Yellows 0 Southend 2

Chris Wilder approached the house with some trepidation. He could see a feint flickering light in the dilapidated building, but otherwise it was lifeless. The sign on the gatepost fell apart as he reached to straighten it. He read it as he swept the grime away.

‘Futcher’s – stud farm for fine lower league journeymen’

He was in the right place. Wilder knocked on the door, after a while it opened slightly and an old man peered out.

“What do you want?” said the man coarsely.

“Is this Futcher’s?” asked Wilder “Things aren’t going well for my club and I need someone with some lower league experience. Yours is the best stud farm around… or at least… it was.”

“Who is it?” squawked a women from inside the house.

“It’s a man looking for a player” said the man turning away from Wilder.

“Tell ‘im we ain’t got none” said the woman.

“We ain’t got none” said the man pushing the door closed.

Wilder pushed on the door to prevent it from closing “I’m desperate” he said.

The man walked away and Wilder followed him into the hallway.

“I really need some experience in my squad” said Wilder again “I just thought that you might be able to help, you’ve got such a great history.”

“Had a great history” scolded the man “We ain’t produced a decent lower league journeyman for years. Business ain’t what it used to be.”

Wilder looked around – the house was clearly once a glorious mansion, but it hadn’t seen a lick of paint for years. “Don’t you have anyone?”

The woman appeared “There is one” she said darkly. The man gestured to shut her up, but she continued. “Albert, let him out”

The man reluctantly pulled at a rope and raised a trapdoor in the floor. When it opened fully a giant creature climbed out.

“What’s that?” mouthed Wilder to the man as the creature picked at bits of wallpaper, sniffing and eating the scraps he peeled off.

“’e’s when it all went wrong. When everyone started wanting Peter Crouch types, we bought some cheap Crouch semen to try and breed our own. This is what we managed to produce. ‘e doesn’t jump, ‘e doesn’t head, ‘e can’t run. And ‘e scares everyone, we haven’t produced a decent Futcher since.”

“I’ll take him” said Wilder with pity in is eyes. He tethered him round the neck and lead him away.

OK, a bit harsh. Ben Futcher didn’t cause the abject performance against Southend. The route cause was in midfield with Josh Payne losing his head, Heslop looking like a man who’s played too many games and Clist looking like a little boy lost. Southend kept good shape, scored one decent goal, one fluke; we had nothing.

Yet, it is Futcher that is the focus of much of the ire. Sure, he’s no Jake Wright, but Wright can’t keep himself on the pitch and Futcher looks capable if flat footed. Futcher has all the characteristics of the kind of player we had during our relegation season. Not a bad player, just one in a bad place. He just doesn’t seem to work at Oxford.

Northwich 0-1, Southend 0-3

Not since I was a student have I felt less engaged with the club. Then, a combination of geography and finance prevented me from going to more than a handful of games. In between, beyond the minimal national newspaper coverage and Grandstand final score, it was nigh on impossible to follow what was happening on a week-to-week basis.

Defeat to Northwich should have been met with uproar. But when you’ve already been slain by Droylsden and Histon, it’s difficult to get too het up. The cup defeat to Southend also left me cold. Let’s face it; a victory would hardly have been our greatest cup upset, and the prospect of Dagenham in the next round was not something to fight for.

Perhaps it’s because there’s nobody to blame. Nick Merry, for all his car salesman slickness, has the club’s interest at his heart. Darren Patterson needs time, which everyone recognises. Even the target of the boo-boys, such as Duffy and Gilchrist, haven’t been around. Gilchrist, of course, has called it a day. An inevitable conclusion really; and probably best for all concerned.

Maybe it’s simply that this procession of cup games preventing us from establishing any kind of rhythm. Tonbridge Angels in the Trophy hardly raises the pulse, although a good run may actually help make this season mean something. In the meantime, I snooze.

Us 0 Southend 0

It feels a bit like pre-season at the moment. A performance like yesterday – full of endeavour, but few chances – is encouraging but ultimately meaningless.

I like the FA Cup, but I can’t quite get my head around us giantkilling a team like Southend. Nor can I see us getting much out of the replay. Even the prospect of a third round tie against one of the big teams feels a little flat; with no hope of victory and even likely humiliation, I’m not really sure I can get excited by the prospect of going to the Emirates or Stamford Bridge. After all we have ‘done’ Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United in recent years – each time with better teams.

That’s not to say yesterday wasn’t good. The work rate was great, it’s a wonder Clarke hasn’t been used before, the shape and pace is coming. There’s no doubt that Southend are a good team, but we matched them for long periods. If we can build during this mid-season pre-season of Cup, Trophy and Setanta Shield games maybe the season it still alive.