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Colchester United v Leyton Orient prediction logged
Matches of Yesteryear - Crewe v U's 21/4/14
at 13:15 20 Sep 2019

Yesterday was Alfie’s 15th birthday, so I was delighted that the random match generator has selected a game that is an important part of our life together following the U’s. I therefore make no apologies about the focus I will place on this game – I hope it brings you as much pleasure as it did me.
Matches of Yesteryear - Crewe v U's 21/4/14
at 13:14 20 Sep 2019

Yesterday was Alfie’s 15th birthday, so I was delighted that the random match generator has selected a game that is an important part of our life together following the U’s. I therefore make no apologies about the focus I will place on this game – I hope it brings you as much pleasure as it did me.

Crewe Alexandra v Colchester United
Saturday 21st April 2014
Nationwide League 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 4,603

Match 13 of the series, and we are visiting Gresty Road, home of Crewe Alexandra. I have visited Gresty Rd on many occasions, and regardless of results, these have always been pleasant trips. This was my first trip with my youngest, so I decided this would be a road trip – here’s Alfie ready for the off on a bright and sunny Saturday morning.

I don’t have a programme for this match, but have retained Alfie’s ticket stub.

A string of poor results over the previous month (5 defeats out of six) had left the U’s uncomfortably close to the relegation zone, along with Crewe Alexandra – this really was one of those relegation 6-pointers, and with only two matches left after this one to do anything about it if things went badly. The U’s were managed by Joe Dunne, and much of the talk at the time was about his continued apparent reluctance to put Dominic Vose in the starting line-up. We arrived in good time for the match, so much so that we had time to grab a drink at the Royal Hotel Corner Bar – cheers Alfie!

…followed by something to soak the beer up from the excellent Benny’s Gresty Road chippy.

The U’s lined up at Gresty Road:
44..Sam Walker
20..Brian Wilson
4….Magnus Okuonghae (Ryan Dickson 84’)
18..Tom Eastman
16..Alex Wynter
15..Marcus Bean
22..Alex Gilbey
21..Gavin Massey
11..Freddie Sears (Tosin Olufemi 90+1’)
7….Sanchez Watt (Drey Wright 82’)
17..Jabo Ibehre

None of the Crewe line-up that day, managed by Steve Davis, ring any bells with me. Steve Davis had of course taken over from Dario Gradi a few years earlier, when Dario moved into the Director of Football role at the club. Chris Porter, who had made his debut for the U’s in January 2014, would go on to sign for Crewe in 2017 after turning down a fresh contract with us. Considering we were approaching squeaky-bum time at the wrong end of the league, there was a decent following that day for the U’s – must have been near on 300 I reckon. I was particularly delighted that amongst them were Paul and Martin from the Swedish Branch, always a pleasure to catch up with them, and on this occasion a first-time introduction to Alfie as well!

The U’s started the nervier of the two, but did gradually grow into the game, and on balance it was a good performance, in the first half particularly. Even in the second half, when Crewe got back into the game we played well, with purpose, conviction and a whole heap of effort. Jabo particularly was absolutely everywhere, and Sears' near constant running to close down their back four was great to see (plus he hit the post – twice!). Sanchez, who had been somewhat off-form recently, seemed to have re-found his edge too, and put in a great shift running the channels with some very deft touches, and Jabo was full of tricks too. Gavin Massey, who was excellent all game, was rightly awarded the Man of the Match award. Magnus was injured right near the end, and replaced by Dickson – who frankly wasn’t very good at all based on the 5 minutes of review time available.

However, overall it was the right team, an excellent effort, and just a shame we didn't get the break and score. If I were to be more critical, Joe Dunne left the substitutions too late to have a meaningful impact, and we were also guilty of wanting too many touches in attack – not quite direct enough. That being said, we had gone from a somewhat shot-shy outfit in recent weeks, to peppering them in from every angle for this game – I can’t remember the stats, but I’m pretty sure we were already in double figures for efforts on goal by half-time. However, Crewe missing a free header right at the end saved us a hard-earned point.

Crewe Alexandra 0 Colchester United 0

Though only 1 point hadn’t quite ensured our survival, fortunately many other results around us went our way that Saturday, with Stevenage, Shrewsbury and Carlisle all losing, Tranmere (and of course Crewe) drawing, and only Notts County picking up 3 points. Stevenage’s defeat relegated them, and Shrewsbury’s made their relegation almost inevitable.

However, we needn’t have worried. In the final two games of the season, we smashed already promoted Brentford 4-1 at the Community Stadium, and then beat Walsall 1-0 at the Bescot (Doogie’s final match for the U’s), to finish relatively comfortably in 16th place, six points clear of relegation. Tranmere, Carlisle, Shrewsbury and Stevenage weren’t so lucky, with Wolves, Brentford and Rotherham via the play-offs going in the opposite direction.

For me and the boy, it had been a cracking day out really. Lovely weather, trouble-free journeys there and back, good food and drink, a half-decent game to watch (even if we couldn’t quite get the winner), and a chance to catch up with good friends.

Alfie certainly seemed to enjoy it – Happy Birthday Alfie!...

Swindon match thread
at 19:31 17 Sep 2019

As I can't get there this evening, starting the match thread here.

The U's line up:

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Swindon Town v Colchester United prediction logged
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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Northampton 10/11/98
at 21:46 16 Sep 2019

Colchester United v Northampton Town
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Northampton 10/11/98
at 21:45 16 Sep 2019

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; Nicky Haydon 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 ( 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…

[Post edited 17 Sep 7:26]
Matches of Yesteryear - Newport v U's 17/11/18
at 12:04 14 Sep 2019

Apologies all, it’s been quite a hectic week at work so this one had to wait until today I’m afraid. I’m off to the New Lawn after this, so looking forward to seeing Noah and anyone else when I get there.
Matches of Yesteryear - Newport v U's 17/11/18
at 12:03 14 Sep 2019

Apologies all, it’s been quite a hectic week at work so this one had to wait until today I’m afraid. I’m off to the New Lawn after this, so looking forward to seeing Noah and anyone else when I get there.

Newport County v Colchester United
Saturday 17th November 2018
Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 3,512

Match 11 of the series, and we’re not travelling far back in time for this one, just 11 months ago at Rodney Parade. So, there have been plenty of firsts going around on the Matches of Yesteryear, and here’s another one, the first of the series that I only have the tickets for, and not a programme (though that in itself is quite notable in a way – see if you can spot why on the tickets).

This was quite a local game from where I’m based in North Wiltshire, so me and the youngest drove over for this one. I’ve trained it in the past, which is fine if I want to have some beer, but not so fine when the train takes twice as long and is significantly more expensive. In the league, back-to-back 1-0 home wins against promotion favourites Lincoln City and Swindon had propelled the U’s into 3rd place before this match, with Newport in the play-off places. However, immediately prior to this game results had been considerably less ‘glorious’ for the U’s, exiting the FA Cup 1-0 at Accrington Stanley the previous Saturday, followed by a Tuesday night meaningless 3-1 defeat against meaningless Cambridge United in the meaningless EFL Trophy…meaning that was all three cups over for us – again.

The U’s lined up at Rodney Parade:
1….Dillon Barnes
2….Ryan Jackson
22..Kane Vincent-Young
6….Frankie Kent
5….Luke Prosser (c)
4….Tom Lapslie (Ryan Gondoh ’76)
16..Diaz Wright
10..Sammie Szmodics
7….Courtney Senior (Collins 81’)
11..Brennan Dickenson (Mikael Mandron 58’)
45..Frank Nouble

Looking at the Newport line-up that day, there are no obvious names of note to pick out, though there was considerable speculation at the time that their talismanic striker Pádraig Amond might be off to the lofty heights of Shrewsbury – they needn't have worried, he signed a contract extension in the January transfer window, and went on to score 21 goals for them that season – and four already this season. Of course, the really big name, and for a big big player, was our very own Big Frank, and his first match against his former club. By the way, Brandon Comley was away on international duties with Montserrat.

With the U’s riding high in the league, and despite the distance from Essex, there was a pretty decent and vocal following from the U’s, and a lot of familiar faces to catch up with as a result. Mind you, it was a bit of a scrum trying to jam us all in the relatively small section of seats available – and not without some pretty heated steward-fan banter back and forth about where our choir could stand to serenade the audience. This was also the first time I’d tried the bar facility for away fans at the ground (having just the one mind you 😉), and whilst it had the general look and feel of an East European bunker, it wasn’t that bad otherwise.

With the game relatively recent, there are still plenty of match reports out there on the internet, so I’ll try and restrict myself to just my subjective perception of the game. The U’s certainly started brightly, passing the ball around well, controlling possession for long spells, but (and this will sound familiar) with very little to show for it. No killer ball into the box, no decisive runs, virtually no one prepared to leather it from 25 yards, apart for one effort from Big Frank, but it was catching practice for their ‘keeper. After the match, Newport manager Mike Flynn said “They were by far the better team in the first half” – better probably, by far certainly not. Still, lots of pretty passing triangles with nothing to show for it meant it was still 0-0 at half-time.

The U’s continued in the same vein into the second half, seemingly believing they had all the time in the world to ponderously pass the ball into the net. The wake-up call came in the 54th minute, with a completely unmarked Newport player delightfully flicking on a corner for Matt to score from point blank range. At the time, I was certain Barnes was to blame, looking asleep to the danger of the flick-on, and maybe with hindsight the video evidence suggests I was being a tad harsh, but in my defence Barnes did not have a particularly good game. Far too often, with a swift break on the cards, Barnes dithered about who to throw it out to, until the opportunity had been and gone.

The goal forced McGreal to change things around, and Dickenson (who had been dreadful all game) was replaced by Mandron. Though the wake-up call did, sort of, wake the U’s up, we still weren’t really creating any decent chances for ourselves, so again Newport County kindly showed us how it should be done. A delightful defensive splitting pass right through the middle of our back line, and Pring easily side-foots past Barnes, who had no choice but to commit but went the wrong way – not his fault this time.

Finally, after enough encouragement, the U’s started to really press, and really start creating chances. Lapslie was terrier-like as usual, but having trouble staying on his feet, and was replaced by Gondoh on 76th minutes, and there-on in it was pretty much all U’s – we hit the bar, Big Frank had a shot cleared off the line, blasted decent efforts just wide – basically, did everything but score. I think special mention does need to be made here for Sammie and Frank, they did at least work hard all game.

However, if we want to talk about decent efforts on goal, we must spare a mention for the comedy gold moment of the match – with the U’s penning Newport back in their own half, inevitably they did break away very late in the game. Harris cut in from the right, evaded a couple of tackles, and clipped over Barnes (though he got a touch) from close range. The ball actually looked destined to spin in off the post, but with the Newport crowd already celebrating a goal, Pring decided to make sure and slide in with the killer touch – only to scoop it up on to the bar and away to safety!

Newport County 2 (Matt 54’, Pring 67’) Colchester United 0

Though that gave me something to smile about at the death, this was a disappointing performance from the U’s, very much reflecting concerns we all had about our style of play – too ponderous, too slow, not enough direct running, and not enough decent crosses into the box. Mind you, the fireworks display from across the river was a nice touch at the end.

The U’s slipped out of the automatic promotion places after this match, replaced by Newport, but went on to have a decent run right through to Christmas, which saw us back in 3rd place. Incidentally, on that Saturday evening, the top seven in order were: MK Dons, Lincoln City, Newport, U’s, Mansfield, Exeter, and Tranmere – Exeter slipped away and were overtaken by todays opponents FGR, so your starter for 10 – which other team wasn’t there at the end, and which team replaced them?

I must have been cross after the Newport game – when I got home I bought Reservoir Dogs…

...oh, and the ticket thing – they were free! As me and Alfie arrived at the ground to buy our tickets, one of the U’s ladies (I’ve seen her loads of times at matches over the years) thrust this pair of beauties into my hand – must have been complementary tickets for someone else who no longer needed them, but I wasn’t going to argue 😊!

[Post edited 14 Sep 12:24]
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Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 26/01/02
at 19:25 6 Sep 2019

Reading v Colchester United
Matches of Yesteryear - Reading v U's 26/01/02
at 19:24 6 Sep 2019

Reading v Colchester United
Saturday 26th January 2002
Nationwide Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 12,743

Well, it had to happen eventually – a match without a doubt I attended but can’t for the life of me recall a single moment of! I certainly remember the journey over, which included a particularly fraught incident following several tins of lager on the first leg of my train journey, my connection from Basingstoke to Reading having no working toilets, and an empty lager tin – but I’ll leave you to work the rest out!

This wasn’t my first trip to the Madejski Stadium, which opened in 1998, I’d been quite a few times before, including the LDV Vans Trophy game earlier the same season (which we lost 2-1). Alan Pardew was managing the Royals at the time, who following six consecutive wins (all clean sheets) were sat comfortably top of the league, six points ahead of Brighton (albeit Brighton had two games in hand). The U’s were managed by Steve Whitton, and positioned reasonably well in mid-table, six points off the play-offs.

The U’s lined up at the Madejski:
1….Simon Brown
30..John Halls (six-game loan from Arsenal)
19..Alan White (White White)
12..Scott Fitzgerald
7….Karl Duguid
3….Joe Keith (Gavin Johnson 55’)
20..Micky Stockwell
10..Kem Izzet
17..Bobby Bowry (Thomas Pinault 77’)
9….Scott McGleish
11..Graham Barrett

For the Royals that day were two who were destined to become some of the greatest names of the early 21st century for the U’s – Phil Parkinson in the starting line-up (and subbed in the 72nd minute), and Jamie Cureton coming off the bench in the 60th minute. Other names of note included John Mackie (on the front cover of the programme), John Salako, and of course Reading goal-machine Nicky Forster.

I don’t have the stats for the U’s fans in attendance, but I’d reckon it was somewhere between 3-400, in a stadium which was just over half-full on the day – actually quite a decent crowd for Reading at the time, no doubt reflecting their recent success. The matchday facts (courtesy of were that Nicky Forster put Reading ahead from the penalty spot a few minutes before half-time, and Andy Hughes doubled the lead not long into the second half. In the 55th minute Steve Whitton replaced Keith with Johnson, and in the 60th minute (presumably tactically), Cureton made his appearance, replacing Tony Rougier. In the 69th minute, Nicky Forster again showed why he was such a renowned striker, putting Reading 3-0 up, and the game out of reach for the U’s. Shortly after, with Parkinson on a yellow card, he was replaced by Keith Jones, and not even the late introduction of Thomas Pinault for Bobby Bowry was enough for the U’s to get anything from the game.

However, in the absence of any meaningful match memories, what I can share is a little glimpse into my working life, and more importantly, how that has a direct bearing on being at the Madejski Stadium. Over the years, my company has provided archaeological services in support of the development of numerous football grounds and associated infrastructure. These have included Melksham Town, Rolvenden FC, Chichester City, Ebbsfleet United, Brentford’s new stadium, Hayes (before they became Hayes & Yeading United), Dorchester Town, Margate, even Southend United’s proposed stadium at Fossett’s Farm, and most notably the St Mary’s stadium at Southampton. This association also includes appointment by Reading FC to carry out archaeological works to clear the site ahead of the development of the Madejski Stadium and associated Reading Gate Retail Park (as it was then known).

Most of the proposed development site was occupied by Smallmead Tip, a household refuse landfill site mainly in use during the late 60s and 70s. The tip covered a vast area south of Foudry Brook, and to the west of what was then a drainage leat and footpath from Hartley Court in the south to Manor Farm in the north. Incidentally, the area around the Madejski still has built-in methane vents to this day because of the landfill still remaining in the surrounding area.

We were appointed in 1996 to evaluate land outside the footprint of the former tip to the east, in 1997 to the carry out a watching brief during removal of all the landfill material, and in 1998 to excavate remains identified during the previous evaluation. The first image below shows the extent of the watching brief overlain on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map of the area, and indeed where the former drainage leats used to run, which we subsequently re-discovered under the landfill, though that was about as exciting as this area got unfortunately.

The evaluation in the ‘lobe’ to the east, however, was a little more productive, identifying three ditches, all containing both 1st/2nd century Romano-British pottery, and some residual prehistoric finds. Two of the ditches (1546 and 1547), though somewhat sinuous, were broadly parallel, and were likely part of a Romano-British enclosure or field system. Though of a similar period, the third ditch (1548) was definitely later, and most likely indicates a rearrangement of the field system at some point (plan and section drawings below).

The residual prehistoric material was interesting, including not only Late Bronze Age (1100-700 BC) pottery, but worked flint of both Early Neolithic (4-3000 BC) and potentially Mesolithic (8500-4000 BC) date. We were already aware of the prehistoric potential of the overall area, and a zone of high prehistoric potential further to the north was subsequently preserved in situ beneath a car park.

Oh yes, and in case you’ve forgotten, the match finished…

Reading 3 (Forster 38’, Hughes 48’, Forster 69’) Colchester United 0

The Reading match was not long after a slump in our form had started, and which was largely going to continue through to the end of the season, only winning another four games in the end. Though we were never in any real danger of relegation, this was a disappointing finish, given we had been around the promotion and play-off spots for the first three months of the season. Reading were eventually overtaken by Brighton & Hove Albion, but were still promoted in second place, with Stoke City going up via the play-offs.

The U’s were captained for this game by Scott Fitzgerald, who had only been given the role in the middle of the week before. Some may recall this was following the sudden and unexpected departure of Simon Clark, who out of the blue had asked for his contract to be terminated with immediate effect, so that he and his family could go out to the Far East. Clark insisted at the time that this was a personal matter and nothing to do with Colchester United. He ended up playing three seasons with Woodlands Wellington in Singapore, and is currently Lead Youth Development Phase coach for Northampton Town.

We were, of course, going to see much more of Phil Parkinson and Jamie Cureton in the years to come, but that will be for another day I expect…
Football rivalries
at 08:30 6 Sep 2019

The article itself is pretty dull (imho), but the tabulated list of top five rivalries for all leagues makes interesting - who’d have thought we’d feature in the Premier League?!
Gills v U's on iFollow
at 10:38 3 Sep 2019

I didn't know myself until just now, but if any one is interested you can buy a video pass for the game tonight. Obviously, not exactly news to our overseas brethren...
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Wycombe 16/11/96
at 19:27 2 Sep 2019

Colchester United v Wycombe Wanderers
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Wycombe 16/11/96
at 19:25 2 Sep 2019

Colchester United v Wycombe Wanderers
Saturday 16th November 1996
FA Cup (1st Round)
Attendance 4,378

For the ninth in the Matches of Yesteryear series, and for the first time, we look back at an FA Cup match, and against our auld enemies the Chairboys. One of the stranger football rivalries it has to be said, and as most of us know, occasionally a bit ‘ahem’ lively too. Most historians agree that the origins of this rivalry date back to the first ever meeting between the two clubs, in a 1985 FA Cup 1st round match at Wycombe’s former home Loakes Park, which the U’s lost 2-0.

Steve Wignall was managing the U’s for this match, and although we had pipped Wycombe to promotion from the Conference in 1992, they had since passed us en route, and were a Division 2 (i.e. 3rd tier) side when we met. At the time, the U’s were sat solidly mid-table in Division 3, Wycombe were having a tough time in Division 2, and were in a bit of a relegation scrap at the time (losing five of their previous six league games, without even scoring a goal in any of them).

The U’s lined up at Layer Rd:
1….Carl Emberson
2….Joe Dunne
3….Paul Gibbs
4….David Gregory (Tony Adcock)
5….David Green
6….Peter Cawley
7….Chris Fry
8….Richard Wilkins
9….Robbie Reinelt (Karl Duguid)
10..Adam Locke
11..Paul Abrahams

Names of note within the Wycombe line-up included John Cheesewright in goal, who left the U’s for a spell abroad playing in the Hong Kong 1st Division, before returning to sign for Wycombe Wanderers. Wycombe also started with Steve McGavin up front, who we sold to Birmingham City for £150k two years earlier, and who then sold him to Wycombe for £175k only 23 games after that. Steve would be destined to return to Layer Rd in 1999 for two more seasons. This was Richard Wilkins’ second spell at the U’s, initially leaving us as we were relegated to the Conference (we sold him to Cambridge United for £65k).

Although quite some time ago, I recall quite a bit about this match to be honest. Me and my family had traveled over to celebrate a clutch of family birthdays that occurred in mid-November, including my dear old Mum (RIP), my eldest sister, and my god-daughter. I went to the game with my brother-in-law and his son (my nephew), and I guess because my nephew was there (he was only four at the time) we sat in the Family Area at the Clock End – which I think was one of the only times I ever sat in that stand, though I had of course stood on the wonky terraces that preceded the stand many times. Leafing through my programme whilst writing this blog, I discovered my ticket for the match inside - £7.00 for an adult – if only it were that these days!

The Wycombe supporters, and there must have been about a thousand of them, were housed at the Layer Rd end. As often happens for matches between the two clubs, the barside support was swelled with many old familiar faces, the sort you wouldn’t necessarily want to meet on a dark night, even if you supported the same team! Wycombe played towards their own fans for the first half, and it was a fairly tense even contest to begin with. Wilkins blasted just wide early on, and Steve Brown miscued shortly after to lift a shot out of the ground. McGavin was also causing problems, particularly down our left, as was De Souza in the box, and gradually the Division 2 side started to take control of the game. The pressure eventually told just before half-time, when De Souza drilled home from close range after one of those goalmouth ping-pong scrambles where no one seemed to be able to get a decent foot behind the ball.

Wycombe continued to press in the second half, with De Souza again going close, but the U’s were starting to get back into the game. Wilkins put his head where everyone else’s feet were and only just missed, there was strong penalty appeal denied when Crossley handled in the box (ball to hand apparently – yeah right!), and then a cracking volley from Reinelt that Cheesewright only just stopped with his feet. However, as if often the case, with all this U’s pressure, we were always going to be susceptible to a break, and that’s what Williams did with a one-on-one on Emberson in the 65th minute, rounding him easily to tap into the open goal.

Now we come to easily the most memorable event of the day – with the Wycombe fans celebrating in a somewhat overexuberant manner, and clearly enjoying goading the adjacent barside, some of the barside decided a frank exchange of views was needed, and entered the field of play in order to do so. With several barsiders on the pitch, and amidst the general confusion caused, Wilkins took full advantage to slot home the debut goal of his second spell for the U’s, and remarkably our referee for the day (Jeff Winter) let it stand. From here on it was all U’s, with even Twiggy getting in on the act, Adcock hit the bar and Cheesewright somehow managed to palm over Duguid’s shot on the rebound when a goal looked certain. From the resulting corner, there was another one of those mad goalmouth scrambles, during which the U’s vehemently claimed the ball had crossed the line, but it wasn’t given, and the match finally finished with Wycombe desperately hanging on to their victory.

Colchester United 1 (Wilkins 69’) Wycombe Wanderers 2 (De Souza 43’, Williams 65’)

On the walk back to the car, the general consensus of opinion was that we had probably scored from the late corner, but Winter had decided to ‘even things up’ as he should never have allowed play to proceed when Wilkins scored the first goal for the U’s. As unpalatable as it is to lose against the Chairboys, particularly at home, once we had managed to get a foothold in the game, we actually didn’t play badly at all, and certainly deserved a draw against our Division 2 opponents.

Wycombe went on to beat Barnet in the second round (after a replay), and then went out in the third round at home to Bradford City. They would go on to avoid relegation reasonably comfortably, eight points clear of the drop.

As for the U’s, this was a second consecutive first round exit (after Gravesend and Northfleet the previous season), and though we didn’t know it at the time, it was going to be another eight years before we reached the third round again. After losing out at Plymouth in the play-offs the previous season, Wignall targeted the play-offs again as a minimum achievement. He didn’t quite make it, with the U’s finishing one point and one place off (sound familiar?).
Matches of Yesteryear - Luton v U's 12/09/06
at 19:29 30 Aug 2019

Luton Town v Colchester United
Matches of Yesteryear - Luton v U's 12/09/06
at 19:21 30 Aug 2019

Luton Town v Colchester United
Tuesday 12th September 2006
Coca Cola Championship (Tier 2)
Attendance 7,609

We return to the league for the 8th in the Matches of Yesteryear series, and for the first time, during those heady days in the Championship. Glamorous days indeed, but not such a glamorous setting on this occasion, away at Kenilworth Road on a cold Tuesday night. However, given Gerken’s performance at Selhurst Park on Tuesday night, perhaps having this one chosen by the random number generator is somehow fitting?

With Parky departing for Hull City at the end of the previous season, George Williams was managing the U’s for our time in the Championship. However, although we hadn’t embarrassed ourselves particularly, with five straight defeats in a row to begin with (including at MK Dons in the League Cup) things were not going well. George was slowly beginning to steady the ship with back-to-back wins at home to Derby County and away at Burnley (the charmless Steve Cotterill observing after the match “Colchester must be riding out of town with sombreros on”), and by the Luton game we had climbed just outside the relegation zone. Luton, however, were going quite well, with three wins and a draw from their first six league games and were sat just outside the play-offs (albeit only 4pts ahead of the U’s).

The U’s lined up at Kenilworth Road:
1….Aidan Davison
2….Greg Halford
5….Wayne Brown
12..Pat Baldwin
18..Chris Barker
14..Richard Garcia (Kevin McLeod 65’)
6….Kevin Watson
10..Kem Izzet
7….Karl Duguid
11..Chris Iwelumo (Jamie Guy 81’)
8….Jamie Cureton

Names of note within the Luton squad that season included Chris Coyne (Australian international destined to join the U’s during 2007/08), Rowan Vine (joining Luton after a loan spell with the U’s in 2003/04), and of course Dean Morgan. Dean left the U’s in September 2003 under a bit of a rumour cloud, after having his contract cancelled “by mutual consent” (make of that what you will). Only Rowan Vine started the game that night, with Morgan an unused sub on the bench, and Dean Gerken was on the bench for the U’s.

My memory is a bit hazy for this one, but I’m pretty sure that even though an evening game, I travelled over on the train – I’m sure I remember the chilly brisk walk back to the station after the match. It was certainly possible, as this was back when I lived in Salisbury, with much better train connections for me than more recent times. There were 429 U’s fans there for the match, not bad when you consider it was an evening game, and given our poor start to the season. What I certainly do remember is one of the best individual goalkeeping performances (from a sprightly 38-year old Aidan Davison) that I have ever had the pleasure to watch in all my time following not just the U’s, but football in general.

As was rather expected, Luton started strongly, and although we were giving the U’s plenty of vocal support from the back of the Oak Road Stand (and its excellent acoustics), it didn’t come as much surprise when former Ipswich striker Sam Parkin headed home from six yards to put the Hatters into a 1-0 lead in the 32nd minute. However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic, and with big Chris teeing him up perfectly, Jamie Cureton blasted home a 25-yard equaliser in the 40th minute to give the U’s faithful a big cheer, and some hope for the second half. A grainy photo from a newspaper archive is attached, and in context it is of Jamie and team-mates celebrating…in front of the Luton fans!

Davison had already pulled off a number of saves, to give a glimpse of what was to come, but after our equaliser he really came into his own. Wave after wave of Luton attacks crashed against the rock that was Aidan Davison, but he had it all that night. Acrobatic and sublime flying stops that would grace the Premier League, gnarly one-on-ones diving at the feet of on-rushing forwards, dangerous crosses plucked out of the air as if he was picking apples – Davison withheld everything that Luton threw at him. Luton’s manager, Mike Newell, put it quite simply “In the second half we created a number of chances and that is something of an understatement”. We rode our luck a bit too, Richard Langley missing a 50th minute penalty (hitting the bar), Edwards also hit the bar, and Rowan Vine had a goal disallowed in the 53rd minute for offside.

This isn’t the best photo, again from an archived newspaper report, but it conveys the right impression – Aidan defiantly in the thick of things, refusing to let anything past him.

The local press described it as the “The Aidan Davison Show!”, and I remember at the time the Luton messageboarders were unanimous that they’d never seen such a performance in their life. Aidan was quoted as saying at the time (and very modestly) “It's a long time since I've had so much to do, you have to go back a long time, to the days when I was at Bolton. I remember a game against Tranmere that was similar, which we actually won, but this was just as hectic. In fact, we were under even more pressure tonight. The luck went our way, and it was a good team effort. Luton kept pressing, and we could not relieve the pressure. However, I don't regard this as one of the very best performances of my career, because I was far too over-worked. I had too much to do. Strange as it may sound, I think some of my best games have come when I haven't had that many saves to make, because of the organisation of the defence. We need to tidy things up a little over the coming weeks, but we have a relatively inexperienced team, and the lads are learning all the time. It's a steep learning curve at this level, but we showed in this game that we really want to stay in this division”.

Luton Town 1 (Parkin 32’) Colchester United 1 (Cureton 40’)

This was just the sort of battling, backs-to-the-wall performance the U’s needed, all whilst keeping our unbeaten run going. If I’m honest, I also think this was the springboard for the rest of the season, finally giving us the confidence to realise we could genuinely compete in the Championship, and we went on to finish September unbeaten, with George Williams rightly being awarded the Manager of the Month award.

The 2006/07 season features quite prominently in my memorabilia archive, so I won’t say too much more about it now. For Luton, despite their bright start, they fell away badly after this match, and ended up relegated, alongside Leeds United and our bottom-feeding friends from South Essex. With relegation almost a certainty, Leeds shrewdly went into administration just before the season finished, when the 10-point deduction would be largely academic. Incredibly, even after a further 15-point deduction before the 2007/08 season had even started, for failing to exit administration with a CVA, Leeds still made the play-offs the following May – though they lost to Doncaster in the final.

When Steve Cotterill returned to Layer Rd with his Burnley team in February 2007, he was greeted by many hundreds of U’s fans in sombreros and various other bits of Mexican banditry attire. It was an edgy 0-0 on the day, and Burnley eventually finished 12 points and five places behind the U’s! 😊
[Post edited 30 Aug 19:22]
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