HOPES that a new season might signal a fresh start for Southend United dwindled even further with a dire 3-1 defeat at Halifax Town on Saturday.

After back to back relegations, Blues find themselves in non-league football and the National League this term.

But, after an opening day victory at King’s Lynn Town, the Shrimpers have gone four games without a win.

And the weekend’s woeful performance at the Shay was in keeping with the sub-standard showings which have sadly become the norm for Southend in recent seasons.

In fact, Blues have now triumphed just 17 times in their previous 104 League outings during a truly wretched run of results which stretches all the back to January 2019.

And, with that level of struggle deeply stitched into the tapestry of the Shrimpers, it is still going to take quite some time for things to turn around, whatever level they are playing at.

In fairness, Blues had more than matched big-spending Wrexham just seven days before heading to West Yorkshire and secured a share of the spoils after letting slip a deserved two goal.

But, on Saturday, Southend reverted to type and it was incredibly tough to watch once again.

This is a club which means so much to so many people and the level of support still coming the way of the Shrimpers has been truly outstanding this season.

But it is no longer fun to watch Blues and it has been that way for quite some time.

Irrespective of my job, Southend will always be the side I support but, while I still enjoy seeing friends at the football, I have longed stopped looking forward to what will actually unfold in front of me.

Put simply it has been painful to witness and just when you think there might be slight signs of progress along comes another poor performance to knock you back down.

Saturday certainly fell into that category as Blues were outfought by a hard-working Halifax side who could and probably should have won by a far greater margin given the chances coming their way.

Things could have worked out differently had Shrimpers striker Rhys Murphy made more of an early opportunity coming his way.

But Blues’ first blow came before the game had even begun with Steve Arnold being forced onto the sidelines.

The shot-stopper has arguably been the Shrimpers’ best player so far this season but he missed out with a dislocated finger on Saturday and was always going to be a big miss.

Harry Seaden was called upon in his place but the youngster has endured a tough start to his senior career and has now conceded 13 goals in his first four starts for the Shrimpers.

Depending on the length of Arnold’s absence, boss Phil Brown must now decide whether or not to stick with Seaden or bring in a more senior replacement.

But, whatever happens, Seaden needs to develop his own career by playing regularly this season and would benefit hugely from a spell out on loan when Arnold returns.

Ted Smith’s own career stagnated when sat on the bench as Daniel Bentley’s understudy and the Shrimpers cannot afford to make the same mistakes with Seaden who has long been highly rated by youth coaches at Roots Hall.

However, it is not just a goalkeeping dilemma facing Brown this week as he must somehow find a way to get Blues back in business.

The Shrimpers boss was hugely critical of Saturday’s performance and it was easy to understand why.

But nine of the starting line-up were either signed in the summer or given new contracts to stay and Blues must remain as a collective unit to stand any chance of mounting a sustained recovery.

That said, the Shrimpers are still short in certain areas and do appear to be lacking in speed and mobility in key areas of the pitch.

It is perhaps that exact weakness which has seen Blues start the season in a 5-3-2 system and, while I don’t feel the poor performances against Wealdstone and Halifax have been down to the formation, it could be time to try something different.

The Shrimpers must find a way to start stretching teams and getting in behind if they are to begin posing more problems for opposing teams.

And that could well require further investment if Blues are to finally begin moving in the right direction.