IT certainly was not pretty for Southend United at Altrincham on Saturday.

But for once it was not pointless either and that is all that really mattered.

First half goals from Rhys Murphy and Sam Dalby saw the Shrimpers race into a two goal lead before the hosts started to hit back after the break.

Southend goalkeeper Steve Arnold did superbly well to keep out a penalty from Ryan Colclough before the dangerous Dan Mooney did get a well-taken goal back for Altrincham.

But Blues bucked the recent trend by digging deep while under pressure and showed real determination and resilience to secure their first away win since beating King’s Lynn on the opening day of the season.

Right now, it does seem key for the Shrimpers to score first if they are to get something from the game.

And they could not have made a much better start after taking the lead inside the opening minute of the match.

Murphy claimed the final touch to a deflected right wing from Louis Walsh and, if the forwarded is credited with the strike, he now has eight goals for the season.

That is already more than any other Southend player managed in the past two seasons and is also the most prolific start to a campaign any Shrimpers player has made since Britt Assombalonga back in 2012.

Murphy’s intelligence, awareness and movement make him a real goal threat for Blues.

But he does seem to split opinion among the fanbase.

Murphy is certainly someone who looks to use every trick in the book and that seems to anger certain section of the supporters.

Some also point to him missing certain chances.

But, without wanting to sound harsh, a higher conversion rate alongside his other qualities would mean Murphy was playing far higher than the National League.

For me, Murphy is the best striker Blues have had in quite some time and his strike ratio is made even more impressive by the lack of service often coming his way.

The Shrimpers did not create too much at the weekend but their second goal was one of the most intelligent they have scored in recent seasons and was quite clearly a set piece which had been worked on at the training ground.

Zak Brunt’s quality again came to the fore as his fine low free-kick from the left hand side was latched upon by Sam Dalby who took a brilliant first touch before firing home from close range.

Dalby’s goal marked a successful return to the starting line-up for the Shrimpers and his hold up play certainly brings an added quality to Blues.

Nathan Ralph was also brought back into the side after recovering from an ankle injury and his influence on the team cannot be understated.

With Ralph on the left hand side, the Shrimpers boast far better balance and width.

The defender won the free-kick for Blues’ second goal with a fine run forward and head coach Kevin Maher will now be desperate to keep the full-back fit.

With Ralph available, Southend lined up in a 4-4-2 system for the first time under Maher and the Blues boss showed he was not afraid to make big decisions.

Club captain John White was left out of the starting line-up, alongside experienced James Dunne who was selected among the substitutes for the first time this season.

The change of system did highlight a few weaknesses in the Blues squad, especially in the centre of the park while it remains unclear whether or not the formation brings the best out of Brunt.

The on loan Sheffield United midfielder remains a real threat on the ball and showed that on Saturday.

But is Brunt involved enough if he features out wide?

Maher will now be thinking that over during a 10 day break for Blues, alongside other ways to improve.

The Shrimpers were certainly made to work for their win and were again indebted to an impressive performance from goalkeeper Arnold.

The Shrimpers shot-stopper played a massive part in the victory and the relief was certainly palpable among the ecstatic players and staff at the final whistle.

The squad and staff will not be getting carried away by the win and Blues remain in the relegation zone, facing a real fight to avoid the drop.

But for the first time in a long time there were signs of genuine promise at Moss Lane on Saturday.

And, while the Shrimpers may struggle to play sides off the park at this stage, a consistent repeat of the kind of spirit and determination shown at Altrincham will surely see Maher’s side staying up this season.