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Letters from Wiltshire #18
Written by wessex_exile on Tuesday, 24th Nov 2020 18:20

Trump has finally conceded defeat, albeit in a childlike, begrudging and typically ungracious manner, but at least things are moving on now, and hopefully the beginning of a new, less adversarial era in world affairs. There was an interesting article on one of the news websites this morning looking at how the transition for other administrations have gone – none as poorly (so far) as this, but still some amusing anecdotes nevertheless. Apparently, ahead of George W Bush taking up residence, the departing Clinton team went around the White House removing all the W’s from keyboards – very childish, but quite funny too…

[b]Colchester United v Aldershot Town
Saturday 6th December 2003
FA Cup (Second Round)
Attendance 4,255[/b]

Recent forum chats have mentioned our gripping 1-1 draw with Derby County in the FA Cup way back in the 70s. As a frustratingly tantalising taste of FA Cup action (for [b]Durham[/b] at the very least), Letters from Wiltshire #18 has indeed chosen an FA Cup match, but in this instance our second round game against Aldershot Town in December 2003. As it happens, I’ve already featured the 3rd round game against Accrington Stanley (Matches of Yesteryear #55) as one of the last blogs from last season. If you’re lucky, our 5th round game at Sheffield United may well appear at some point in the future.

For now, this will be a slightly abridged submission today, with kick-off looming for our match against previous play-off adversaries Exeter City. I’m sure there’s a feature that could be written looking at our oft-tempestuous relationship with Exeter City, flags and the like – but maybe for another day.

[b]”[i]Battle of the Garrisons…[/i]”[/b]
…is how the matchday programme introduced our FA Cup Second Round match in 2003. Aldershot Garrison (also known as Aldershot Military Town) was established in 1854, though not quite as old as our own garrison, established by the [i]Legio XX Valeria Victrix[/i] in AD 43. Aldershot Garrison was also the scene of one of the worst mainland UK attacks by the IRA, when in 1972 a car bomb killed seven civilian support staff, including a Catholic priest. To bring things right up to date, the garrison is also currently the headquarters of the MoD COVID Support Force.

Aldershot Town Football Club were originally formed in 1926, and in immediately prior to the star of the 1932/33 season dropped the “Town” to be just Aldershot FC. As most will recall, the original Aldershot FC went out of business on 25th March 1992 after just 36 games of that season, an event I have already covered elsewhere. However, what I didn’t realise previously, and particularly relevant to our Derby County recollections, according to Wikipedia, Aldershot FC’s record signing was none other than Colin Garwood, who they bought for £54k from Portsmouth.

Aldershot Town Football Club were formed in 1992 from the wreckage of the former club, competing then in the Isthmian League, and in 2001/02 were rewarded with eventual promotion to the Conference, where they still competed for this visit. This would be the first, and to date only time we have played the newly formed Aldershot Town Football Club.

[b]Dreaming of glory[/b]
The U’s were at the time competing in the 3rd tier of English football, and had already despatched 4th tier Oxford United reasonably comfortably in the FA Cup 1st Round (t’other U’s with Andy Woodman in goal at the time). Now just one more victory away from a potential glamour tie, I decided to head over on the train for this one on a pink pass – meeting up with my brother-in-law for a few pre-match Drury beers beforehand.

Phil Parkinson’s U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown
25..Sam Stockley
18..Liam Chilvers
19..Alan White
2….Andy Myers
7….Karl Duguid
6….Thomas Pinault
10..Kem Izzet
16..Rowan Vine
8….Wayne Andrews
9….Scott McGleish

There’s not too much I can say about the Shots that day, no names I really recognise apart from of course their manager at the time Terry Brown. Brown had a modest playing career mostly in and around non-league London and suburbs clubs, before moving into management at his last club Hayes. He moved to Aldershot a year before this game, and after some success at Aldershot would go on to manage AFC Wimbledon, eventually guiding them back into the Football League in 2011. Other significant connections included Wayne Andrews, a former Aldershot player, and of course Steve Wignall – former player, captain and manager of both Aldershot and the U’s. In tribute, the programme included a feature about Wiggy.

[b]Dunno, guv[/b]
As for the game, well my memory is as hazy as my familiarity with the Aldershot Town line-up, but I certainly recall that they gave the U’s a pretty stern test. That was probably no surprise, they were riding high in the Conference at the time and looked a genuine contender for promotion. In recognition of the shared Army bond, Colchester United made free tickets available to soldiers from both garrisons which no doubt helped a fairly decent crowd, well over our season average at the time, turn up. The club also helped coordinate a collection for the Army Benevolent Fund, and the match ball was apparently delivered by a Lynx helicopter from 653 Squadron, part of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps based in Wattisham.

At least, that’s what the programme said, but I can’t remember the helicopter thing at all – if it happened, I suspect we were still in the Drury at the time.

Aldershot certainly came with the intention of having a proper go at the U’s, they too looking for the possibility of a money-spinning 3rd round tie, and the first half was a very keenly fought even contest, with no side really dominating. If anything, Aldershot were possibly having the better of it on occasion, but still we reached half-time goal-less. For a U’s side who had been beaten by non-league opposition six times out of the last 12 years in the FA Cup, 0-0 against a Conference side at half-time was actually doing okay.

Whether it was simply fitness, or a half-time motivational speech, or possibly Aldershot sitting deeper to try and hold on for a replay back at the Rec, but into the second half the U’s started to get a grip on the game. Never really dominating, but certainly having the better of it, and Wayne Brown was denied a clear penalty when he was clearly hauled down in the box. That’s not to say there weren’t scares, and an absolute rocket from Aldershot striker Lee Charles had Simon Brown at full stretch to keep out with his fingertips.

Finally, plucky Aldershot Town were undone by a piece of individual brilliance, when Rowan Vine weaved and skipped his way through the defence to fire the U’s into the lead with less than ten minutes to go. The U’s were too good to let that slender lead slip, and in fact could have doubled it when Duguid had a certain goal cleared off the line in injury-time. But no harm done, and the U’s were through and into the draw for the FA Cup 3rd Round.

[b]Colchester United 1 (Rowan Vine 83’) Aldershot Town 0[/b]

[b]Another view[/b]
[b]Daniel’s[/b] Issue 7 of [i]The U’sual[/i] (entitled “[i]Cardiff anyone?[/i]”) included a short review of the match, as follows:

[i]A professional performance from the U’s saw them through as the extra quality on display eventually showed through. All credit to Aldershot, who had a few chances, drawing one full length tip from Simon Brown that was rewarded by the Match of the Day producers, before Vine danced through the Shots defence to slip home a later winner. [b]Man of the Match[/b] – Andy Myers. Typified the U’s spirit, professionalism and work rate, getting up and down the line and marking his winger out of the game.[/i]

It was professional too, and a mark of respect that Parky showed to Aldershot, he didn’t make a single substitution. As for a 3rd round glory draw – far from it – Accrington Stanley away, which we were lucky to draw, albeit the victorious replay at Layer Rd (as mentioned above) was quite a match.

[b]…and finally[/b]
Aldershot Town would stay in the Conference promotion hunt all season and finish in the play-offs. Ironically, they pinched the last play-off spot by one point at the expense of today’s opponents Exeter City. Despatching Hereford United in the two-legged semi-final on penalties, they faced Shrewsbury Town in the final at the Britannia Stadium. However, fate was not on their side, and after drawing 1-1, lost the penalty shoot-out.

Up the U’s




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Letters from Wiltshire #35 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #34 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #33 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #32 by wessex_exile
Fifty years ago yesterday, Colchester United of the 4th Division pulled off the greatest cup giant-killing ever, beating 1st Division Leeds United 3-2 at Layer Road. Watched by 16,000, and the Match of the Day cameras, Dick Graham’s U’s, a rag-tag band of mostly aging journeymen, defied the odds to defeat arguably the greatest club side in Europe at the time. “The greatest cup giant-killing ever” is a bold claim, and over the years various football magazines and websites have run their own polls of which was the greatest. Whilst that day at Layer Rd always features, as the years have gone by other feats fresher in the memory have been put forward as a candidate – we probably all remember Ronnie Radford’s screamer against Newcastle, Sutton’s exploits, or even Bradford City quite recently at Stamford Bridge – but these pale into insignificance when you pause to reflect on the Don Revie side that we beat that day. Sprake, Cooper, Charlton, Hunter, Lorimer, Giles etc – all full internationals, all household names – the only one missing was Billy Bremner, and that was because he was injured. By comparison, all we had to offer was Ray Crawford – at his peak arguably on a par with some in the Leeds side, but that peak had been ten years earlier playing for Ipswich and England. Eleven heroes didn’t just try and hold out against Leeds United, they took the game to their illustrious opponents with such tenacity, grit and no small amount of flair, and before we knew it, the U’s were 3-0 in the lead. As legs tired, Leeds got back into the game with goals from Hunter and Giles, but we held firm – typified at the death by Graham Smith pulling off an impossible save to ensure the U’s achieved [b][u]the greatest cup giant-killing ever![/b][/u]
Letters from Wiltshire #31 by wessex_exile
And so the dust settles on another transfer window closing, and despite (my) expectations that the possibility of incoming business was going to be remote, we have instead seen a veritable flurry of activity, with no less than three coming in. Big Frank Nouble, making a very welcome return on loan from Plymouth Argyle, of course needs no introduction. Neither really does feisty Brendan Sarpong-Wiredu, here on loan last season, and this time signed full-time from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed fee. Actually paying hard cash for someone did come as a surprise, presumably offset by the sale of Cohen Bramall to Lincoln for a similarly undisclosed fee. However, the fact that the Addicks have insisted on not only a sell-on clause, but a rarely used buy-back clause too, suggests (a) Wiredu’s signing fee probably wasn’t too high, and (b) Charlton are protecting those finances with these clauses. The last one, which would have been a complete surprise for me were it not for a contact leaking me the news earlier yesterday, is left-back Josh Doherty on loan from Crawley. Josh was only announced once outgoing left-back Bramall was confirmed, and presumably his loan is directly related to part-time fashion model, TV and radio celeb and former left-back Mark Wright signing for Crawley on a non-contract game-by-game basis in December. We have also released seven from the academy, Ollie Kensdale, Miquel Scarlett, Sammie McLeod, Michael Fernandes, Ollie Sims, Danny Collinge and Matt Weaire, and I’m sure we all wish them the best for the future.
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