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Matches of Yesteryear Blackburn v U's 29/01/05
at 23:35 23 Aug 2019

Blackburn Rovers v Colchester United
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Matches of Yesteryear
at 23:34 23 Aug 2019

Blackburn Rovers v Colchester United
Saturday 29th January 2005
FA Cup (4th round)
Attendance 10,634


For the first time, the Matches of Yesteryear dips out of league fixtures, with our first foray into the FA Cup – League 1 Colchester United away at Premier League (and previous champions) Blackburn Rovers. Quite a memorable match too, and for the most part because of one quite memorable moment – but more of that later.



The U’s were managed by Phil Parkinson (currently available, having resigned from beleaguered Bolton Wanderers). This wasn’t his first serious foray into the FA Cup, having taken the U’s to the 5th round the previous season, only to lose narrowly (and undeservedly) 1-0 at Bramall Lane. It wasn’t his last either, taking the U’s to the 5th round again in 2005/06, losing 3-1 but with great distinction at Stamford Bridge (“who needs Mourinho, we’ve got Phil Parkinson!!”).

We hadn’t necessarily had the easiest of routes to this match, drawn away in all three previous rounds, albeit against teams below us or in our league. We eased past Mansfield in the first round with a comprehensive 4-1 replay victory at Layer Rd (goals from Garcia, OG, Fagan and Williams), after drawing 1-1 at Field Mill, then thrashed Rushden and Diamonds at Nene Park 5-2 in the second round (Halford hat-trick and two from Fagan), and then finally winning 2-0 at high-flying Hull City (Williams and Fagan) in the third round, in front of an over 14k crowd.

The U’s lined up:
1….Aidan Davison (Dean Gerken the unused sub goalkeeper)
25..Sam Stockley
12..Pat Baldwin
5....Wayne Brown
14..Stephen Hunt (Liam Chilvers 55’)
2....Greg Halford
26..Neil Danns (signed from Blackburn the previous month, hence his relatively lowly squad no.)
6....Kevin Watson
4….Gavin Johnson (Joe Keith 79’)
9....Craig Fagan
8….Gareth Williams (Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu 58’)

It is also worth noting that although Blackburn Rovers had fallen away from their mid-90s success in the Premier League, they were still a formidable force to be reckoned with – lining up that day with, for instance, Brad Friedal in goal, Dominic Matteo, Brett Emerton, Tugay, Morten Gamst Pedersen and of course everyone’s bête noire – Robbie Savage (who had signed for Blackburn Rovers 10 days earlier for a £3m fee). However, much of the coverage leading up to the game focused on one player, Bobby Svarc. Brought from Boston United by Jim Smith when he took over our management, and who formed a deadly partnership with Jim Froggatt in the mid-70s, and then taken by Jim Smith when he left us to take over Blackburn Rovers in 1975. Glossing over Jim and Bobby’s somewhat ignominious return to Layer Rd in ’77 (thrashed 4-0 in the League Cup replay after drawing 1-1 at Ewood Park – I was at both matches), he was and still is a U’s and Rovers legend. So much so, that the programme featured a double-page spread interview with Bobby, which hopefully you can more or less read in this photo.



I travelled up from Salisbury on the train for this match, and had the pleasure of sharing a taxi from the station to Ewood Park with one of our previous visitors to the U’sual, a young lad by the name of Irish Eagle. I’m not sure quite how many made the journey to follow the U’s that day, but it must have been close on 2k – not bad for such a long journey – and we were all definitely in good voice…and for over 20 minutes, we more than held our own, on what has to be said was a horrible pitch. Robbie was inevitably getting the bird at every opportunity, but with the team that was (largely) to take us to the Championship the following season, we were not overawed, nor outplayed.

But then, the seminal moment – an easy back pass from Kevin Watson to Aiden Davidson, which just required a leathering from Aidan back up field. He sized it up, took a mighty swing, and at the crucial moment the ball bobbled on the dreadful pitch, Aidan swung and missed right under it, and the ball rolled embarrassingly into the empty net. Doubly embarrassing, because the Match of the Day cameras were there ready for a potential upset, and we were subjected to endless re-runs of a massive blooper for months to come. Pundits to this day may still argue about blame – Watson should never have passed back to his ‘keeper towards his own goal, Davidson should have kept his eye on the ball, but ultimately it was a freak goal borne solely of the dreadful pitch at Ewood Park that day. I have searched the internet for footage, and I’m kind of glad I haven’t managed to find any.

The U’s were devastated, we were devastated, and with the stuffing knocked out of us it didn’t come as any surprise that Jemal Johnson doubled the lead shortly after. Despite working hard to get back in the game, it was to no avail, and with Matteo getting a third, Blackburn eased passed the U’s into the 5th round.

Blackburn Rovers 3 (Watson OG 21’; Johnson 27’ Matteo 51’) Colchester United 0

If it can be counted as some sort of pyrrhic ‘victory’, Blackburn Rovers went on to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, losing to Arsenal 3-0 at the Millennium Stadium (and Arsenal went on to win the final, one of the dullest ever, 5-4 on penalties against Manchester United after a 0-0 draw). Robbie Savage is largely credited with turning around Blackburn Rovers’ season when he joined in January 05, and they eventually finished 15th in the Premier League.

As for me, after the game I headed back to the train station. My connections meant I was sat in a pub in town for half an hour whilst most of the faithful departed to Essex (and elsewhere). This lead to one of my more tense experiences following the U’s (and there have been a few), when one of the locals decided I was his focus of his attention. He hadn’t even been at the game, but three sheets to the wind he decided I was the bloke to give a hard time to. Now, I’m not a hard-nut by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself if it came to it – but this was on another level of crazy. Thankfully, sparing me from either a beating, or delivering one and arrest, the landlord spotted the problem and chucked my inebriated idiot out, and I left for my train home.

Not a good way to end a difficult day, but I’d have taken the thrashing of my life if it could have somehow undone that own goal…
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Crystal Palace Caraboa Cup tickets
at 18:02 23 Aug 2019

Rang the ticket office today - too late for a postal delivery because of the Bank Holiday, so I'll have to pay on the day (when prices go up to £20 from £15 - no big deal really). We've been allocated 3,000 tickets, and I was pleasantly surprised we've already sold 1,100. Should be a decent crowd there on Tuesday night - anyone else going?
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Huddersfield 16/08/08
at 12:57 20 Aug 2019

Colchester United v Huddersfield Town
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Matches of Yesteryear
at 12:56 20 Aug 2019

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.
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Wellens charged by FA
at 09:24 17 Aug 2019

Anyone know what this was about? The report says it was at half-time?!

https://www.swindontownfc.co.uk/news/2019/august/wellens-charged-by-the-fa/
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Matches of Yesteryear - Swindon v U's 13/11/10
at 12:41 16 Aug 2019

Swindon Town v Colchester United
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Matches of Yesteryear
at 12:39 16 Aug 2019

Swindon Town v Colchester United
Saturday 13th November 2010
League 1 (3rd tier)
Attendance 7,679


For match #4 we dip into the John Ward era, and at a time when the U’s were riding high in the league – before kick-off, we were 3rd behind Brighton and Huddersfield, with Peterborough, Charlton, Southampton and Bournemouth close behind. Quite remarkable really, when you stop and think about what pretty much all of them (apart from the U’s) went on to achieve – heyho. Swindon were managed at the time by Danny Wilson – someone I’ve never really warmed to if I’m honest.



This was the weekend before my then partner Emma’s 40th birthday, so she had headed over to Bristol for a boozy overnighter with her mates, whilst I took the train to the match with my youngest. Without the constraints of driving, this also included some pre-match beers in the Merlin – another excellent football pub, usually very welcoming to away fans, and with a good atmosphere as a result. Alfie enjoyed some sausage and chips, whilst I had a liquid lunch.

The U’s lined up:
1….Ben Williams
4….Magnus Okuonghae
6….Paul Reid
20..Brian Wilson
23..Marc Tierney
10..Kem Izzet (Anthony Wordsworth 61’)
14..Andy Bond
17..David Perkins (Ian Henderson 70’)
7….Ashley Vincent (Liam Henderson ’84)
15..Kayode Odejayi
19..David Mooney

As usual, we were housed at the far end of the Arkells Stand, next to the empty open terrace, but with the U’s riding high in the league, there was a decent turn out, with nearly 300 of the faithful in attendance, and in good voice too. They needed to be, because the U’s were very slow out of the blocks, Magnus in particular, who gave the ball away on the edge of the box with his first touch, requiring an excellent save from Ben Williams to prevent an immediate first goal for the Robins.

Nevertheless, the U’s looked ragged, and definitely lacking match fitness, and were under the cosh for most of the first half, with Swindon taking a deserved lead with a shot from Dosseni that Williams’ despairing dive couldn’t quite reach. However, very much against the run of play, on the stroke of half-time Mooney put an excellent cross into the box, and Vincent stealed in for a point blank headed conversion (though he nearly missed that!) – and all with the home crowd incensed that it wasn’t called offside. I couldn’t tell from my viewpoint, but heyho, the goal stood, that was what counted.

Always an excellent time to score, so the half-time refreshments tasted all the better for it, and it filled us all with hope that the U’s would push on and win the game, or at the very least hold on for the point. Sadly, Swindon hadn’t read the script, and continued to press the U’s in the second half, and barely 10 minutes later had restored their lead after an excellent through ball from Douglas converted by the goal machine that was Charlie Austin, though it could be argued that Williams might have actually kept it out.

…and that’s how it stayed through to full-time.

The U’s did certainly put more effort in in the final quarter to try and get something from the game, but it was very much one of those huffing and puffing performances, that never looked that likely to unlock a resolute Swindon defence. Magnus particularly just didn’t look fit, nor Tierney, and the midfield were outfought and outthought for most of the match. Special mention for Odejayi though, he at least battled throughout, his pace and strength clearly a constant worry to the Swindon defence.

Swindon Town 2 (Dossevi 29’; Austin 54’) Colchester United 1 (Vincent 45’)

To put this match into context, at the end of the season Swindon were relegated, finishing bottom of the league, with Danny Wilson leaving for Sheffield United. Pretty much all of those around as at the top in November were still there in May, with Brighton and Southampton promoted, and Peterborough via the play-offs – we finished 10th. This was John Ward’s first season as manager, following Aidy Boothroyd’s departure to Coventry City. Although Ward was much maligned, with the benefit of hindsight finishing 10th two seasons running in League 1 (we did it again in 2011/12) really wasn’t too shabby, given our gradual slip down the leagues to where we are now. Charlie Austin went on to play in the Premier League, for both QPR and Southampton, is currently playing for Championship WBA, and scored on his debut last Tuesday night.
[Post edited 16 Aug 13:15]
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Matches of Yesteryear
at 13:22 13 Aug 2019

Colchester United v Lincoln City
Saturday 26th August 1995
Division 3 (4th tier)
Attendance 2,939


For Match #3 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, we go all the way back to 1995/96, and what was my first home match of a season that was to turn out to be a fairly eventful one. It had already started quite brightly, beating Plymouth Argyle 2-1 at home, then Bristol City by the same scoreline in the Coca Cola Cup, and then a solid 1-1 draw at Barnet the previous Saturday. After losing the 2nd leg of the Coca Cola cup 2-1 at Ashton Gate, we went to penalties, and it will come as no surprise to long-suffering U’s fans that it was another penalty shoot-out we were to lose (5-3).


I don’t have the functionality right now to upload my own photos on to the internet (hopefully to come soon), so for now I have linked to the above image on Graeson’s excellent ColuData website ( https://www.coludata.co.uk/) – definitely worth a look if you haven’t done so already.

The Lincoln match was one of many that I have managed to attend in August over the years because they fall reasonably closely to my birthday, and were therefore a flimsy excuse to head over to Colchester to see my Mum and family for my birthday – sort of “Hi Mum, I’m here – just off to the football, back in a couple of hours”. Me and my brother-in-law went to this one, standing on the barside terrace for the match.

In the days before squad numbers, the U’s lined up:
1….Carl Emberson.
2….Adam Locke
3….Simon Betts
4….Tony McCarthy
5….Gus Caeser
6….Peter Cawley
7….Mark Kinsella
8….Tony Dennis (the programme says Tony English)
9….Steve Whitton
10..Tony Adcock
11..Michael Cheetham (always the first player I sold playing Championship Manager)
12..Chris Fry
14..Steve Mardenborough (programme says Robbie Reinelt)
15..Robbie Reinelt (programme says Tony Dennis)

Pre-match drinks were taken in the Drury, and if ever anyone wants to write an article on the lost football pubs of yesteryear, the Drury has to feature very prominently – never a pub you might pop down to for a quiet pint midweek, or take the missus out for a meal to, but what a place on a matchday! Drinks in the Drury often meant missing the first few minutes of the match, but fortunately not in this case, as Tony Dennis banged two in in quick succession to put the U’s 2-0 after just eight minutes.

Most of the remainder of the game was a bit of a blur to be honest, just one of those wonderful afternoons spent on the barside terrace watching the U’s win comfortably. In the 74th minute, up popped Steve Mardenborough from the bench to score on his debut for the U’s (he’d been signed the same day), to really put the cherry on the cake.

Colchester United 3 (Dennis 2’; Dennis 8’; Mardenborough 74’) v Lincoln 0

First and foremost, and to put the following into context, I had travelled over to the Barnet game at Underhill the previous Saturday, and after a bit of argy-bargy with their stewards about whether or not we could stand on the roofed terrace down one side (rather than sit in the roofless stand behind the goal, which was already over-crammed), I had the pleasure to be part of a very noisy contingent of U’s fans creating an almighty racket for the remainder of the game from the terrace – probably one of the better atmospheres I have experienced, given it was a sub £2k crowd (and easily 6-700 U’s fans). For that reason, I was immensely proud to read in the Lincoln City programme the following from Steve Wignall “Your support at Barnet was greatly appreciated by the players and they felt that you helped pull them through the game, especially later on”. You’re very welcome Steve!

The season was to end as it started, playing Plymouth Argyle again – only this time in the play-offs, and against the backdrop of the ever-charming Colin who declared “little teams like Colchester shouldn’t even be on the same pitch as big clubs like Plymouth”. If they're such a big club, how come we seem to play them surprisingly often?

...oh, and we went out of the FA Cup 1st round against Gravesend & Northfleet
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Lincoln 26/8/95
at 13:22 13 Aug 2019

Colchester United v Lincoln City
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Matches of Yesteryear
at 12:37 9 Aug 2019

AFC Bournemouth v Colchester United
Saturday 3rd February 2001
Division 2 (3rd tier)
Attendance 4,407


This is going to be one of those where my memory of the match is somewhat thin on the ground. In terms of context, this was our third season in the then named Division 2, managed by Steve Whitton, and with a squad containing such household names as Simon Brown, Joe Dunne, Aaron Skelton, David Gregory, Micky Stockwell, Alan White, Barry Conlon, Scott McGleish, Steve McGavin, Thomas Pinault, Karl Duguid and Joe Keith. It did also contain the mercurial diamond Lua Lua, but after his one-man demolition of QPR in the Worthington Cup earlier in the season, he had already earned a £2.25m move to Newcastle United in September 2000.

With building work already underway, this was my last trip to the old stadium layout at Dean Court, before they rotated the pitch 90⁰. AFC Bournemouth had been fund-raising for a new ground, and at the time of our match they had raised nearly £4m, whilst at the same time significantly reducing the prodigious £5m debt the previous owner had burdened the club with, and which very nearly wiped the club out. The new ground wasn’t quite ready for the start of the following season, so they played their first eight home games of that season at nearby Dorchester Town.

Living in Salisbury at the time, and with a rubbish train connection (via Southampton) as an option, I travelled to this one on the local bus service. Pre-match libations were taken at the nearby Queens Park Hotel, a great football pub back in the day when they still allowed away supporters in, and which on this day contained a decent amount of U’s fans in good voice (and thirsty).

I really don’t have too many recollections of the actual game to be honest – I know Scotty too hotty put us 1-0 up, and Mick Stockwell quickly made it 2-0, a lead we held until half-time. Certainly what I remember most was that despite the scoreline, we were being torn apart by a very young and very gifted Jermain Defoe, on loan from West Ham United at the time.

I don’t recall who was responsible, but halfway through the second half Hughes pulled one back for the Cherries from the penalty spot, and shortly after McGavin came on for Conlon. About ten minutes later, Duguid came on for Stockwell, and as the minutes ticked by, it really looked like the U’s might just hold on for all three points. However, Carl Fletcher had other plans, and with four minutes to go equalised for AFC Bournemouth, and that’s how the match ended.

I am fairly certain that it was this match that on the way back to Salisbury on the bus I had the pleasure to meet a couple of U’s supporters who I now meet regularly on travels (and I’m sure many of you here will also know). Without naming names, they both worked for British Rail and were on their way to a retirement party for a colleague at the Salisbury Railwaymen’s Club, and I was glad to be able to both give them directions, share their company on the bus ride home, and remain good friends since.

AFC Bournemouth 2 (Hughes 63’ pen; Fletcher 86’) v Colchester United 2 (McGleish 22’; Stockwell 28’)

Other matters of note – this was Scott McGleish’s debut goal for his second spell back at Colchester United (following his loan period in 1996). Jermain Defoe’s loan at AFC Bournemouth continued through to the end of the season, and included him scoring ten goals in ten consecutive games – an impressive feat by any measure. Carl Fletcher went on to enjoy a career that included playing in the Premier League, and after managing our next opponent Plymouth Argyle for a year or so, is now Youth Team Manager back at Bournemouth. AFC Bournemouth also lined up on the day with a relatively youthful Eddie Howe in defence. Steve Tomlin refereed the match, and it was one of those rare events when no cards were issued during the game. This only happened a handful of times during his career, but remarkably on four occasions (including this one) it was matches involving Colchester United.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Bournemouth v U's 3/2/01
at 12:37 9 Aug 2019

AFC Bournemouth v Colchester United
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Matches of Yesteryear
at 16:11 2 Aug 2019

Although not an avid collector, I recently catalogued my collection of football memorabilia and I have 175 items, mostly programmes, some fanzines, and a few ticket stubs which aren’t accompanied by anything else. I have no idea how many more may have been misplaced during house moves, clear-outs etc., but the collection spans nearly 30 years (the earliest is the programme from our 1990 Boxing Day game against Barnet at Layer Rd), and is almost universally Colchester United related (though not quite all of it). I have decided to try and put this to some use, by choosing one at random prior to each match and writing a short article about the match, maybe the programme, and even any personal recollections I have of the game (notwithstanding enforced enfeeblement due to excessive libation). I will try and do this ahead of each game this season, but my apologies in advance if I don’t quite achieve that.

Remarkably, for the first post, my random number generator has selected a match that pretty much all of us will be very familiar with indeed.

Colchester United v Preston North End
Sunday 3rd May 2015
League 1 (3rd tier)
Attendance 8,413


So, to the last match of the 2014/15 season, and Colchester United needing close to a miracle to survive relegation. We’d been in the relegation zone pretty much constantly since November, so we not only had to win, but also rely on at least two of the following: Crawley and Notts County getting only a point at most, and Crewe losing! Preston, on the other hand, were still in the hunt for automatic promotion behind Bristol City, and just one point ahead of MK Dons in the play-offs, so they needed to be certain as well.

It was a beautiful May day, and me and my youngest drove over for this match. Needless to say, Preston had arrived in good numbers, and packed out the North Stand and adjacent E1 and E2, but the U’s faithful had also risen to the challenge, and there weren’t too many spare seats around the ground by kick-off. As with any game with so much riding on it, it wasn’t a game to sit back, relax and enjoy, and certainly not one for meticulous note-taking. All I can remember for pretty much all of the game was the tension. I remember Jacob Murphy’s deft lob over the advancing Preston goalkeeper Johnstone, but I didn’t realise how close it was until I saw it later online, and the same ‘keeper then palming away a pile-driver from Brindley. At half-time, the only goal in all three games was an opener for Bradford City at Crewe, and whilst that certainly helped, it wasn’t going to be enough on its own.

Half-time was spent still fretting, double-checking all the possible permutations, and praying – all of which was undone early in the second half when the news filtered through that Crawley had taken the lead at home to Coventry City, and the U’s were staring down the barrel of relegation. However, in the 56th minute we were thrown a lifeline – Moncur was bought down in the box, the referee had no hesitation pointing to the spot (though it looked a soft decision to me), and up stepped Chris Porter. This would be the goal that could save us as results stood – however, legend has it that Porter’s spot-kick blazed over the bar is still rising!

To add insult to injury, just five minutes later we learned that Notts County had also taken the lead, 1-0 at Gillingham. To compound our woes, it had been clear all match that we were up against a formidable team in Preston North End, and with MK Dons going bat-shit crazy at home to Yeovil (4-0 up at half-time), Preston knew they had to win and were pressing us relentlessly. Amongst this, Eastman’s last-ditch sliding tackle on Beckford to deny Preston the opener was something the late great Bobby Moore would have been proud of, and simply world class.

Slowly though, inexorably, the tide started to turn in our favour – we were more than holding Preston, we were actually starting to apply real pressure. News then filtered through that Coventry had equalised at Crawley and Crewe were still losing – all we had to do was get a winner and hold on…

…and then up stepped Porter in the 82nd minute – the villain barely 25 minutes earlier, to beautifully chest down in the box a flighted cross from (who – can’t remember?), and serve up on a plate a deft pass to Moncur, who calmly slotted pass the ‘keeper to send the U’s faithful berserk!! I for one have never seen scenes like it at the Community Stadium. In truth, it was only an outstretched foot from Johnstone that prevented Szmodics from making it 2-0 following a slide-rule pass behind the back line from Sembe-Ferris. That wasn’t to say I was relaxed, and six minutes of injury time whilst Preston threw the kitchen sink at us didn’t help, but Crawley turning things around to get a second and win 2-1 at Crawley, as did Gillingham – losing 1-0 in the 88th minute, but eventually beating Notts County 3-1 at full-time (including goals from Luke Norris and Brennan Dickenson). The referee finally blew his whistle, fans poured on to the pitch, and I could let the blessed relief sweep over me – whoever would have thought not quite being rubbish enough for relegation could be the cause of so much celebration!

Colchester United 1 (Moncur) v Preston North End 0

In the end, Crawley and Notts County were relegated (along with Leyton Orient and Yeovil), Bristol City and MK Dons were promoted, but Preston were justifiably rewarded with promotion via the play-offs. This result was probably a significant factor in Tony Humes staying on as our manager, albeit only until November of the following season.


[Post edited 2 Aug 16:12]
Blog
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v PNE 3/5/15
at 16:11 2 Aug 2019

Although not an avid collector, I recently catalogued my collection of football memorabilia and I have 175 items, mostly programmes, some fanzines, and a few ticket stubs which aren’t accompanied by anything else. I have no idea how many more may have been misplaced during house moves, clear-outs etc., but the collection spans nearly 30 years (the earliest is the programme from our 1990 Boxing Day game against Barnet at Layer Rd), and is almost universally Colchester United related (though not quite all of it). I have decided to try and put this to some use, by choosing one at random prior to each match and writing a short article about the match, maybe the programme, and even any personal recollections I have of the game (notwithstanding enforced enfeeblement due to excessive libation). I will try and do this ahead of each game this season, but my apologies in advance if I don’t quite achieve that.
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U'sual Champions League - Final and 3rd place play-off
at 18:03 27 May 2019

Here goes for the U'sual Champions League final, between noah4x4 and BFG, and 3rd place play-off between basher2010 and ghughes11.

The match to predict, as you will all know, is Spurs v Liverpool, which kicks-off at 8pm on Saturday 1st June.

As usual, there are nine categories to predict, so please PM me your predictions, which I will only reveal when I have them all. For categories C-H, as usual there will be 2pts if spot-on, and one point for whoever is closest (or 1pt each if equidistant).
 A) Result - 3pts spot-on, 1pt for the outcome; 
 B) Goal scorer - pick one, get 1pt for each goal they score (including own goals); 
 C) Attempts on target - 2pts for spot-on, 1pt if closest; 
 D) Attempts off target - ditto; 
 E) Corners - ditto; 
 F) Fouls - ditto; 
 G) Yellow cards - ditto (a straight red is not two yellows); and 
 H) Red cards - ditto (two yellows will count as two yellows and one red). 
 TB) The tie-break is the minute for the first substitution, closest (either side) wins. In the unlikely event that there are no substitutions, this will be counted as 0 (zero) minutes.

All predictions will be for the normal time match, extra-time or penalties will not count. The only questions you can't match exactly on are (A), (B) and (TB), so whilst there is no other advantage to predicting first, predicting last may mean having to change one or more of those predictions. I will let competitors know if predictions must be changed, and once I reveal all predictions, there will be no amendments. Deadline for predictions is kick-off (according the U'sual website time stamp for messages received).

All stats will be taken from the BBC Sport website, just in case there are discrepancies elsewhere.

Good luck everyone!
[Post edited 27 May 18:21]
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