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Letters from Wiltshire #46
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 25th Apr 2021 13:51

That was quite a week for us all then. In the space of four short but remarkably tense days we have gone from having to take shoes and socks off to check how many more points we need to guarantee survival, or whether we would even achieve it, to breathing a huge sigh of relief knowing we’re almost there. But close of play this afternoon, whether by our own actions or the failure of others, I am sure survival will be confirmed. Of course, Tuesday night not only all but guaranteed it, it also virtually condemned local rivals Southend United to non-league football for the foreseeable. Looking at the host of fully professional former football league sides currently battling it out for the two promotion slots out of the National league (including Hartlepool, Torquay, Stockport, Wrexham, Chesterfield and Notts County), it is not going to be a walk in the park for Southend to return any day soon.

[b]© MI News & Sport Ben Pooley[/b]
This’ll never get old, so I make no apologies about re-posting 😊

[b]The U’sual – Issue 3, October 2002[/b]


[b]Colchester United v Bristol City
Saturday 9th November 2002
Nationwide Football League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 3,338[/b]

It’s not exactly like I’m giving you a choice, it’s just the random match selector has this time chosen Issue 3 of [b]Daniel’s[/b] fanzine [i]The U’sual[/i] for Letters from Wiltshire #46. I am not exactly sure when I collected this copy, but through a process of logical deduction based on content, I’m fairly sure it must have been available ahead of our home game against Bristol City (coincidentally, our opponents for LfW44). I know I was not at that game, so I cannot be certain exactly when I got hold of this copy, it’s possible it was one of those Daniel kindly supplied to fill in gaps in my collection? However, to cut a long story short, I am going to combine a brief stroll through the fanzine with an abridged match report from the Bristol City game.

First off, if you haven’t guessed from the front cover, at this time a lot of thoughts were focused on how to get Cuckoo Farm from planning application concept to reality. In Daniel’s editorial he mentioned he had been at the very enjoyable “[i]An Evening with Colchester United[/i]” at the Mercury Theatre on 13th October, at which Peter Heard had stressed the importance of keeping pressure on the council by writing in and supporting the planning application. As a result, the fanzine included a pro forma letter for readers to send to any of the local councillors involved in the planning application. Mine’s still in the fanzine, but I do remember actually writing in myself independently.

The fanzine contains an excellent variety of articles, many from either current or former messageboard members and/or U’s Faithful ne’er-do-wells, including: BangkokPhil, Jeff Whitehead, a hilarious [i]Room 101[/i] with Lea Finch, Episode 3 of the [i]Misadventures of Betty Swollox[/i], the letter W from the mysterious Mr Z’s [i]A-Z of Colchester United[/i], and a write-up for the U’s Ladies (remember them!) from Sparky. Lea’s first choice for [i]Room 101[/i], without hesitation, was Mick Wadsworth and his entourage, and she then proceeded to try and put most of the UK in, including football hooligans, football ground food, Wycombe, Southend and Ipswich, referees, armchair fans, the FA, and the World Cup.

[b]What about the match?[/b]

[b]Programme cover photo © www.coludata.co.uk[/b]

So, as for the Brizzle game – like I said, I wasn’t there, so this relies on the power of the internet entirely. The U’s had been through a very difficult September, losing six games on the bounce starting with crashing out of the League Cup 3-0 at Coventry City. I remember that one only too well, as my one and only visit to Highfield Road, watching us go a goal down virtually straight from kick-off, some entertaining ‘hand-bags’ argy-bargy with Coventry City fans (well, one fan in reality who fancied his chances), and conceding a late third goal when we were actually having a decent go at scoring ourselves.

Dissatisfaction with Steve Whitton as manager was growing, even though he’d somewhat halted the slide with three draws and a victory in the next four games. In his [i]U’sual[/i] editorial, Daniel wrote “[i]…the fact is the only thing Whitton is good at is making decent signings. The sooner someone else takes charge the better and it’s going to take a lot for me to take back that comment[/i]” – sentiments shared by quite a few at the time. And not without reason, we were perilously perched just outside the relegation zone, and for this game, facing a Bristol City side who had won the last six games on the trot, scoring 17 goals in the process.

The U’s lined up as follows:
1….Simon Brown
20..Micky Stockwell (Dean Morgan 77’)
24..Pat Baldwin
19..Alan White
3….Joe Keith
25..Sam Stockley
17..Bobby Bowry
6….Thomas Pinault
10..Kem Izzet
9….Scott McGleish
12..Kevin Rapley

The interesting name on our team sheet was Sam Stockley. Not that he was new to the U’s or anything, he had been with us on loan from Oxford United since the start of the season. But Whitton (and the U’s faithful) liked what they saw and Whitts had been trying to make the transfer permanent. However, the ever-colourful Oxford chairman Firos Kassam was up to his usual tricks, and at the eleventh-hour decided to insert a sell-on clause into the transfer to delay negotiations somewhat. Eventually, more than a week after it should have been done, everything was resolved and Stockley signed on the dotted line, making this match his ‘debut’ as a permanent part of the Colchester United set-up.

As it was nearly twenty years ago, you won’t be surprised to learn there’s not that much online about this game. In what appeared to be a tight first half, it took until the 42nd minute for the deadlock to be broken. Inevitably given the respective league positions, that was by Lee Peacock of Bristol City. Peacock had been at Ashton Gate since 2000 and had a well-deserved reputation as a very capable striker – when he eventually moved on in 2004, his strike rate for the Robins was better than one every three games.

Into the second half, it only took ten minutes for the U’s draw level, with gallic-flair Thomas Pinault scoring what was described by [i]The Evening Gazette[/i] as a ‘[i]wonder goal[/i]’. On his day, Pinault was such a fantastically talented footballer to watch, but I always wonder whether we really did get the best out of him…or indeed if anyone did? Buoyed by the equaliser, the U’s probably took the game to their lofty opponents…

…and then promptly conceded a second less than two minutes later…you guessed it, another Peacock goal of course.

the most unlikely of sources, on 66 minutes Bobby ‘Sideways Bob’ Bowry equalised for the second time for the U’s. This was only Bobby’s second goal for the U’s, and it would turn out to be last also, and fortunately this time we managed to avoid conceding straight after.

But we must have showed some grit that afternoon, and barely eight minutes after that, and from With just over 20 minutes to go Whitton replaced Micky Stockwell with Dean Morgan, which to me reads that he was actually going for the win, rather than hold on to the point? Bristol City manager Danny Wilson made a double substitution in the 87th minute, which also suggests to me he too was going for the win, and I can only imagine this one ended with both sides having a right go.

But the U’s held on, to earn a very valuable, and indeed extremely respectable point.

[b]Colchester United 2 (Thomas Pinault 55’; Bobby Bowry 66’) Bristol City 2 (Lee Peacock 42’, 58’)[/b]

Bristol City continued their form in the league, eventually just missing out on automatic promotion by one place, finishing top of the play-off contenders. They had already been on one trip to the Millennium Stadium that season, beating Carlisle United 2-0 in the Football League Trophy final. However, it wasn’t to be a second trip, losing over two-legs in the play-off semis to fierce local rivals Cardiff City (as [b]Noah[/b] has said, not matches for the faint-hearted). Cardiff won the final at their ‘home’ stadium, beating QPR 1-0 after extra-time, to take the final promotion place despite only finishing in the last play-off spot.

Despite our excellent point, the U’s briefly slipped into the relegation zone after the Bristol City match, before clambering back out with victory at Notts County, a draw at home to Plymouth Argyle, and a second win on the road at promotion-chasing Luton Town. Then the wheels, which had only just been put back on, came well and truly off again.

A disastrous run of just two points from the next seven games plunged the U’s well and truly back into the relegation zone, and the 29th January marked the end for Steve Whitton as manager. Geraint Williams steadied the ship as caretaker, before handing over to Phil Parkinson on his arrival on 25th February. The turn-around was dramatic, and by the end of the season we had climbed to 12th place, well clear of danger – but the best was yet to come.

Up the U’s

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When Saturday Comes #10 by wessex_exile
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