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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v PNE 3/5/15
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 2nd Aug 2019 16:11

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.

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Letters from Wiltshire #05 by wessex_exile
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