|When Saturday Comes #24|
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 29th Jan 2022 22:08
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] this weekend, I will find myself heading south to meet up with my mate Craig, his brothers and no doubt many hundreds of other Spireites for their match at Eastleigh Football Club. As a result, with an early start planned, this weekend’s blog is a bit earlier than usual. The last time we all did a Chesterfield awayday, the then struggling Spireites won 2-1 at Havant & Waterlooville with an injury-time penalty, so I’m hoping for something similar tomorrow.
By coincidence, when considering names for the new U’s manager, I offered the suggestion of the Spireite’s manager James Rowe as a worthy contender. Not only is he a local lad (born Ipswich, spent much of his playing career in the general East Anglian region), but he’s doing exceptionally well at Chesterfield – or at least he was…
Good job Robbie didn’t listen to me, as Rowe is currently suspended amid misconduct allegations that are being investigated by both the club and the police. If you can be bothered, there are places you can go on the internet to read some pretty heavy hints on what form that alleged misconduct took, and not particularly edifying if those rumours turn out to be true. But I’ll leave that for the police and Chesterfield Football Club to resolve in due course. I’ll be honest though, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rowe doesn’t stay at Chesterfield.
Across the pond, former president Donald Trump has, for the first time, given a reasonably clear indication he intends to run again in 2024. Whilst playing golf at one of his clubs in Florida, he has been recorded correcting an off-camera commentator who described him as the “45th President of the United States” by responding “45th [i]and[/i] 47th”. As if four years of his brand of white supremacist politics dominating both their domestic and foreign policy weren’t enough – heaven help us!
Some good news though, the EU has now brought in a ban on the widespread routine administration of low-level antibiotics to otherwise healthy farm livestock. Experts have long warned that the practice would, indeed probably already has, allowed “superbugs” to breed that could potentially pass to humans. The UK government has long opposed the ban but has agreed to a public consultation on the matter later this year. It should also be added that many responsible UK farmers have long since stopped the practice, but campaigners still warn that the significant reduction still hasn’t gone far enough.
Although his football career took a little while to really take off, with a succession of loans whilst under signature with firstly Gravesend & Northfleet, and then Ebbsfleet, Bristol City and Crawley, John finally got out of the loan-zone and signed for Pompey in 2013. After failing to score in 11 appearances, he dropped out of the Football League to Alfreton Town, albeit scoring an impressive 19 goals in 45 appearances, which captured the attention of Barnet in 2014.
In four seasons with Barnet, John scored an equally impressive 90 goals in 177 appearances. Following their relegation back to the National League in 2018, John was snapped up by Lincoln City, over two seasons scoring a pretty healthy 25 goals in 81 appearances, before signing for Gillingham at the start of the 2019/20 season. Whilst he certainly hasn’t been as prolific at Gillingham as elsewhere, John is still a powerful 6’2” striker very much in the traditional centre forward mould, and I’m looking forward to seeing how he and Freddie can feed off each other in a Cureton and Iwelumo sort of way.
[b]Welcome to the U’s John Akinde[/b]
In other news, Tommy Smith is again away on international duties for New Zealand and will miss tomorrow’s game against the Robins and Tuesday’s visit of Rochdale. Tommy started on the bench for New Zealand this afternoon, coming on in the 69th minute with Jordan already 2-1 ahead. Jordan eventually won 3-1, so commiserations Tommy, good luck in the next match, and safe travelling home.
On the flipside, Swindon went one better, beating the U’s 6-1 at the County Ground in 1963, and there was also a 4-0 defeat at the County Ground in 1957, both presided over by Benny Fenton. In our recent history, their 4-1 mauling of Kevin Keen’s U’s at the JobServe in 2016 probably still gives some of us sleepless nights. Coincidentally, given the John Akinde connection, our most common opponent is Gillingham btw, with 102 matches in all competitions.
[b]Match of the Day
[b]No programme for this one, just a scribbled calendar entry to mark the occasion[/b]
[i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC24 is back to the random match generator, but has still managed to choose what will be my very next destination following the U’s, a trip to Brisbane Road next Saturday. The match chosen from my memorabilia collection was our visit back in October of 2009, with the U’s going well under then manager Aidy Boothroyd.
That season did of course start under Paul Lambert, including that legendary 7-1 thrashing of Norwich City at Carrow Road. But, following off-field shenanigans I won’t dignify with comment, Lambert very soon after walked out on the U’s for Norwich City, and following a brief caretaker stint by our current Assistant Manager Joe Dunne, the reins were taken up by Aidy Boothroyd at the beginning of September.
Even though the concourse fans experience at Brisbane Road has always been considerably worse than at the JobServe – no beer, over-priced poor fare, and huge queues for both food and the loos, a trip to Brisbane Road has always been high up on my list of preferred awaydays. Partly because London trips are relatively straightforward, and invariably offer the opportunity for a few at Hamilton Hall, but mainly because the away support is usually magnificent.
Okay, so these visits do tempt out some of our darker gnarlier elements from the Barside days, but with the excellent acoustics in the away stand, Brisbane Road is an excellent opportunity for the U’s to be loud and proud. I’m certainly hoping it’ll be more of the same next Saturday – just imagine what it’ll be like if we arrive on the back of three victories in succession under our new interim management team! For a taste of the potential, here’s one of my favourite YouTube videos, an episode of the excellent Palmers FC “On the Road” series, for our hugely significant (for Orient) visit on the eve of their Bechetti-besmurched relegation out of the Football League.
The transition from Lambert, via Dunne, to Boothroyd had been a little unsettling, with back-to-back defeats at MK Dongs and home to Leeds United at the end of August, but Aidy had done well in his first month to settle the ship, and was undefeated in six going into this game, with the U’s sitting comfortably in 4th place. We also had a score to settle, after Leyton Orient dumped us out of the League Cup in the 1st round, and that at the JobServe too. In fairness, that defeat was right in the middle of Lambert being a proper Lambert, so we could be forgiven for being somewhat distracted at the time.
Aidy’s U’s lined up:
As for the O’s, it’s worth highlighting the strength of the Colchester United connections (either former or to be) on display that day. Not least they were at the time managed by our very own Geraint Williams. In their line-up was former U’s favourite Scott McGleish, and former U’s loanee Ryan Jarvis. In goal was Jamie Jones, who would join the U’s six years later, and of course Charlie Daniels, who would join…and leave…this season. There may well have been other names too, but those are the obvious ones I recognise from their squad that day.
After a few pre-match beers in both Hamilton Hall and the Coach & Horses, we joining the massed ranks of the faithful on a boisterous away terrace, and it didn’t take long for me and Jon to witness the first bit of action in the game. Barely 60 seconds in fact, with an effort from JJ cleared off the line by Luke Summerfield, with the ‘keeper beaten. In the penalty area melee leading up to that effort, the Orient ‘keeper Jamie Jones was injured. After lengthy treatment on the pitch, Jamie was eventually stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask, to be replaced by their substitute ‘keeper Glenn Morris.
Although there was universal concern for Jamie Jones, as he was applauded off the pitch from all sides, we didn’t let emotion cloud our purpose. Turning the screw to test Morris, not long after Clive Platt narrowly missed with a glancing header from a perfect John White cross. In an almost carbon-copy effort, in-form striker Odejayi did the same from a Marc Tierney cross. The O’s were struggling to cope with our pace in attack, but failure to capitalise almost cost us, with Ben Williams forced into a superb one-handed save from Andros Townsend.
Improving with the confidence that chance gave, Scott McGleish went close with an effort for the O’s that he hooked narrowly wide. In the final minutes of the first half Odejayi probably should have done better with a close-range effort that somehow failed to hit the back of the net. It had been a feisty nervous end to the first half, with the U’s marginally the better side, but still with no goals to show for it.
As with the first half, anyone still stuck in refreshment or bog queues and late back to their seats would have missed a golden opportunity for the U’s to take the lead. On 23 seconds (according to the Evening Gazette report) Kevin Lisbie showed his class down the wing, drilled in a perfect cross onto the toes of JJ, but somehow replacement ‘keeper Morris managed to brilliantly turn his low effort around the post for a corner.
The pressure was building though, and less than ten minutes later the U’s had their just reward. An Anthony Wordsworth corner was flicked on by JJ, and there was Odejayi to head home his fourth in three games and send the U’s faithful berserk. Now more comfortably in control, we did suffer a setback as we had to make our own injury substitution, and the second use of the Brisbane Road stretcher, when John White was taken off on the hour mark, to be replaced by Phil Ifil.
In the next quarter of an hour, George made the first two unforced substitutions, bringing on Pires (not that one) for Jarvis and Patulea for Scowcroft, but still they couldn’t unlock the U’s stubborn determination to hold on to their 1-0 lead. Aidy responded by giving Odejayi a well-deserved rest with 12 minutes to go, bringing on Steven Gillespie, and five minutes later the equally hard-working Lisbie was replaced by Matt Heath.
And that was that. Despite a late stinging drive from Andros Townsend which Williams tipped effortlessly over the bar, the U’s hung on in a traditionally gritty Boothroyd match to take the deserved three points back up the A12 with them.
[b]Leyton Orient 0 Colchester United 1 (Kayode Odejayi 54’)[/b]
The victory took the U’s up to 3rd place in the league, and we would hold on to our play-off spot all the way through to a 1-0 defeat at home to Millwall in early April. In truth though, the writing had been on the wall since a 3-2 defeat at Bristol Rovers at the end of February, and from then through to the end of the season we only managed two more victories – a 3-0 win over tomorrow’s opponents Swindon Town in early April, and a consolation 1-0 win, and the double, over Leyton Orient on the last day of the season.
Our fall from grace in the second half of the season had been as spectacular as our rise to the play-offs before it, and no one seemed particularly concerned when Aidy Boothroyd decided to leave the U’s at the end of the season to take over the helm at Coventry City, at the time a Championship side. He would be sacked before the end of the following season, and after a brief stint at Northampton, ended up managing various England youth teams. In 2021 he left the England set-up, announcing his intention to return to club football, but I don’t think he has yet.
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Blogs by wessex_exile
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When Monday Comes #37 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and we reach the end of a topsy-turvy season, much of which hasn’t been that much fun if I’m honest, though latterly considerably improved under Wayne Brown. If I can, I always like to do the first and last game of the season, but sadly a trip to Hartlepool just wasn’t on the cards, not if I actually wanted to get home again tonight, so I had to console myself with a pretty enjoyable trip to the JobServe last weekend – not quite the victory the U’s deserved over Walsall, but a great day out anyway. I know it’ll be too late for the Player of the Year awards, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a Freddie Sears hat-trick this afternoon to round off the season.
When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] tomorrow, and I will be on a train heading over to God’s own county for my last U’s game of the season. That should have been last Friday’s trip to the Principality, but as posted elsewhere I was more than happy to be pre-booked to dog-sit Emma’s collie Reggie that night and had to be content with one of Nadine’s ‘downstreams’ on iFollow. Given both the performance and the result, whilst I was sorry to miss it in person, I was more than happy with how Friday night turned out in the end. Tomorrow will be a gathering of the clans for us, with at the last count at least 8, possibly more, of the family gathering for the match. Ironically, I’ll see them all again on Bank Holiday Monday for a family birthday, but I’ll be driving over for that one.
When Saturday Comes #35 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and the U’s have already given us a fantastic start to the weekend, with a stirring and well-deserved 2-1 victory at promotion-chasing Newport County. Yes, the Exiles had lost the previous three at home and are looking like they are going to bottle their chance for the play-offs, and yes with the U’s now safe technically we had little to play for, but don’t take anything away from this performance. If Wayne Brown is still being ‘interviewed’ for the full-time role as Colchester United manager, then last night was the equivalent of having an excellent incisive question of your own lined up for the interview panel.
When Saturday Comes #34 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and our Easter Bank Holiday programme is already underway, following a dismal 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park yesterday. It’s not so much the result that galls, in truth deep down I suspect we all thought it was going to be a difficult trip to get anything out of, it was the manner of that defeat. To say the U’s were lacklustre is a massive understatement – and it wasn’t as if it was down to Exeter City simply outplaying us, I didn’t think they were all that to be honest. I can cope with defeat, heaven knows the U’s have given me enough practice in recent years, but to go down without a whimper, relying on Man of the Match Sham to keep it from becoming a cricket score against an average Exeter City, was just dreadful.
When Saturday Comes #33 by wessex_exile
[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and there was a time, not too long ago, when today’s game against the charmless Steve Evans and Stevenage was looking like it might be a relegation 6-pointer. Whilst we’re not out of the woods quite yet, back-to-back victories over Tranmere Rovers and Harrogate mean we go into this game knowing even if we were to slip up against Stevenage, we’ll still be 8pts plus goal difference ahead of them, and only five games left to play. Still, let’s not dwell on negatives, because three wins on the bounce will be the confidence-booster we’ll need ahead of the tough trip on Good Friday to St James’ Park.