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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Accrington Stanley 13/1/04
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 18th Apr 2020 13:33

Happy Saturday everyone…well, less of the happy actually, with rain falling freely since yesterday afternoon. Still, good weather to be in lockdown for, takes away that feeling that you might be missing out on some quality time outside. In an open letter yesterday to all supporters of EFL clubs, chairman Rick Parry stated “…with or without spectators, delivering a successful conclusion to the 2019/20 season remains our goal to ensure the integrity of our competitions”. If that can be achieved, it appears almost certain these will be matches behind closed doors, streamed live to all supporters – which inevitably will break the long-held Saturday 3pm blackout for televised matches. We all know why that blackout was in place, but this is a difficult time, and it requires an innovative solution.

Colchester United v Accrington Stanley

Tuesday 13th January 2004

FA Cup (3rd Round replay)

Attendance 5,611

Match #55 of the series, and we have the midweek FA Cup 3rd round replay at Layer Rd against (then) non-league Accrington Stanley back in 2004. I wasn’t at the original 0-0 draw at the Crown Ground, but by all accounts it wasn’t exactly a stimulating affair, with the U’s under the cosh for much of the match. Post-match Accrington Stanley manager John Coleman observed “it felt like a defeat. We created a handful of chances and their keeper must have been man of the match as he produced some world-class saves”. Simon Brown was indeed hailed as the Man of the Match, pulling off a number of stunning saves to keep the U’s in the competition. Going into the replay, both teams knew a trip to Coventry City in the 4th round would be the reward – not exactly a glamorous tie, but the Sky Blues were a solid mid-table Nationwide First Division side at the time, so definitely a tricky prospect, and maybe a bit of a payday too.

There is quite a back-story to this match, why I was there, and particularly who I was with, so bear with me. At the time, my company was carrying out the archaeological excavation at the former St Mary’s Hospital site, in advance of the Balkerne Heights redevelopment. Whilst I wasn’t managing this particular project, I wore many hats at the time, one of which was the company H&S Coordinator, and all of the fieldwork management staff carried a responsibility for carrying out staff appraisals. So, with the replay date confirmed, and the prospect of a 4th round match away at higher league opposition, it was highly appropriate, urgent even, that I visited the site on the Tuesday afternoon to carry out a site H&S inspection, and then schedule an on-site appraisal for one of our supervisors for the following Wednesday morning – perfect! Whilst I didn’t take this site photo, it was from that excavation, capturing a particularly stunning sunrise behind Balkerne Gate, Jumbo and the Hole-in-the-Wall pub.

But there’s more…my wife Em was working on the site at the time, and we had found out a few weeks earlier she was expecting Alfie – happy days! Here she is on site at the time, just about to start the excavation of a late 4th century Romano-British burial. The black lines you can see are the stains left from the decayed remains of a coffin – though corroded coffin nails do survive, there’s no wood left at all, it’s just a shadow in the sand, but visually still quite striking.

I have considerable form when it comes to dragging friends along to U’s matches, and many of you have over the years met many of them at various matches. Everyone who knows me knows of my U’s obsession, and pretty much all of that site team knew only too well that I had an ulterior motive for my visit, and that the U’s were at home in the evening. As a result, not only did Em come along to Layer Rd for her first taste of the U’s, but six more came with us – nine in all if you count Alfie 😊. This required a bit of pre-planning, as a big crowd was anticipated, so I’m pretty sure for the first and only time, I actually booked eight barside tickets ahead of the match, which after swift ones in the Drury were duly collected from that little booth out front pre-match. It was one of those truly magical evenings at Layer Rd, a chill in the air, mist hanging low, breath steaming, the floodlights gleaming, and a bumper noisy crowd expecting a rip-roaring night of football – we weren’t going to be disappointed. In Issue 7 of Daniel’s The U’sual fanzine (published a week or so after this match) his editorial reflects on the limited success of the “Mates Day” bring a friend campaign for Saturday’s home match against Barnsley, with only 3,507 turning up, and that “…perhaps everyone got the fixture wrong and instead brought a mate to the Stanley game a few days later…5,611…” – you’re welcome Daniel 😊.

The U’s line-up that evening was:

1….Simon Brown

22..Greg Halford

5….Scott Fitzgerald

18..Liam Chilvers

25..Sam Stockley

12..Craig Fagan (Alan White 87’)

10..Kem Izzet

6….Thomas Pinault

3….Joe Keith

8….Wayne Andrews (Rowan Vine 76’)

9….Scott McGleish

As with our 2nd Round opponents Aldershot Town, Accrington Stanley were a reformed club, established back in 1968 two years after the collapse of the original Accrington Stanley – and this was their first visit to Layer Rd since that collapse. After many years spent in the lower tiers of non-league football, and after the appointment of long-serving manager John Coleman in 1999, Stanley had finally found some success through promotion to the Conference. They weren’t doing too bad either, still in with a shout of making at least the play-offs, and had certainly been tough opponents in the original match. I’ll be honest, and with no disrespect at all intended, I’m not certain whether any of the Accrington Stanley line-up that evening went on to have notable careers in professional football. The one name that stands out in their line-up was no. 8 Paul Cook, who had a long and successful career at many league sides over the years, and had signed for Stanley in the summer, after captaining Burnley the season before.

The U’s were facing their own relatively modest struggles too, with an injury crisis ruling out regulars including Duguid, Andy Myers, Gavin Johnson and Bobby Bowry. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and for a youthful Greg Halford, this meant his FA Cup debut (he was on the bench for our 1st Round match against Oxford United, but didn’t come on). The game itself was one of the more hot-blooded feisty affairs I’ve witnessed follow the U’s, with the intensity on the pitch more than matched by the support from the terraces – quite one of the best Barside atmospheres it’s been my pleasure to be part of, and I think quite a surprise for those who came with me, who were perhaps expecting something a bit more ‘lower league’.

It didn’t take long to get going either, in the 10th minute Accrington Stanley though they had scored, only for referee Phil Joslin to rule it out – can’t remember what for, possibly offside? However, there was nothing wrong in the 11th minute when a beautiful cross from Craig Fagan was met with the sweetest of (right foot!!!) volleys from Joe Keith, and Layer Rd erupted – absolutely bedlam, huge surges forward, and everyone getting tossed around like ragdolls in their delirium. This came as a considerable surprise to poor Em, who really wasn’t expecting anything quite like that, and she couldn’t work out whether to join in the bedlam, or perhaps remonstrate with the unruly ruffians behind her she considered responsible 😊. The game went on, and tackles were flying in everywhere, the U’s definitely giving as good as they got. Even the subs warming up got in on the act at one point, having a bit of a ding dong with each other on the touchline.

At half-time, Coleman and his bench were incandescent with rage about…well, I’m not actually too sure about what – it wasn’t as if his team were whiter than white on the agricultural football front, maybe he felt cheated in some way, maybe he was still seething about not finishing the job the first time? Maybe the disallowed goal, and a strong penalty appeal also waved away? Perhaps he was just picking up on the intense atmosphere around Layer Rd that night? I don’t know, but he was so fired up that the police had to intervene as he tried to remonstrate with the officials as stewards were escorting them from the pitch, and for his trouble John Colman was sent to the stand for the second half.

Into the second half, and even with seething John Coleman sat in the stand, their bench were just as vociferous, arguing almost every decision against them, and the team on the pitch were certainly picking up on the vibe too. However, we weren’t exactly choirboys ourselves, this was a proper rip-roaring roll your sleeves up cup tie, and I was loving it! As the second half progressed, the U’s were comfortably in control, Barside was in full voice, and the cherry on the cake finally arrived with six minutes to go. And who else than man-of-the-match Joe Keith to do it, sealing victory with a stunning left foot pile-driver of a shot. Em was better prepared this time, but still we were tumbling all over the place as a euphoric Layer Rd celebrated in style! Our cause was helped immensely when Stephen Halford (no relation) picked up a second yellow card a couple of minutes later (I think Coleman literally exploded at that point). Parky tightened things up straight after that, sacrificing Fagan for Alan White, and as the U’s sat deep, Accrington Stanley did get a last-minute consolation through Paul Mullin. However, nothing was stopping the U’s progressing to the FA Cup 4th Round that night, and a trip to Coventry City beckoned.

Colchester United 2 (Joe Keith 11’, 84’) Accrington Stanley 1 (Paul Mullin 89’)

Walking back into town after the match, everyone in the group agreed it had been a brilliant night, great fun, great atmosphere, and cracking celebrations – even a slightly bruised Em. A very close friend, and now part of my management team, reckoned it was one of the most enjoyable but dirtiest matches it had ever been his pleasure to enjoy – and he supports Bristol City!

Following the game, and as a result of referee Phil Joslin’s match report, the FA charged both John Coleman and his assistant Jimmy Bell with misconduct over their behaviour – I don’t know what came of that, or if anyone from Colchester United was dragged into it as well, but it certainly didn’t surprise me.

Accrington would take a few more seasons to reach the football league; after turning fully professional the following season, and still managed by John Coleman, they gained promotion in 2006. Coleman stayed at Accrington Stanley until 2012, and after a couple of seasons managing Rochdale, Southport and even a brief spell at Sligo Rovers, returned to Stanley in 2014, and is still there to this day – there’s loyalty for you.

Incidentally, the colu_official YouTube premiere this afternoon is our vital game for survival against Preston North End, which happened to feature as Match #1 of this series – I’m looking forward to this one!

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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