A STEP in the right direction was probably the best way to accurately assess Southend United’s entertaining 3-3 draw with Fleetwood Town on Saturday.

The Shrimpers headed into the clash at Roots Hall after enduring the worst start to a season in the club’s 113-year history.

But, with Gary Waddock in control as caretaker manager, Blues showed much more fight than in the previous six League outings and were rewarded by securing a late share of the spoils.

Waddock was appointed as assistant manager in the summer and the fact he had been working alongside Blues’ previous chief, Kevin Bond, has put some off him being promoted into a more prominent role.

Bond, of course, endured a wretched record with the Shrimpers and started the season with six successive League defeats before parting company with the club 10 days ago.

However, if sources close to Southend are to be believed then Waddock had very little to do with the Bond regime.

Coming from a coaching background, Bond took control of most of the work on the training ground and team selection himself, leaving Waddock with mostly minimal duties.

But all of that is now in the past and, perhaps more than ever, the Shrimpers have to start looking forward.

Getting points on the board to ultimately secure League One survival will be the number one aim for the next manager.

And it is Waddock who has the first opportunity to make the position his own.

The 57-year-old has plenty of previous experience as a manager after lengthy spells in charge of both Aldershot Town and Wycombe Wanderers and was keen to stamp his authority on things on Saturday.

Waddock opted to make six changes to the line-up which faced Rochdale in Blues’ last League game and kept things simple in a 4-4-2 formation.

Going forward, the Shrimpers looked bright with both of their Stephens catching the eye.

McLaughlin curled home a free-kick to put the hosts in front and produced his best performance in quite some time.

The Irish winger showed what he is capable of during the 2017/18 season, which he ended with seven goals and 14 assists.

But, since then, McLaughlin has struggled to hit top form and has often been frustrating on the flanks.

Last season he scored just three goals and claimed only two assists during a mostly disappointing campaign for all concerned.

An ankle injury had also hindered his start to this season but, after five games on the sidelines, he was back in action at the weekend and back to his best too.

However, McLaughlin must now build on the display and continue to show his true capabilities as Blues bid to work their way out of trouble.

Further forward, Humphrys will also have a huge part to play and he showed his class at the weekend with two well-taken goals.

Reading between the lines, there appeared to be no love lost between Humphrys and the previous manager who bizarrely selected him among the substitutes for four of the first five games of the campaign.

But Blues are a far more threatening side with Humphrys spearheading their attack and that was again shown on Saturday.

The 22-year-old powered home a free-kick before also netting from a narrow angle to ensure their first point of the season.

However, while Humphrys may have been the most positive aspect of the afternoon the other end remains a huge concern as, to put this in simple terms, Southend just cannot defend right now.

The statistics back that up too as Blues have conceded an alarming 20 goals in just seven games this term and have still not kept a clean sheet since January.

The defence on Saturday was exposed by a midfield which offered little in the way of protection and, when 3-2 in front, Fleetwood wasted a number of opportunities to extend their lead.

At that point, Fleetwood boss Joey Barton bizarrely opted to revert to a five man rearguard and, in turn, enabled Blues to exert their own spell of pressure which ultimately resulted in Humphrys’ late equaliser.

But the spirit the Shrimpers generated to bag their third goal was the most pleasing aspect of the afternoon.

And that, more than anything else, will now be needed on a more consistent basis if Blues are to dig themselves out of trouble, whoever the next manager may be.