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|Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Swans 3/4/01|
at 13:13 4 Apr 2020
Good afternoon everyone, North Wilts calling. We’ve all no doubt heard (and used) variations of the expression “strange times we’re going through” during this crisis. They certainly are, and without a doubt the term crisis is apt, with deaths and positive tests seemingly rising almost exponentially at the moment. But we’ll get through this, and when we do, I firmly believe as a society we’ll be better for it. We’ll be a society better connected to our family, friends and neighbours, and more caring for those that need support. More so, we'll be a society in tune with the concept that we don’t have to burn fossil fuels to conduct business, we do have the technology available to avoid it, we’ll all be pretty adept at using it, and will all be far more comfortable with using it. It's an ill wind...
Colchester United v Swansea City
Saturday 3rd April 2001
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Match #52 of the series, and by a spooky coincidence the random match selector has picked a game almost on this day, as we go back exactly 19 years and one day to a home fixture against Swansea City. Of course it shouldn’t have been, as the game should have been our New Year’s Day fixture, but was postponed back then because of frost. As were two other successive home games during that period, meaning after our 3-2 home victory over lowly Oxford United on December 22nd, our next home match wasn’t until Millwall visited on February 6th (and they won).
The U’s were managed by Steve Whitton, in his first full season in charge, and we were coming to the end of our third consecutive season back in the 3rd tier of professional football. A decent run leading up to Christmas had raised my hopes of making the play-offs. However, those hopes were cruelly dashed by a massive reality check on Boxing Day when Millwall destroyed us 6-1 at the New Den (and they scored all seven goals too). This was followed by a simply dreadful January, February and early March, winning just twice in 11 matches. Thereafter, my focus was for the U’s to get mathematically safe first and foremost, and then worry about consolidating our position mid-table – going into this game we were 14th on 48pts.
U’s legend Kemi Izzet had only recently arrived at Layer Road, on a one-month loan from Charlton Athletic. Apart from knowing he was the younger brother of well-known Leicester player Muzzy Izzet, I confess I didn’t know much about him at the time. But, he had apparently made a decent impression for his loan debut, coming on for an injured Joey Keith in the first half of our 3-1 home victory over Luton Town the previous Saturday, so I was looking forward to seeing what he was made of.
This is another midweek match that I’m struggling to recall why I found myself at Layer Rd, particularly as at the time I was supposedly managing our large team up on the M6 Toll (we knew it then as the Birmingham Northern Relief Road). If I had access to my work diaries, which are currently on a shelf in my office, I might have more of a clue, but unfortunately I don’t and I’m sure you all know the reason why. However, my calendar for that year says simply “Wick Court” for all of the week, and whilst I can’t for the life of me remember either the site or where on earth it was, it must have been somewhere reasonably close enough to Essex for me to make an evening journey over for the match?
The U’s line-up that night was:
18..Aaron Skelton (Joe Dunne 82’)
28..Barry Conlon (Dean Morgan 89’)
9….Scott McGleish (Steve McGavin 87’)
Swansea City, under manager John Hollins, were really struggling at the wrong end of the table, 15pts from safety even then, and only kept of the bottom by an even more woeful Oxford United. John Hollins, as a player, was a very talented midfielder/ full-back, who distinguished himself with a long and successful career at Chelsea (mainly), QPR and Arsenal, making a combined record total of 714 top-flight appearances. With a career that emphatic, he really should have had more than just one solitary England cap on his CV. Inevitably, his first taste of management came at Chelsea, initially as coach in 1985, and then taking over the manager role after John Neal’s retirement. He eventually arrived at Swansea City in 1998, after very briefly rekindling his playing career at Cobh Rangers (one appearance), and had definitely established himself as a fans favourite.
Having established I really have no recollection why I was at Layer Rd, it will come as no surprise that I similarly have very little recollection of the actual match details. I know I was Barside with my brother-in-law, so I presume that means we had a drink in the Drury beforehand. Even without the benefit of online soccer stats, I do remember is was a fairly sparsely populated Layer Rd that night, and at under 3k, I wasn’t wrong.
Piecing together what I can remember and what I can find online, Kemi Izzet started very brightly, and was already showing those terrier-like midfield attributes that we would grow to love. On 20 minutes, Swans veteran goalkeeper Roger Freestone kept out a decent effort from Izzet, only for Barry Conlon to power home a header as a result. Not much else to report from a tense reasonably close first half, so the U’s went in 1-0 up at half-time.
Although possibly already beyond any chance of avoiding relegation, the Swans came out for the second half as if their lives depended on it. Andy Woodman was called upon to save several clear-cut chances for Swansea during the opening period of the second half, and twice they also rattled crossbar with Woodman beaten, including a great strike from Venezuelan Giovanni Savarese just after the hour, on loan at the time from that powerhouse of world football, San Jose Earthquakes.
The pressure wasn’t doing much for my nerves – we still after all needed a few points to be absolutely certain of safety – so imagine my relief when Scott McGleish, breaking clear from the almost constant Swansea City pressure, rounded Freestone a minute later to put the U’s 2-0 up. Relief and high-fives all round, and that really took the sting out of the pressure from a now deflated and dispirited Swansea City. Joe Dunne came on with less than ten minutes to go, to further bolster a tenacious midfield already benefiting from Izzet’s presence, and we looked to be cruising to a comfortable 2-0 victory.
However, Freestone had other ideas, and following a howler gifting the ball to super Scotty, McGleish picked out Barry Conlon in the box for an easy tap in and his second goal. That was that for Swansea City, and with substitutions for man-of-the-match Scott McGleish and his strike partner Barry Conlon virtually straight after, the U’s comfortably held on to win 3-0.
Colchester United 3 (Barry Conlon 20’, 86’; Scott McGleish 64’) Swansea City 0
With the benefit of hindsight, we know that for this season, 52 points was going to guarantee safety, so despite this thumping victory over relegation-doomed Swansea City, we still weren’t quite there – one more point was needed. That duly arrived a fortnight later, in a bruising 2-2 draw at home to Posh, with new boy Izzet getting one of the goals, and we went on to finish 17th on 58pts. Not exactly a rip-roaring success, but a marginal improvement on our previous season finishing 18th on 52pts, so there was always that as a positive.
Swansea weren’t so fortunate and were inevitably relegated on just 37pts – very poor indeed, but considerably better than Oxford United, who could only manage a paltry 27pts, and they were joined in relegation by Luton Town and Bristol Rovers. As a south west based exile, all four were teams normally on my radar for an away day, so I wasn’t too chuffed. Hollins was sacked as a result of this relegation, and moved to Rochdale for the 2001/02 season, taking them to the play-offs – after haggling over his new contract following that success, he was notoriously sacked by fax in the summer.
This was technically the final appearance of Kemi Izzet for his first spell at Colchester United, but when his loan period expired a week or so later, we snapped him up on a free transfer, and he went on to make 471 appearances for the U’s in a career that spanned 13 seasons!
A true U’s legend
Up the U’s
at 21:56 2 Apr 2020
Thanks Durham - she's definitely on the mend thank goodness, spoke to her earlier today.
|All non-league football to immediately end below National League|
at 21:37 1 Apr 2020
Glad to hear it Durham, and particularly that you've managed to procure some loo roll. I agree, after the extremely unhelpful panic-buying over the last few weeks, everything does appear to be gradually calming down and stores are slowly restocking.
Best wishes to you and yours!
Up the U's
at 21:29 1 Apr 2020
All good so far - Alfie's mum (an NHS nurse) has succumbed, but appears to be on the mend now. He saw her on Saturday, she became ill on Sunday, but so far (fingers-crossed) no symptoms for him or me.
|Help for the FA!!!|
at 21:26 1 Apr 2020
Thanks Burnsie and MFB for corroborating, I knew it happened and the timeline sounds about right. I certainly remember though it was heavy and settling at the time, it was otherwise a freakish blip in what was actually quite a warm day. As a teenage boy, I do also remember being bitterly disappointed it didn't hang around for very long, though I suspect snowballs were briefly thrown
|Help for the FA!!!|
at 18:11 31 Mar 2020
One of my childhood diaries (not certain exactly which year) listed snow on a day in June/July in Colchester - can't remember the exact date, but it definitely happened.
|Norwich 1 - 7 Colchester Utd|
at 19:10 28 Mar 2020
My favourite moment of the commentary, at 1-6, was "the Canaries won't suffer a worse defeat this season" - really, just hang on for another 10 minutes
|Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92|
at 14:31 28 Mar 2020
Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.
Colchester United v Macclesfield Town
Saturday 4th April 1992
FA Trophy (Semi-Final 1st leg)
Match #51 of the series, and we return to happier times, albeit given the U’s under Big Roy McDonough were in their second consecutive season playing in the Conference. As well as riding high in the league, we were doing pretty well in the FA Trophy as well, and for this match faced Macclesfield Town in the first leg of the semi-final, and just two games away from what would be a first trip to Wembley. This was our second season attempting success in this competition, the previous finishing somewhat ignobly with a 2-0 home defeat to Witton Albion in the quarter-final.
Cup fever was gripping the town, and with Wembley in our sights, the programme featured a rousing article about our famous 1947/48 FA Cup run. Back then, we were the first non-league side to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup, and the programme recalled that moment by reproducing a number of cartoons from that time that had featured in the national press. Though a few teams have since equalled our record, it would take until 2017 before Lincoln City finally went one further and reached the quarter-finals.
I drove over for this game on my own (my partner was pregnant at the time with my first child), and after lunch at Mum’s headed over to the game with my brother-in-law. It was a long time ago, and although I remember the occasion extremely well, the precise details of the match are rather more hazy – though fortunately there are plenty of bits of reference material about to help. I certainly do remember it was a bright dry day, a very boisterous Drury was packed out before the match, as was Layer Rd when we finally got in, with nearly 5,500 jammed in (our biggest home crowd of the season at the time). Layer Rd was so packed out in fact that the kick-off was delayed by ten minutes to try and get everyone in. As well as a programme, I’m not 100% certain but this might have been the first time I also bought a Colchester United fanzine (“Out Of The Blue” – Issue 9) – it’s certainly the earliest U’s fanzine I still have, that’s for sure.
We had opened our 1991/92 Conference campaign back in August ’91 with a home game against Macclesfield, which the U’s had won 2-0. Going into this match we were of course top of the Conference, but as we know, with Wycombe breathing hard down our necks – and to say it was already a two-horse race was a bit of an understatement. I think, at the time, Redbridge in 3rd place were something like 20 points behind the U’s? Macclesfield were having an indifferent season, floating around mid-table, with no real likelihood of relegation, and certainly no chance whatsoever of going anywhere in the opposite direction.
Remarkably, as it rarely seems to happen, the U’s lined up exactly as listed on the back of the programme:
7….Jason Cook (Eamonn Collins 75’)
8….Ian Stewart (Garry Bennett 70’)
Managed by long-standing manager Peter Wragg, and without any disrespect to Macclesfield Town, none of their team that day stand out to me as notable names. A handful had football league experience, including goalkeeper Mike Farrelly (at PNE) and Mark Dempsey (Man U apprentice, and played with Sheffield United, Rotherham, Swindon and Chesterfield), but the Silkmen were widely considered as no slouches in non-league football. If nothing else, they knew their way around this cup competition, winning the inaugural 1970 Wembley final 2-0 over Telford United in front of over 28,000. They’d been there more recently too, just three years earlier, and again against Telford, though they lost that one 1-0. In the Conference, they were also known for their well-marshalled defence, with only the U’s and Wycombe conceding fewer goals at the time of this match.
Despite Macclesfield’s non-league pedigree and robust defence, no one was really expecting anything other than a U’s victory, and probably a comfortable one at that (bookies were already listing us as 5-4 on favourites to win the trophy). However, there is such a thing as complacency, and early on Macclesfield reminded us of that, when Askey should have done better from inside the penalty area than shoot straight at Scott Barrett. For the opening twenty minutes or so, it was a fairly even competition, neither side really carving out clear-cut chances.
Then, on 23 minutes that all changed – Dave Martin passed a free-kick to Ian Stewart, who tried to then feed it on to McGavin in a threating position. However, the ball struck the referee, rebounded perfectly back to Stewart, who delightfully took this huge slice of good fortune and drilled it past a wrong-footed Farrelly in the Macclesfield goal. Layer Road erupted, and the roars were still echoing around the ground when less than two minutes later it was 2-0. Another somewhat fortuitous goal, Tony English and Big Roy played a clever one-two, after a foul on McGavin was played on for advantage, with Tony’s shot deflecting off defender Hanlon and into the back of the net. We were now in uproar, everyone expecting the U’s goal-machine would just roll on and absolute demolish Macclesfield. However, they were made of sterner stuff that day, and not only managed to stifle our attacking threat, but actually get themselves back in the game.
In the early stages of the second half, with still no more goals, it was actually Macclesfield who came closest to scoring next. Askey almost atoned for his miss in the first half, intercepting an under hit back pass to Barrett, but Scott did well to race out and spread himself to prevent a goal. For Macclesfield, worse was to come not long after, with Askey this time turning provider, lifting a beautifully weighted cross over Barrett for what looked like an easy tap-in for Andy Green – but he somehow contrived to let the ball slide under his foot and the opportunity was lost.
By now, we were getting really nervous, jittery even. A 2-0 victory in the first leg would be okay, but not insurmountable, and a 2-1 home victory (or worse) could be a disaster. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man, and three minutes later we were all breathing a bit easier. With a long-throw aimed at him, I’d say McDonough made a bit more of a meal of the pressure from his marker Edwards than was really there, but it worked and the referee pointed to the spot. Who else but Roy McDonough to step up – he’d earned the penalty, he was taking it, and sending Farrelly the wrong way, hammered it into the corner of the goal.
Wembley here we come! (© EADT)
From then to the end of the match the noise was deafening, the sense of relief was palpable, surely we’d done enough now to book our first visit to Wembley! Big Roy dabbled in a bit of game management, replacing Stewart with Gary Bennett straight after his goal, and then five minutes later bringing on Eamonn Collins for Jason Cook, and we held on for a comfortable 3-0 first leg lead. According to Graeson’s ColUData website ( https://www.coludata.co.uk/) this would turn out to be Eamonn’s last appearance in a U’s shirt.
Colchester United 3 (Ian Stewart 23’, Tony English 25’, Roy McDonough 70’) Macclesfield Town 0
Spoiler Alert: We had done enough, and as I couldn’t join the army of 800 U’s fans making the long trip to Moss Rose for the second leg the following Friday night, and it won’t therefore feature in this series, I’m happy to report the U’s drew 1-1. It was nervy mind, with Macclesfield taking the lead early on, but Jason Cook levelled the scores in first half injury-time, and the U’s comfortably kept out a deflated Macclesfield in the second half.
Incidentally, the second leg should have been played on the Saturday afternoon (and I should have been there), but it was bought forward to avoid clashing with Chester City’s home game against Birmingham. Yep, you read that right, back then Chester City were in the old Third Division, alongside teams like Birmingham, West Brom, Huddersfield and Fulham.
From Issue 9 of “Out Of The Blue”, and for a bit of fun, there’s a crossword on pages 4-5 that’ll have you scratching your heads – it probably would have been fairly easy back then, but a completely different kettle of fish 28 years later – good luck brainiacs! (you might have to zoom in a bit though)
Up the U’s
|RIP Paul Wright|
at 19:37 23 Mar 2020
A moving tribute Noah, thanks for sharing. Like many, I only knew Paul by sight, but I'm sure he would have been touched deeply by your words.
|Col U 5-4 Bristol Rovers|
at 18:23 23 Mar 2020
I agree with pretty much all of that Pinault - considering it was only 20 years ago, some of the tackles were far harder than we're use to seeing these days, and yet not too many complaints/ play-acting either. I liked the pace and tempo, it was certainly much more direct than we're used to these days - a purist might say 'long ball', but it wasn't aimless, there was definitely purpose and a target in mind for much of it.
|Col U 5-4 Bristol Rovers|
at 09:10 22 Mar 2020
Magnificent, never seen that before, so thanks for posting! The noise levels at Layer Rd though, man I miss that place at times.
They say “I can remember where I was the day that...”, well on this day I was in the Bishop’s Mill in Salisbury with my mate Phil, watching Jeff as our fortunes swung back and forth throughout the match - quite an afternoon.
|Matches of Yesteryear - Wycombe v U's 6/3/99|
at 14:43 21 Mar 2020
Here we are again, so greetings to all you social distancers and self-isolationists, I sincerely hope you are all well. This would have been our third fixture since the suspension of all football in the UK, and with more and more measures being implemented by the government to minimise social gatherings, including extending the football league break until at least the end of April, one wonders whether we’ll ever finish this season? There have been numerous measures announced, including £50m from the EFL, to minimise the financial burden on us smaller clubs, but Robbie Cowling has gone on record stating that “…to really survive and go forward there is going to be help needed from the Premier League or elsewhere” – quite right Robbie.
Wycombe Wanderers v Colchester United
Saturday 6th March 1999
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
A notable milestone reached, Match #50 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and again a match from the 1998/99 season has been randomly selected, and what a humdinger it was. The U’s travelled to Adams Park for our first visit since crushing them 5-2 back in 1993. That earlier match was notable in particular as it was the first football league defeat suffered by the Chairboys – quite appropriate really that we had the honour of inflicting it. The U’s, under Mick Wadsworth, were on quite a decent run at the time of this latest visit to Adams Park, six games unbeaten, and although only two of those had been victories, we were beginning to consolidate our position safe in mid-table. Wycombe were having a much tougher campaign, and after a dreadful January (losing all five matches in a row) and only a marginally better February, they were second bottom and 6pts from safety.
I travelled over on the train for this game, to join a sizeable turnout from Essex for the match. I’m not sure how many of the faithful had turned up, but it must have been at least 7-800 I reckon. Pre-match beers were taken at a very noisy and dissolute White Horse, followed by the customary police escort to the ground. Back then, these fixtures really did still have an edge, and there were some gnarly faces in the crowd that day that I’d rarely see at most matches – and the atmosphere inside the ground was volatile to say the least. This is yet another match for which I also have a ticket stub, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an all-ticket match.
As a result of their dreadful run of results in January, Lawrie Sanchez had taken over as manager of Wycombe Wanderers in February, following the sacking of Neil Smillie with the Chairboys looking destined for relegation. Sanchez’s brief was simple, avoid relegation at all costs, and a win and a draw from his first four matches had at least stopped the rot. Mind you, Mick Wadsworth only joined the U’s a few days earlier than Sanchez took up his position – replacing Steve Wignall at the end of January – so this was very much two new managers finding their feet at new clubs. Wadsworth had wasted no time bringing in new faces, signing Stéphane Pounewatchy from Port Vale, as well as loanees Warren Aspinall and Bradley Allen (from Brentford and Charlton Athletic respectively).
All three featured for this game, as the U’s lined up:
The match itself was very much a Jekyll and Hyde performance for the U’s. For the first half hour or so we were awesome, all over a Wycombe side who looked like a team bereft of confidence, and doomed to relegation. Just three minutes in, Neil Gregory blasts home an exquisite pass from Bradley Allen to put the U’s ahead 1-0, the faithful invade the pitch celebrating, only for referee Fraser Stretton to rule it out for a highly questionable offside. Pounewatchy in particular was proving to be a huge handful, and on 18 minutes was there to flick on a pinpoint corner from Aspinall to allow Dozzell to power home a header past the onrushing Taylor in the Wycombe goal. This time it really was 1-0, and the travelling blue and white army behind the goal were going absolutely mental. Three minutes later, and it should have been 2-0 as Bradley Allen scored for the U’s, only for this one to also be ruled out for a questionable handball.
We were rampant, and surely it was only a matter of time before more goals came. However, Sanchez had started to instil some steel in his relegation-haunted squad, and slowly they started to get back in the game. On 25 minutes Emberson pulled off a world class reflex save to deny a point-blank header from Scott, and five minutes later kept out a fierce shot from the same player. With five minutes to half-time, Wycombe should have equalised, but Simon Betts pulled off an excellent goal-line clearance from a powerful Keith Ryan header, and thought they had equalised when Baird turned the ball in from six yards – but this too was quickly ruled out for offside – much to our amusement behind the goal. However, amused we may have been, but by half-time it was clear we were actually hanging on now, despite our total dominance from the start.
The second half saw a significant shift in Wycombe’s tactics, deciding they’d resort more on some proper route one stuff, and it was sadly working. There was no doubt about it now, we were under the cosh and desperately holding on, with Scott flashing a free header wide of the goal early on when it looked easier to score. On 57 minutes our defiant rear-guard action was finally breached. A speculative goal-bound effort from McSporran hit the back of Joe Dunne and fortuitously rebounded into the path of Baird, who gratefully tucked in the rebound past a stranded Emberson. A harsh way to concede, but it had definitely been coming. On 75 minutes Wycombe went one better, when a decent free-kick from Carroll was headed home by Scott in the six yard box, to give Wycombe what by then was a deserved 2-1 lead.
Finally, stung into action by going behind, the U’s decided to grow a pair and actually compete in a game they should have been comfortably winning at one point. For the last 15 minutes this turned into a real blood and thunder battle, with the U’s going close to equalising, and Wycombe still clearly capable of getting another. The contest was exemplified by Aaron Skelton, going down with an ankle injury on 80 minutes when keenly contesting a 50:50 ball…and he stayed down too, for a long time, before eventually being stretchered off. As we approached 90 minutes, the U’s were now fully in control, with Wycombe happy to waste as much time as possible to try and just hold on to three vital points. Then the board went up – 7 minutes of injury-time to come, which was greeted by a deafening roar from the away end.
And still the U’s surged forward, wave after wave crashing against a resilient defence – Abrahams blasted one across the face of goal, David Gregory sent a header agonisingly wide, but time was running out. In the 8th minute of our seven minutes of injury-time (yes, Wycombe’s time-wasting had been that apparent that even corpulent Fraser Stretton couldn’t ignore it), Wycombe forced an unlikely corner, and the match looked over. With the U’s faithful breathing down their necks almost within arms reach, Wycombe decided to try to keep the ball in the corner, but the U’s were having none of it, and after a few hefty challenges went flying in, Buckle managed to dislodge the ball and send it flying up the pitch to Aspinall, who’s slide rule pass fell beautifully into the path of Neil Gregory. Gregory just ran and ran towards the Wycombe goal, Taylor came headlong out to meet him, and ended up taking Neil out in the penalty area for a clear spot-kick (and a yellow card for his troubles). Up stepped brother David, who gleefully dispatched the penalty in the 9th minute of injury-time to send us into raptures. The sight of David Gregory running back the length of the Wycombe main stand with his finger to his lips will stay with me forever!
The whistle was blown as soon as Wycombe restarted, and the U’s had snatched a draw from what had looked like certain defeat.
Wycombe Wanderers 2 (Andy Baird 57’, Keith Scott 75’) Colchester United 2 (Jason Dozzell 18’, David Gregory 90+9’p)
What a day it had been, and the fun wasn’t over then either. Initially held back inside the ground, a large group of U’s fans tried to force the locked gate open, causing quite a bit of damage in the process. When we finally got out, everyone bound for the station was herded on to shuttle buses, there was no option to walk back permitted. Probably just as well, because it was certainly a volatile atmosphere that afternoon. The police were their usual charmless self, and that day had probably underestimated the mood of the U’s fans, which resulted in a lot of confrontation, not least when the police were told to ‘do one’ when trying to get us actually off the shuttle buses.
Eventually things calmed down, and we all headed off on our various journeys home. As I’ve already covered in previous blogs for this season, we did avoid relegation, but it ended up being closer than we thought it might be back then in March. Although they dropped two points here, under Lawrie Sanchez Wycombe went on to have a very good final two months of the season, and escaped relegation on the very last day beating Lincoln City 1-0.
Up the U’s
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