WHISPER it quietly but things finally seem to be heading in the right direction for Southend United.

Yes, the bar has been set pretty low in recent seasons and I am fully aware of just how much still needs to be done But, for the first time in a long time, progress certainly seems to be being made with the Shrimpers.

And Saturday’s well-deserved 1-0 win at Weymouth was a vital step in securing the ultimate goal of avoiding a third successive relegation this season.

Blues started the afternoon just one point and one place above their hosts in what was your ‘proverbial six pointer.’ However, the Shrimpers looked by far the superior side and should have secured victory by a far greater margin.

The only goal of the game came after just five minutes, with Matt Dennis continuing his new found form with his third game in three games.

Just a few weeks ago, Dennis was almost a forgotten figure at Roots Hall and played just eight minutes in Kevin Maher’s first nine games in charge.

But football can work in funny ways in sometimes and arguably what has contributed towards Dennis’ recent revival is the FA Trophy competition rules!

Unlike in the National League, sides can name seven subs in the Trophy and that led to Dennis being selected in the squad for the third round tie against Dorking Wanderers.

From there, he came on to replace Rhys Murphy and made the most of the opportunity coming his way by curling home an impressive long range effort to win the tie for the Shrimpers.

With Murphy then unwell, Dennis started and scored at Bromley before following that up with another well-taken effort at the weekend.

For many, Saturday’s goal may have looked a simple effort but it showed exactly what Dennis can bring to the team with his pace.

The youngster capatilised on some hesitant and hapless defending from Ollie Harfield on the halfway line but then had the pace to be able to power through on goal.

That kind of speed has been severely lacking from the Shrimpers in recent times but Dennis also showed fantastic composure to finish the opportunity.

Often the long you get to think about a chance the tougher it can become.

But Dennis never looked like missing on Saturday and has now completed quite a turnaround in his fortunes.

Only a few weeks ago, the youngster looked destined to depart and it seemed almost certain an escape clause in his loan spell from Norwich City would be activated during the January transfer window.

However, Dennis is now arguably Blues’ biggest threats and, just like those around him, will be keen to kick on during the second half of the season.

The only disappointing factor of Saturday’s success was the lack of more goals as the Shrimpers certainly had the chances to add to Dennis’ early effort.

Blues will need to start converting more of their opportunities moving forward but it was not ultimately a problem on Saturday against a woeful looking Weymouth.

The victory made it just one defeat in six games for the Shrimpers who are now also able to add to their squad.

Yes, the embargo should never have been allowed to happen and it did mean Blues missed out on a number of transfer targets during a time they faced far less competition for new signings.

But boss Kevin Maher is now finally free to strengthen and has brought in both Ollie Kensdale and Harrison Neal in recent weeks.

Neal was handed his debut on Saturday and improved the longer the game went on.

He was also somewhat hindered by an early yellow card but comes highly rated from Sheffield United which suggests there is far more to come from the youngster.

His fellow Blades team-mate Kacper Lopata again looked solid on his return from injury and extending his loan is another piece of important business by Blues.

Another defender could also join this week and the Shrimpers are slowly starting to rebuild.

Having fallen lower than ever before, there is still a long way to go and the remainder of January will play a pivotal part in deciding Blues’ destiny this season.

But the recent signs have been positive and hopefully 2022 can be the year everyone connected with the club can finally continue to say that, just a little bit louder.