|Letters from Wiltshire #36|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 7th Mar 2021 13:29
So, Wayne Brown isn’t yet the Messiah it would seem, but nor necessarily is he a very naughty boy either. In a tricky fixture at Forest Green Rovers on Saturday evening, what I saw started as encouraging – the U’s out of the blocks fast, showing pace, urgency, passion even – but sadly lacking in actual quality on the ball. By comparison, FGR had plenty of that, and very quickly gained total dominance across all areas of the pitch, and sliced through us for two goals in quick succession with alarming ease. It probably would have been more of the same in the second half, but for the red card. It looked fair enough at the time, but following an appeal it has now been rescinded. However, even with just ten men and happily sacrificing possession, we still had nothing to open them up, and still conceded a third from the simplest of free kicks. Worrying signs for Wayne, and lots of work to do, so let’s see how things may have improved tonight…
[b]Cambridge United v Colchester United
Letters from Wiltshire #36 comes right up to date (more or less), towards the end of the 2018/19 season, and a visit to near-neighbours and local rivals Cambridge United. Back in the day, when I first started following the U’s, the CUFC derby always seemed a much more ‘edgy’ affair, with the propensity for fisticuffs much more likely. Maybe that was a 70s thing really, but it always feels these days that the fixture is a much more gentile civilised affair.
With games running out, a result from our trip to the Abbey was therefore vital if we were to get back into play-off contention (although mathematically feasible, automatic promotion had long gone as a realistic possibility). Cambridge were having a mare of a season too, and were still under the threat of relegation out of the Football League (though to be fair, Yeovil and/or Notts County would have had found a remarkable upturn in form for that to have happened).
[b]Do you want fries with that?[/b]
As anticipated, there was a large following from Essex for the match, probably about 1,200, and not far from a sell-out in the away stand. For the first half, me, Alfie and Jon squeezed ourselves into space up at the back on the stand, to the right of the goal as we looked out, whilst t’others went off in search of the remaining family they were supposed to rendezvous with. Of note, also up the back of the stand and just to our right to begin with, was Harry Pell, Frank Nouble, Todd Miller and Ollie Kensdale (Miller having made his debut for the U’s two weeks earlier at Exeter). All in club tracksuits, they’d presumably travelled with the U’s but had been given the afternoon off to enjoy the match in amongst the fans, and according to The Gazette, Harry even had a go on the drum too.
John McGreal’s U’s lined up as follows:
[b]One-way traffic at the Shabby[/b]
Wave after wave of U’s attacks either broke against the Cambridge defence, or went wide, or lacked power – it was just relentless. Sammie dribbled his way along the edge of the box before firing wide, Abs Eisa went wide with a slightly mis-hit shot, latching on to a delicate headed pass from Chuck, Sammie again dived in with a peach of a glancing header which flew agonisingly wide of the far post. When we did get attempts on target, like Frankie Kent’s brilliant header from Eisa’s in-swinging free-kick, goalkeeper Dimitar Mitov was on hand to pull of an excellent block – a double whammy because Norris blasted the rebound over the bar when it looked easier to score.
The charmed life that the Cambridge goal enjoyed just wouldn’t go away, with a wonderful, curled effort from Senior deflecting narrowly wide for a corner when it looked destined to squeeze inside the post. And thus half-time arrived, the U’s dominant in possession, attempts, corners, everything but the one statistic that counted – goals. Time for a bunch of chips, a Bovril and catch up with the rest of the gang.
Into the second half, and manager Colin Calderwood had clearly given his side a bit of the hairdryer at half-time, and for at least the first twenty minutes or so Cambridge looked like they would have some credible attacking intent. The game was certainly more even, though the U’s were still largely in control, but still the break-through goal eluded us. Ten minutes in, Ben Stevenson saw a decent effort saved under the bar by Mitov after Jackson and Senior had exchanged neat passes with each other.
Szmodics in particular was in magnificent form, constantly running at and bamboozling the Cambridge midfield and defence. Breaking down the right wing 20 minutes into the second half, he fired in a perfect cross for Norris, who again blazed over from all of 12 yards. Attempting to stifle the one-way traffic, Calderwood made a double substitution at the midpoint of the half, bringing on Paul Lewis and Jake Doyle-Hayes, which was unfortunate for Lewis, who was subbed himself six minutes later with a hamstring injury.
[b]Tick tock, tick tock[/]
…and still the clock ticked down.
Deep in injury-time, a Szmodics effort inside the box was scuffed agonisingly wide of the post – surely that was it? I’ll be honest, I’d pretty much given up hope – we’d made our way down the front to rejoin the rest of the family group, and to get ready for the exodus. The 90 minutes had been up some time ago, the referee had checked watches and linesman already, and he must have been ready to blow for full-time as soon as the ball went out of play.
[b]We have lift-off[/b]
…and then we exploded in unison! The roar of victory, relief, belief even was truly something to behold, virtually the entire squad gathered in celebration with the U’s faithful – just magnificent!
There was barely time to kick-off, it was more or less the last kick of the game, and what a way to win it.
[b]Cambridge United 0 Colchester United 1 (Kane Vincent-Young 90+6’)[/b]
Getting back from the Abbey has always been as much of a ball-ache as getting there to be honest, and despite our euphoria, this day was no different. We tried two separate Ubers trying to get to the station, eventually giving up on both and settling for the long trudge. On the way, we discovered that the feisty edge had returned briefly, with the police blocking both the road and access to one of the pubs where a bunch of U’s fans had been holed up to prevent further mischief on the streets.
It took well over an hour to finally get back to the train station and head on our separate journeys home, but a minor inconvenience in the overall scheme of things – the U’s had won 3pts and the promotion challenge was back on.
The postscript – we faltered again, losing the next two matches, and despite a late run of three wins and a draw in our final four matches, missed the play-offs by one place and one point. Worse still, one of our Ubers eventually arrived at a deserted pavement outside the Abbey…and billed me for the privilege!
The explosion as the ball hits the net really does need to be heard to be believed!
Up the U’s
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
Well, that has been a lively week for Colchester United in the press, and not least for Robbie Cowling, with not one, or two, but kind of three club announcements in rapid succession to try and put the record straight. First, we had Tribunalgate, which certainly looked very poor according to the initial press reports, but which on closer inspection when some of the ‘fact gaps’ were filled in wasn’t anywhere near the story that some would have us believe. Then of course we had the ‘leak’ that the U’s were about to go into administration, despite all the reassurances we’d been given in previous statements from Robbie. Not so said Robbie again, and particularly angry at what he believed to be the source of the story. Hence statement #3, repeating his assurances, but this time after passing through the lawyer filter to remove his thoughts on the source. To paraphrase Robbie’s conclusion to that statement, let’s hope we can all have a day off from this sort of media shenanigans and enjoy our game at Oldham tonight!
Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
Well, these sure are strange times at Colchester United, particularly for a club (nor a Chairman) not usually associated with the ‘managerial revolving door’ approach. With results not matching expectations or even minimum requirements, and a brief spell after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Wayne Brown has been released to return to the Jammers, for whenever their pandemic-interrupted football restarts. In comes not one, or two, but three new ‘appointments’. Hayden Mullins steps up as Head Coach to the end of the season, Joe Dunne apparently comes back to the U’s in a sort of unofficial coaching/ team-spirit sort of role, and exceptionally experienced lower-league former Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale arrives to provide Hayden with advice and support – crikey!
Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
This afternoon the U’s take on Bradford City in a bid to gather sufficient points to stay clear of the bottom two. It’ll be a tough gig though, even if (as I suspect) Bradford City have left it a bit too late to challenge the play-off spots. They were on a decent run of form, that is until defeats at Newport, Carlisle, Scunthorpe and a goalless draw at home to Oldham put paid to any lingering promotion hopes. For us, it’s simple, to stay out of the bottom two, for all intents and purposes we only need to gain half (or more) of the points that Grimsby or Southend do. Sounds easy, just wish I felt more confident we will…
Letters from Wiltshire #40 by wessex_exile
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