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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Bournemouth 27/4/99
Written by wessex_exile on Tuesday, 17th Mar 2020 19:50

Tonight would have been our home fixture against table-toppers Crewe, and a chance to avenge the draw at Gresty Rd which really should have been a victory. However, what’s really interesting about it for me is that myself and probably a considerable number of you out there would have been watching it on i-Follow – exactly what our chairman suggested should have been the first option the EFL considered before deciding to postpone league fixtures. Ho hum, wonder how we would have got on…

Colchester United v AFC Bournemouth

Tuesday 27th April 1999

Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)

Attendance 4,168

Match #49 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and we go back again to the 1998/99 season, which from my memorabilia collection alone features 12 times, including an England U21 game at the Dell, a copy of the Blue Eagle, and Salisbury City playing in the 1st round of the FA Cup. Three of those 12 have already featured in the series (#12, #31 and #44), with Match #44 our spirited 3-3 draw at Sixfields in the battle to avoid relegation back to the basement. Match #49 is our very next fixture, on the following Tuesday night at home to promotion contenders AFC Bournemouth.

Some of you will recall this was actually a rearranged fixture, following an eventful match that was called off at half-time by referee Lee Cable back in October. I wasn’t there for that match, but I will share with you the wise words of Mr Jon Burns on that event from his CUSA News article in the programme – “There is much more than a touch of ‘deja-vu’ about tonight’s game. Cast your minds back to Saturday 24th October – the pitch was a bit damp, the U’s ‘stormed’ to a 3-1 half time lead, the stewards were wearing their invisible jackets, the ref had a change of heart and we walked home bathed in sunshine thinking of the loss of three potential points”.

The early months of 1999 provided to be quite a feast of football for me, from Saturday 30th January through to this match, I’d managed to get to eight games in less than three months; I was at Gillingham (a) but it isn’t in the collection, and I’m not counting the Man City pay per view. I know, a mere bagatelle compared to some of you regulars – but not bad from a base down here in the South West. Midweek games in Colchester have always been problematic because of work commitments the next day, but in this regard I was fortunate, as I had a couple of teams working on HS1 at the time. Easy then to arrange my diary to allow a slightly early finish on the Tuesday afternoon to leave time to get over to Essex, and then take the relatively short trip over to Kent in the morning to catch up with our site teams. Dinner and a beer were on the table as soon as got to my Mum’s, and within fifteen minutes I’d been collected by my brother-in-law and his son (my nephew), and we were off to Layer Rd.

Parking up on Capel Rd, we walked to The Drury for a couple more beers before the match. There was a sizeable following from Bournemouth that evening, not bad considering it was a long trip for a midweek match, but they were a good natured and friendly lot, and we found ourselves sat in the beer garden of the Drury happily chatting away with a group of them (and their inflatables). Whilst our focus was very much looking over our shoulder, the Cherries were clinging on to the final play-off spot going into this game, though Wigan, with three games in hand, were breathing down their necks. Bidding our companions farewell and best wishes for the remainder of the season (after tonight obviously), we headed into the ground and took up our seats in Block I of the Clock End McDonalds Family Enclosure. Always a pleasant surprise, I discovered my ticket stub – purchased by my brother-in-law in advance – inside the programme when writing this blog.

AFC Bournemouth, managed at the time by Mel Machin, were a class act with a well-deserved reputation for playing football the right way. This was helped immensely by a host of talented footballers, and their line-up that night included Mark Ovendale in goal, Eddie Howe, James Hayter, Willie Huck (signed from Arsenal for £50k on transfer-deadline day), Ian Cox, Mark Stein and Steve Fletcher. There were quite a few changes from the U’s playing squad on the back of the programme, and with Lua Lua serving the second match of his three-match red card suspension, so it’s going to be easier just to list our starting XI line-up:

1….Tamer Fernandes

2….Fabrice Richard

3….Stephane Pounewatchy

4….Simon Betts (Scott Stamps 59’)

5….David Greene

6….Paul Buckle (Tony Lock 59’)

7….Richard Wilkins

8….David Gregory

9….Jason Dozzell

10..Warren Aspinall

11..Karl Duguid (Steve Germain 81’)

Going into the match, our 3-3 draw at Northampton on the Saturday had left us on 49pts – not quite mathematically safe, one more victory would surely do that. Fortunately, our recent home form had helped immensely in that campaign to avoid relegation, and since the pay per view defeat to Man City, we’d won all three subsequent matches on the bounce against Preston North End, Walsall and Notts County. This was no mean feat, Preston North End were top of the play-off zone in 3rd, and Walsall in 2nd place for automatic promotion. There was a real buzz going around Layer Rd as a result, and helped by a fairly noisy away end and typically boisterous Barside, a cracking atmosphere that night – was there anywhere better than an evening game at a packed-out noisy Layer Rd!

Right from the outset the quality of Bournemouth was evident, it was looking like it would be a long night of struggle, and likely some considerable fortune too, if we were going to finally get the victory that Lee Cable had denied us back in October. Remarkably, on 11 minutes that fortune arrived – a long punted clearance from Fernandes sailed into the Cherries half, seemingly harmlessly too. Ovendale came out to claim it, Hayter got in a bit of a muddle and also went for it, only managing to head it over his advancing keeper and into the unguarded net – Layer Rd erupted!

Bournemouth were going through a bit of a lean spell as far as goal-scoring was concerned, it had been over six hours since their last one, and they were clearly determined to fix that. The U’s were under immense pressure right from the restart. On 15 minutes, a last-ditch tackle from Greene prevented Stein from scoring, and a few minutes later Huck left Fabrice Richard chasing shadows on the left flank but dragged his shot wide when clean through. Dozzell had seen a rare effort for the U’s blocked, but then with Fernandes beaten Wilkins had to clear a Stein header off his own line, and then Fernandes, diving the wrong way, fortuitously managed to keep out an Eddie Howe header with his legs.

In the 34th minute the U’s finally cracked – albeit in bizarre circumstances. A succession of corners for Bournemouth left the U’s penned in their own box, and for the fifth of these Huck drilled in a fierce corner which the defence failed to deal with. Fernandes saw it late and could only palm it into the back of David Greene, who could do nothing but agonisingly watch it rebound into the goal. Okay, Bournemouth more than deserved a goal, but what a sickening way to concede it. Half-time arrived with no further goals, though still plenty more pressure from Bournemouth, leaving most of us wondering whether we could hold on, and if we did, would 50pts be enough?

It’s worth emphasising the support that night – throughout a first half of almost constant pressure the Barside had been immense, never letting up, and at times with the whole of Layer Rd joining in. Always under the cosh, but never giving up hope, it really did seem to spur the U’s on, and we came out for the second half all guns blazing – and nearly restored our lead almost immediately, with a powerful Greene header going inches wide. That wasn’t to mean the tide had turned, it most definitely hadn’t, not helped by Betts nearly scored the third own goal of the night with a misplaced back-pass that eluded both Fernandes and fortunately his post. Despite the continuing pressure, the U’s were slowly getting back into the game as an attacking force. On 67 minutes, and a moment that he probably won’t look back on fondly, Ovendale rushed recklessly off his line to claim a cross from Doogie, only to miss it completely, and allowing Dozzell waiting at the back post to head into the empty net – if you think the noise levels were elevated before, you should have heard the roar from that!

Back came Bournemouth though, Fernandes pulling off a stunning save from a point-blank Stein header, Howe had a goal disallowed for a foul on Pounewatchy, and Cox hit the post. However, if anyone should have scored another, it really should have been Warren Aspinall – forcing an excellent save from Ovendale after seizing on a blocked clearance. Finally, eventually, Cable blew full-time on a match that we should have won back in October. We’d reached the magical 52pts mark, surely now the U’s were safe from relegation – the celebrations that night were something to behold.

Colchester United 2 (James Hayter 11’og, Jason Dozzell 67’) AFC Bournemouth 1 (David Greene 34’og)

It turns out we were safe, fortunately, because we lost our final two games of the season against Lincoln City at home (who were already relegated) and Blackpool away on the final day of the season. Bournemouth rallied, winning their next at York City, but a disappointing 0-0 home draw against Wrexham on the last day of the season left them level on 76pts with Wigan, but outside the play-offs on goals scored (back then, positions were decided on goals scored, not goal difference).

Anyway, as we’re twiddling our thumbs right now waiting for the season to restart, have a go at Rob Hadgraft’s quiz in the programme – I don’t have the answers btw, they’re not in the programme, so good luck!

Up the U’s

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Letters from Wiltshire #09 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by - https://twitter.com/SophyRidgeSky/status/1313874336118341632
Letters from Wiltshire #07 by wessex_exile
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