THESE are hard times at Colchester United, and not just because of the side’s current plight near the foot of the League One table.

Results-wise, the U’s are still waiting to celebrate their first win of the season, following seven failed attempts, the first time that has happened in 61 years.

But even more worryingly, the Essex club are losing supporters, as confirmed by the paltry figure of 2,484 who witnessed the U’s 1-1 home draw with fourth-placed Crawley Town on Tuesday night.

It was the smallest crowd, for a home league game, since the U’s moved to the Weston Homes Community Stadium in 2008.

In fact, it was the smallest attendance for any U’s home league game in more than 11 years, stretching back to the visit of Brentford on March 16, 2001, during Steve Whitton’s era as U’s boss.

The Layer Road gate that evening was a mere 2,423, just 61 less than Tuesday night’s disappointing attendance. For the record, Joe Keith, Mick Stockwell and Karl Duguid scored in a 3-1 win over the Bees.

Of course it is a vicious circle. The U’s can only hope to attract bigger crowds, by improving results and serving up some value-for-money entertainment.

But it’s not easy to do that, especially when playing in a three-quarters empty stadium – that rather negates the home advantage.

Gone are the days when the opposition used to dread visiting Colchester United, at their cramped and unwelcoming Layer Road headquarters, where the dressing rooms were cold and small, and the spectators were within touching distance of the players.

Teams actually love to come to the Community Stadium, with its comfortable dressing rooms, excellent facilities and superb playing surface.

The U’s home record is not bad. In fact, it is very respectable with just two home defeats since the turn of the year. But that does not hide the fact that the Essex club have only won five games in 2012, and only three at home.

Manager John Ward, and his players, will also be encouraged by the fact that the bulk of supporters, who are still coming through the turnstiles, are continuing to back the team and the regime. As yet, there has been very little unrest in the stands, although the dissatisfied faction are probably choosing to stay away instead.

Sure, times are tough.

But Ward has the backing of the U’s board, and the 61-year-old feels that an elusive first win of the season is just around the corner.

A 1-1 draw against Crawley was no disgrace, at least lifting the U’s off the bottom of the table. Now they travel to fellow strugglers Scunthorpe on Saturday – the Iron are just one point and one place above Ward’s men.

This will be Ward’s 100th league game as U’s manager, and there would be no better way to celebrate that century than with a victory.

If they don’t, then eight league games without a win would represent the poorest start to a season since the club joined the Football League in 1950.