers supporters would have been extremely concerned following Saturday’s 4-0 defeat to Harrogate Town at Roots Hall.

New Blues boss Mark Molesley has been a breath of fresh air with his character and communication since coming to the club this summer.

But Molesley is a manager not a magician and the same, serious long-term problems still remain at the Shrimpers.

The club’s crippling financial situation and a long serving transfer embargo has left the squad short of experience and Blues are currently being forced to field what is basically an under 23 side.

The squad that was selected on Saturday was the youngest in the Shrimpers’ 114 year history and, in truth, it showed.

The match was quite clearly men against boys as a robust Harrogate side made their first ever Football League match one for them to remember.

And in doing so they handed Blues a stark reality check.

The club have brought through a number of talented youngsters in recent seasons and that trend is to be commended and continued.

But having to select seven players aged 22 or under in the same starting line-up is a recipe for disaster.

And that is exactly what Saturday proved to be.

Blues are bidding to bounce back from last season’s relegation which came after winning just four of their 35 League outings.

But Molesley must be given the freedom to bolster his squad if another season of struggle is to be avoided.

The Blues boss is to be commended for accepting one of the toughest challenges in football.

However, his job will become virtually impossible unless he is soon able to bring in players with experience, strength and aggression.

Yes, the Shrimpers had three or four more senior players missing at the weekend and that could have put a different spin on Saturday’s game.

But the harsh reality is all of them have suffered injury issues in recent seasons and unfortunately seem unlikely to avoid further setbacks in the future.

That adds to the need to bring in more players and it is no exaggeration to say this could be the biggest week of Blues’ season.

The club are back in court on Wednesday to continue their ongoing battle with the HMRC about an unpaid tax bill which is responsible for the current embargo being in place.

If that can be cleared and Molesley can be given the green light to bring in much needed reinforcements then there can definitely be far more hope for the future.

But if the restrictions remain and the current squad cannot be strengthened then the Shrimpers are likely to be facing a fight to stay in the Football League.

The entire spine of the side is crying out for reinforcements and without getting carried away I found Saturday’s showing one of the saddest in my 31 years of watching the team play.

A new campaign often signals new hope, belief and excitement but that was in short supply at the weekend as Blues were brushed aside by their opponents to suffer their biggest opening day defeat since 1947.

The match being behind closed doors, due to the coronavirus pandemic, made it an even stranger experience and so too did the bizarre manner of Harrogate’s fourth goal which has now gone viral online.

But the bottom line is it is simply unfair to be asking so many youngsters to step up to the plate, long before some of them are ready, without the help of more experienced professionals around them.

Sadly there is no quick fix and it is likely to take quite some time to turn things around.

Stopping the rot, on and off the pitch, is the number one aim this season alongside staying in League Two.

However, real momentum is unlikely to be gathered until the embargo is removed and that is what makes this week so important.