SUCH is the depth of Southend United’s despair that even a more positive performance can ultimately lead to further sorrow and sadness.

Blues more than matched play-off chasing Exeter City in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at St James Park.

But, with relegation rivals Colchester United beating Walsall 2-1, a first ever foray into non-league football is staring the Shrimpers firmly in the face.

With just four games to go, Southend now sit six points behind the U’s with a vastly inferior goal difference which makes dropping into the National League seem even more certain.

And, put simply, Blues have not been good enough on or off the pitch this season.

The League table never lies as the football cliché says and the Shrimpers have struggled for a variety of reasons this season.

The late appointment of a manager meant Southend were immediately playing catch up while a transfer embargo, which remained in place until December, was perhaps the biggest problem of all.

In the 15 games played with the embargo in place, Blues collected just six points and sat 18 points behind Colchester who they are now attempting to catch.

Furthermore, had the season started when the embargo was lifted, the Shrimpers would now be sitting 17th in the standings.

The embargo also delayed the reinforcements which were desperately needed and made Southend an even less attractive proposition for prospective signings.

That said, Blues eventually still managed to bring in 20 new faces this season but recruitment remains an ongoing issue at Roots Hall.

And there again appeared to be a scattergun approach to signings rather than them fitting in to a structured plan.

Given the restrictions, Mark Molesley faced a tough task in his first job in the Football League.

But he also took too long to abandon an idealistic style of play which was never going to be suited to League Two footballers and the players he had at his disposal.

Given his inexperience, Molesley perhaps also lacked the connections to be able to boost his squad in a way Paul Sturrock did when he was faced with similar restrictions at Roots Hall back in 2010.

In his defence, Molesley did make the Shrimpers far harder to beat and break down.

But Blues would often line up not to lose rather than pushing to win and would greater risk ultimately have brought greater reward?

Chairman Ron Martin opted to keep faith with Molesley until there were just six matches of the season remaining.

However, that always seemed unlikely to be long enough for the returning Phil Brown to make a difference.

And ultimately the bottom line is the Shrimpers just aren’t good enough going forward.

Blues were far more on the front foot against Exeter but were again unable to convert the chances coming their way and had to settle for just a share of the spoils.

But Southend have now failed to score in a whopping 26 games this season and that, perhaps more than another statistic, underlines the biggest problem facing whoever the manager might be.

The Shrimpers have also not hit the back of the net nine times in their last 12 outings and have scored just 24 times in 42 League games.

That meagre total is the lowest in the whole of the Football League while their trio of top scorers – Tom Clifford, James Olayinka and Timothee Dieng – have hit the back of the net just three times.

Nathan Ferguson wasted Blues’ best chance at the weekend when he sent a free header wide of the target at the start of the second half while Reeco Hackett-Fairchild saw an effort bounce back off the crossbar.

Attention will now switch to Tuesday night’s clash at Colchester which has long been billed as something of a relegation decider.

But given the gap between the two teams, the number of matches remaining and Blues’ form in front of goal even the most optimistic of Southend supporters will now see relegation as the most likely outcome.

It is truly a heartbreaking situation and one which for me and many others will take some getting over.

But it is also something which has been very much self-generated and something, given how many bad decisions have been made, is probably painfully deserved too.