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Matches of Yesteryear 12:56 - Aug 20 with 226 viewswessex_exile

Colchester United v Huddersfield Town
Saturday 16th August 2008
League 1 (3rd tier)
Attendance 5,340

Chance being a capricious mistress, my Excel random number generator has decided to throw out a real doozy for Match #5, our very first competitive game at the Jobserve Community Stadium (then the Weston Homes Community Stadium). With some final tweaking to do at the new stadium, the football authorities had agreed to arrange our first two matches of the season to be away – losing 4-2 at Hartlepool on the opening day (both our goals from debutante Steven Gillespie), and then winning 1-0 in the Coca Cola Cup at Gillingham.

Not only was this our first match at the new stadium (not including the reduced capacity friendly against Atletico Bilbao, with Vernon scoring for the U’s in a 2-1 defeat), but it was also our first season back in League 1 after two (well, certainly one) fantastic seasons in the Championship. Obviously, this was also when we said a sad farewell to Layer Rd. The U’s were managed through the Championship years and into 2008/09 by Geraint “George” Williams, signed from Ipswich as a player in 1998, and taking over the managerial hot-seat after Phil Parkinson jumped ship to join Hull City – how did that work out Phil?

The U’s lined up:
1….Dean Gerken (promising young ‘keeper – whatever became of him?)
2….John White
6….Paul Reid
16..Matt Heath
3....Matt Lockwood
11..Mark Yeates
10..Kem Izzet
4....Johnnie Jackson
27..Anthony Wordsworth (Medy Elito 80’)
7....Steven Gillespie (Scott Vernon 68’)
9….Clive Platt

There was obviously never going to be any debate about whether I was going to be at this game or not, so reasonably bright and early I found myself on the train up to Waterloo, equipped with music, nibbles and most importantly liquid refreshment. Via a brief stop at yet another excellent football pub, Liverpool Street’s Hamilton Hall (and some good chats with Huddersfield Town fans on their way to the match), I got to Colchester with enough time for yet another stop at the Bricklayers. However, it was also my great pleasure to bump into Peter Heard on the train from London and have the opportunity to chat about the journey to this point, not least the new stadium campaign, and also take the opportunity to personally thank him for everything he had done and continued to do for Colchester United. As I veered left for the Bricklayers, it says everything about Peter that he quietly joined the Bruff Close queue for a free shuttle bus to the ground, when without a doubt he could have had a chauffeur-driven car pick him up with a click of his fingers – a proper gent.

As befits the opening event at a new stadium, some considerable effort had gone into making this a special occasion, such as (a) the free shuttle buses from Bruff Close, (b) free scarves for everyone (cheap quality, but worth having, and I think I’ve still got mine packed away upstairs somewhere), (c) the ‘glamour models’ hired to hand out the free scarves, and of course (d) the glossy A4-sized commemorative programme. Unfortunately, and possibly partly to do with clashes with, for instance, summer holidays, V festival and Essex playing in the final at Lords (and not to mention the impending credit crisis recession looming), the attendance was a disappointing 5,340, with a decent (1k+?) contingent from Yorkshire in the South Stand.

To reflect the layout of Layer Rd, this meant E7 and E8 became the new barside (which is where I was), had been declared undesignated seating for that reason, and we did our best to generate a decent atmosphere during the game as a result. The stewards, however, really didn’t enter into the spirit of the occasion at all, and policed this area with an iron hand, threatening anyone and everyone with expulsion if they stood up. This was a theme that was to continue for far too long during the 2008/09 season, and really soured the relationship between the club and its supporters, certainly much of the barside old skool brigade.

As for the game (photo of the U’s lining up before kick-off – apologies it looks like it’s been taken with a potato), in reality it was a bit of an anti-climax to be honest, though there were certainly positives to be taken from it. First and foremost, it was a clean sheet (our second in a row after conceding four at Hartlepool), and against a team that everyone expected were going to be promotion favourites. The defence, White and Reid in particular, were very solid, and I’m not certain Gerks actually had a save to make all game? Izzet had a very solid game with the captain’s armband, and absolutely bossed the midfield. Clive Platt, as I’m sure many of you will remember him, really put himself about, worked hard and won virtually every ball that was put his way.

Unfortunately, and this will resonate with many, despite lots of good wing play, our final delivery into the box was lacking, and an ineffectual Gillespie (looked off the pace to be honest) was eventually subbed by Scott Vernon, at that point still the only U’s player to have scored at the new stadium. However, that didn’t really improve matters at the business end of the pitch, nor did the relatively late introduction of Elito, and although the U’s confidence grew throughout the game, the match finished 0-0.

Colchester United 0 Huddersfield Town 0

Aiming to bounce-back from Championship relegation at the first attempt, Robbie Cowling had bank-rolled signing no less than eight players in the close season, most notably Gillespie, Reid, Heath, Perkins, and Lockwood. Perkins joined us from Rochdale, though in somewhat interesting circumstances. Rochdale had reached the League 2 play-off final, after defeating Darlington on penalties, but unfortunately Perkins was red-carded in extra-time of the second leg. Being his third red card of that season, he received an automatic five game ban, which not only meant missing the play-off final (which Rochdale lost to Scunthorpe), but also the first four matches of his new career at Colchester United.

Despite their pre-season billing as promotion favourites, Huddersfield fell away towards the end of the season and missed out. Leicester City and Peterborough United were promoted, with Scunthorpe (back-to-back promotions) again via the play-offs.

The U’s poor start to the season continued, and towards the end of September (with only one win in six league games), and having invested so heavily in the squad, Robbie Cowling let George go – I always rated George Williams, and I honestly felt he should have been given more time to turn things around. George was replaced by Paul Lambert (enough said) in early October. New ground syndrome continued to plague the U’s, and it took until late October before we won our first match at the new stadium, though somewhat emphatically, thrashing Carlisle 5-0.

Up the U's
Poll: How will we do in 2016/17
Blog: Matches of Yesteryear - Millwall v U's 14/4/99


Matches of Yesteryear on 20:57 - Aug 20 with 195 viewsGOSBTS

That made for really interesting reading, many thanks Wessex. So did the U's start life at the Community Stadium on the back of relegation from the Championship then? Was there excitement surrounding the opening of the new stadium?
Matches of Yesteryear on 01:20 - Aug 21 with 190 viewswessex_exile

Matches of Yesteryear on 20:57 - Aug 20 by GOSBTS

That made for really interesting reading, many thanks Wessex. So did the U's start life at the Community Stadium on the back of relegation from the Championship then? Was there excitement surrounding the opening of the new stadium?

We did indeed, our departure from Layer Rd was accompanied by relegation from the Championship. In one of those if only moments, had we dodged relegation and moved to the new stadium still in the Championship, who knows how our future might have panned out?

There was tremendous excitement about the move, because it was something we all knew had to happen, and been waiting for at least 20 years - doesn’t mean we don’t all miss Layer Road though.

Up the U's
Poll: How will we do in 2016/17
Blog: Matches of Yesteryear - Millwall v U's 14/4/99


Matches of Yesteryear on 04:07 - Aug 23 with 145 viewsghughes11

Can't remember much about the match or the day to be honest, except that I went with my Uncle who came over from NZ.
We went to the Fat Cat before the game for a few beers and a ploughmans and caught the shuttle-bus.
Col U team looks good. What a shame that Gillespie could never stay fit, otherwise he could have banged in the goals we desperately lacked that season!
Robbie Cowling has admitted many times that he regrets sacking Willams too early. Maybe the reason he is hanging onto McGreal?
Could Williams have turned it around? I am not too sure. Not many positive performances in the relegation season and a dismal start to this.
Can McGreal turn it around? Again, I'm not too sure. I think he still has the players to be able to deliver a play-off spot, but can he motivate them to succeed?

Poll: What was the main reason for the Col U win versus Carlisle?

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