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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Northampton 10/11/98
Written by wessex_exile on Monday, 16th Sep 2019 21:46

Colchester United v Northampton Town

Tuesday 10th November 1998

Nationwide League 2 (Tier 3)

Attendance 3,597

Match 12 of the series, and we return to League action, almost exactly 20 years before Match 11 at Newport County, with a home match against Northampton Town under Steve Wignall (second of the series featuring Northampton). This was our first season back in the 3rd tier of the Football League, and perhaps to put our current woes into some perspective, it had been 17 whole seasons (1980/81) since we’d last been at this level. More to the point, in 30 seasons since 1967/68 we’d only been at this level for six of those seasons (mostly those imperious years of Garwood, Gough, Froggatt et al of the 70s).

Now this is another one that my memory banks are really struggling with. First and foremost, when this cropped up on the random number generator yesterday evening, I couldn’t for the life of me even recall why on earth I was at a midweek game at Layer Rd in the first place! Fortunately, where memory banks fail, company archives come to the rescue, and I have worked out that this coincided with some of our Kent-based investigations in advance of HS1 (then known as the Channel Tunnel Rail Link). Putting two and two together, I must have been in Kent for that reason, and saw an opportunity for a relatively short trip via Dartford to watch the U’s. This isn’t unrealistic, my following of the U’s is littered with taking such opportunities when they presented themselves, even on occasions manipulating the timing of project-related events to ensure these opportunities presented themselves.

In the days before squad numbers, the U’s lined up that evening:

1….Carl Emberson

2….Joe Dunne

3….Scott Stamps

4….Geraint Williams

5….David Greene

6….Paul Buckle

7….Jason Dozzell

8….David Gregory

9….Mark Sale (programme says Tony Lock)

10..Tony Lock (programme says Neil Gregory; Tony Lock 89’)

11..Steve Forbes (programme says Paul Abrahams; Neil Gregory 85’)

Not surprisingly, given our relative proximity, there have been many connections between us and the Cobblers over the years, so much so that the 1998 programme devoted a double-page spread to these (courtesy of football historian Leigh Edwards). The article included detailed profiles on Tony “Rooster” Adcock, former NI international Colin Hill, the afore-mentioned John Froggatt, our record goal-scorer Bobby Hunt (couldn’t we do with him now!), Nicky Smith from our Conference glory days, Bob Allen (including our 1947/48 FA Cup success) and John Kurila. Also mentioned in dispatches were Chris Hyslop, Trevor Lee, Gerry Perryman, Ian Phillips, Eddie Smith and Keith Williams. Two names stand out from the Cobblers that evening in 1998, Andy Woodman in goal (who would join us on loan in 2000, and then sign for most of the 2001/02 season before heading off to Oxford United) and of course their manager Ian Atkins. Transferring from Birmingham City, Atkins was player-coach for our first season in the Conference (scoring 7 goals), before returning also as player-coach to Birmingham in 1991 (and replaced by Big Roy). He had been Manager of Northampton Town since 1995.

Going into this game, the U’s had been a bit up and down, winning the first match at home to Chesterfield (remember the time when we always seemed to play Chesterfield at the start of the season?), and then emphatically 4-2 at Wrexham. However, from then, results were mostly down, and particularly the previous six matches which had seen four defeats and two draws. By that Tuesday evening we were 5th from bottom on 17 points, with the Cobblers one place above us on the same points.

Other than I know I was barside in a half-decent crowd for a Tuesday night (over 3.5k) I cannot give you a detailed match summary, because I really haven’t a clue, so I’ll restrict this to the salient points courtesy of the excellent ColuData website ( https://www.coludata.co.uk/). It would appear nothing of note happened in the first half, which finished 0-0. Atkins brought on Ali Gibb (right midfield) for the second half, replacing Chris Wilder (right back), presumably a tactical attacking substitution to try and change things around a bit. He then replaced Lee Howey (playing in an attacking no. 8 role for the match) in the 81st minute with Dave Savage (midfielder), which suggests he was trying to shore things up and at least hold on to the point?

The crucial events were then to follow. In the 85th minute Wignall brought on forward Neil Gregory for attacking midfielder Steve Forbes, and in the 88th minute the pressure appeared to pay off with David Greene putting the U’s 1-0 up. There then followed a double substitution, Atkins bringing on Christian Lee as a forward, replacing midfielder Sean Parrish, in a desperate attempt to rescue at least a point. Wignall countered by replacing forward Tony Lock with defensive midfielder Nicky Haydon, which was enough for the U’s to hold on to the precious 3 points.

Colchester United 1 (Greene 88’) Northampton Town 0

There were still difficult days to come, not least Wignall being replaced by Mick “bigger b’stard than Mick Wadsworth” Wadsworth”, but by hook and by crook we managed to claw away from relegation by three places and just two points. The crucial match was another Tuesday night victory in late April at home to Bournemouth, which I remember very well. Northampton weren’t so fortunate, and were relegated alongside York City, Lincoln City and Macclesfield Town.

However, there are a couple of items in the programme worthy of further consideration, first of which is an incidental article about the fortunes of what were dubbed in the programme the “Colchester boys”.

Looking through this today, I think this is the first programme I have which mentions Lua Lua by name, scoring a consolation penalty in a South East Counties League Division 2 defeat at home to tomorrow nights opponents Swindon Town (see any of you there if you’re travelling), and then appearing on the bench in our following 3-1 Avon Insurance Combination League defeat away against Fulham. Lua Lua only joined us in September 1998 – is the Swindon penalty a record of his first goal for the U’s?

Also, and finally, for those that may have vague recollections of the time frame, this was our last league match before the first round of the FA Cup the following Saturday, away at Bedlington Terriers. I leave you with the somewhat optimistic announcement in the programme regarding ticket arrangements if a replay was required…

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