Firstly, my apologies that this is a bit later than usual – it’s been a pretty hectic week at work, and by the time I got home last night, I was ready for a few beers and not a lot more. As we approach a vital double-header at home for the U’s promotion challenge, and on 12 games unbeaten, we come right up to date with an equally vital home game from last season.
Colchester United v Lincoln City Saturday 27th October 2018 Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4) Attendance 4,962
Match #37 of the series, and we’re at home against the league leaders Lincoln City on a bright crisp October afternoon - the second time a home game against Lincoln has featured in the series. The Imps were 3 points clear at the top, we were 5th, and with one or two familiar faces from this season around us (namely Exeter in 3rd place, and Forest Green Rovers just behind us in 6th place). Today’s opponents Macclesfield were rock bottom, and already 5 points from safety, with surprise package of this season Cheltenham keeping them company in the relegation zone – puts their current success into somewhat sharp focus.
Lincoln were of course managed by Danny Cowley at the time, assisted by his brother Nicky. Many of us here lamented Robbie not taking the opportunity to snap the Cowley brothers up after their very successful 2015/16 season managing Braintree Town. Who knows, maybe he tried and they weren’t interested, or Lincoln City made a better offer, or maybe Robbie just wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to give John McGreal his first chance at full-time management? Who knows (apart from Robbie), but whatever the reason, it didn’t happen and that’s that.
Barring one or two notable exceptions, the U’s lined up with a squad bearing some close similarities to the likely starting XI today:
Not wanting to get back too late, and without the convenience of the shuttle buses to rely on, I decided to drive over for this one with Alfie, so no beers for Dad on this trip (well, maybe just the one pre-match whilst Alfie devoured a plate of chips). As always, we parked in the park ‘n’ ride and hiked across the wasteland to the ground – yes I know it’s not the officially sanctioned route, traffic hazards etc etc etc, but whilst my knees last, it’s so much quicker. I’d also taken advantage of the Early Bird discount and bought the tickets in advance for printing at home (well work, but don’t tell them).
Going into the game, the U’s had been a bit up and down, struggling to find some consistency – I offer as evidence thumping Crewe 6-0 on a Tuesday night, before wimping out to lose at home against lowly Northampton the following Saturday. October had followed that pattern, great victories against Yeovil, Crawley and Morecambe, tainted with defeats at Stevenage (damn you Guthrie) and the previous Tuesday night at Grimbsy. Lincoln, on the other hand, had only been beaten twice all season, albeit they had drawn their previous two games prior to this match, at home to both Cambridge United and then Carlisle United. Is this a record, three successive matches against all three CUFC’s?
This game is so recent that there are still plenty of reports, accounts, videos etc. available online to read, so I’ll try and restrict this to my perception of the game. There was a very good attendance that day, with S1 in excellent voice (we were in S3), and certainly buoyed by a sizeable and vocal away following of well over 1,000 Imps filling out the North Stand.
Lincoln City fans in the North Stand
As for the game, one of the more enjoyable matches I’ve watched in recent years, between two teams who at least try to play the right way, notwithstanding personal skill permitting. Lincoln showed their intent after just five minutes, with a effort long-range effort that was fortunately straight at Gilmartin. This was to become a feature of the day that I remember quite vividly, neither side showing any reluctance to fire in long-range shots on goal (take note 2019/20 U’s!). The U’s gradually eased into the game, and after 10 minutes or so KVY was really starting to torment the Lincoln defence, going close after a twisting turning jinking dribble into the box.
After 28 minutes our increasing pressure had its reward, when a near post corner for the U’s had the Lincoln defence at sixes and sevens, and after his first effort was fumbled by the goalkeeper, Frankie Kent clipped it over the prone keeper and into the net – cue bedlam around the ground, and particularly the South Stand. Naturally, this spurred Lincoln on, and for much of the remainder of the half were bringing the game to the U’s from all angles. Senior picked up a yellow card from some ‘agricultural’ defensive work, though to be fair Lincoln were no slouches in that department, and Pett joined him in the referee’s little black book not long after. Despite the pressure, the U’s were still playing some beautiful one-touch passing football, and always carried a goal threat throughout – a threat that Lincoln were well aware of. 1-0 to the U’s at half-time, and time for some refreshments – one look at the queue, screw that, Alfie can have a McDonalds drive thru’ on the way home.
Second half wasn’t really more of the same, it was more…err…more the U’s really imposing themselves in the game, and for large parts of the second half keeping the league leaders penned in their own half, throwing bodies on the line to block the goal attempts that were being fired in. This rather left the only option open to Lincoln City was to revert to type, and overly rely on hoofball to create the few chances they had second half. Decent efforts by Sammie, Frank, Chuck, Senior and Jacko all deserved more, but last-ditch defending and decent goalkeeping denied them all.
With 15 minutes to go, Danny Cowley tried a virtual double-substitution, bringing on Matt Rhead and then straight after Matt Green, to try and turn things around. With time running out, tempers started to fray a bit, with Wilson picking up another booking with eleven minutes to go…and then substitute Green just four minutes later. McGreal’s game management started to come into effect too, replacing Sammie with erstwhile striker Tom Eastman with six minutes to go, and then replacing hard-working Senior (Man of the Match) with Mikael Mandron with just one minute to go – and a well-earned standing ovation from the U’s faithful. Three minutes into injury-time, and a tussle between Frank and Jason Shackell saw them both booked, followed by Eastman a minute later (I think for verbals?). Not to be outdone, Luke decided the referee wanted his name too with seconds of extra-time to go – but the “You Can’t Fix Stupid” award for this match goes to Matt Rhead, booked after the final whistle had blown, for what appeared to be a frank exchange of views with the match officials.
Colchester United 1 (Frankie Kent 28’) v Lincoln City 0
Without a doubt, not just an absolutely vital three points against a promotion rival, but a thoroughly entertaining game in which the U’s showed that they were more than a match to the champions-elect Lincoln City. Remarkably, because it wasn’t a dirty game at all, just two teams who were fully committed, there were ten bookings, five of which were handed out in extra-time. The U’s were hitting a bit of a purple patch, and following an identical victory against Swindon the following Saturday, got themselves into the automatic promotion places, and more or less stayed there right up to Christmas.
Lincoln probably decided they really didn’t like playing CUFC teams, after drawing two and losing one in succession. However, they recovered, and only lost one more game between then and confirming their promotion in mid-April. Of course, once that was done and dusted, the wheels came off a bit, culminating in a humiliating 3-0 home defeat on the last day of the season, against the mighty U’s. Not enough it turned out to get us into the play-offs, but a pyrrhic victory of sorts – the only team in the league to do the double over the champions.
Macclesfield, incidentally, after spending virtually the entire season in the relegation zone, clawed their way out at the beginning of April, and just managed to stay out on the last day of the season, with a draw at home to Cambridge.
There’s a good quality highlights video of our game against Lincoln City on YouTube, so enjoy…
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Lincoln 27/10/18 on 19:08 - Jan 20 by ghughes11
How good was KVY!!! Also a great finish from Kent. Sammie didn't show up too much on those highlights, but did in the reverse fixture!
Who are we missing the most if any?
Bramall has the potential to be as good as KVY, but not yet in my opinion.
Kent was never as good partnering Eastman as he was with Prosser, but no one would drop Eastman this season!
Missing Sammie's goals and tenacious closing down of the defence. However Poku played an absolute blinder versus Macclesfield.
The only other player, in the starting lineup, not at the club is Gilmartin and the less said the better there.
A lot of people (myself included) have been saying that the squad has definitely improved, what about the starting XI? Thoughts........
Albeit possibly controversial, but of the three in terms or order we're missing them, I'd actually say KVY, Frankie and then Sammie - but I'd take them all back in a heartbeat if it were possible. That's not a comment on our current squad btw, as I agree that overall, in a 'greater than the sum of it's parts' way, our squad has improved from last season - it's just the mercurial talent that those three had.