SUCCESSFUL sides will often find ways to win matches when not at their best but struggling sides will often find ways to lose them.

And Southend United certainly fall into the latter of those two categories.

Since the start of 2019, the struggling Shrimpers have been beaten 51 times in 85 games.

But perhaps none of the setbacks were suffered in more bizarre fashion than Saturday’s 1-0 defeat to Bolton Wanderers at Roots Hall.

Another uneventful encounter seemed set to end goalless before a calamitous misjudgement from Blues goalkeeper Mark Oxley gifted the visitors all three points.

The Shrimpers shot-stopper remained motionless when a challenge from John White struck Antoni Sarcevic and looped up high into the air.

Oxley clearly expected the ball to sail over the crossbar and his hesitation soon turned to horror as his misjudgement resulted in the ball bouncing back off the crossbar, enabling substitute striker Shaun Miller to gleefully fire home from close range.

The defeat, coupled with Barrow’s loss to Morecambe, kept Blues one place and one point above the relegation zone.

But Barrow, who are immediately below the Shrimpers, and bottom of the table Grimsby Town both have two games in hand on Mark Molesley’s side.

Blues remain in real danger of a second successive relegation and again never looked like scoring on Saturday.

By now the statistics are well known surrounding the poor state of Southend’s play in the final third of the pitch.

Just 18 goals have been scored in 29 League outings this season, fewer than any other side in the whole of the Football League.

After suffering a number of heavy defeats earlier on in the campaign, Blues have made themselves harder to break down and now appear to play not to lose rather than pushing to win.

The majority of matches have been closer since the change of stance and the Shrimpers do now stay in games for far longer while hoping something may fall for them in the final third.

However, that has not happened too often and it may be time for Blues to start taking more risks when going forward.

Bolton goalkeeper Matt Gilks did not have a single save to make on Saturday while the week before the only time Cambridge shot-stopper Callum Burton was called into action was to tip an overhit clearance from Oxley over the crossbar.

Blues have now scored just five goals in their last 10 games while five of those outings have also ended without them being able to hit the back of the net.

Two of those goals have come from set pieces, two have been impressive efforts from long range while the other was something of an individual effort.

Very little actually gets created for those in attacking areas and not since the Boxing Day win against Colchester United have the Shrimpers scored from a pass of their own entering the opposition penalty area.

This simply has to improve if Blues are to avoid relegation and if Southend are to get anything out of those lining up in attack.

Much has been made of the striking options and I agree the Shrimpers have been lacking in quality there this season.

But the forwards are only as good as the service and support coming their way and Blues have been severely lacking in that area.

On Saturday, there also seemed to be unwillingness to shoot, especially where Ashley Nathaniel-George was concerned and the Shrimpers must start to have more efforts at goal.

The arrival of the experienced Ricky Holmes should hopefully help where that is concerned and the winger made his Blues debut as a second half substitute against Bolton.

The 33-year-old is still working his way back to top form and fitness but could well become a key performer in the remaining matches of the season, along with James Olayinka when he returns from injury.

The Shrimpers have also opted to bring back the controversial Nile Ranger after he was released by the club, for disciplinary issues, back in January 2018.

However, Ranger - who is still working his way back from a calf problem - has not played professionally since leaving Roots Hall and, after so long out, it remains to be seen how many times he will be fit enough to feature.

And, perhaps even more crucially, it also remains to be seen if Blues are capable of giving him and his fellow strikers the deliveries they need to be dangerous.