SOUTHEND United goalkeeper Ted Smith is close to ending six months of injury frustration.

The 22-year-old Shrimpers shot-stopper has been out since September with a shoulder injury.

But Smith believes he is now closing in on a return.

“It’s been a frustrating time for me but I’m closer to coming back now than I have been at any other stage,” said the former King John School pupil.

“I’m back outside training again which is good and the next thing now is to start diving on it.

“But fingers crossed I’m not too far away now because it’s been tough being out for so long.”

Smith first returned from the original injury in November and kept a clean sheet when lining up for the Shrimpers’ under 23 side in a 2-0 win at Notts County.

However, the shot-stopper then suffered a partial dislocation of his shoulder and is still working his way back from the second setback.

“It’s been difficult but at the same time I know I can’t rush it because if I do I could end up having to have an operation,” said Smith, who came through the youth system at Roots Hall.

“I’ve been frustrated because I got a run of games towards the end of last season and had been looking to try and build on that this season.

“But unfortunately it hasn’t been able to happen.”

As a result, Smith has made just one appearance for the Shrimpers this season, starting the League Cup defeat to Newport County in August.

However, Smith is doing his best to remain positive.

“It’s hard but you have to try and not get really down about it,” said Smith.

“The way I look at it is that if I’m already used to dealing with an injury at a young age then I’ll be able to deal with it again if it was to happen later on in my career.

“Obviously I don’t want that to happen and I do feel as though I’m closer to making a return now which is also positive for me.”

Smith joined in with the pre-match warm-up ahead of Saturday’s clash with Walsall but has not been named in the first team squad since the 2-2 draw with Northampton Town in September.

However, he was quick to praise Blues' physio Ben Clarkson for his work on the injury.

"Ben has been brilliant for me," said Smith.

"He's got me in to see all the top specialists and I think I would've been out for much longer if it hadn't been for him."

In Smith's absence, youngster Nathan Bishop has acted as back up to Mark Oxley.