First off, congratulations to the qualifiers for this season's competition. The ever trustworthy random number generator has drawn you into the following four groups:
Group A: BFG (holder), noah4x4 and mfb_cufc Group B: Sector4, sevebalo and Lewis_1 Group C: Daniel, thrillseeker and blueeagle Group D: Blue4U2, basher2010 and concordman
The first legs are still someway off, but I thought I'd get this rolling now, to give you all plenty of time to start researching the form of the various sides in this season's competition. I will bump this thread nearer the time to remind anyone yet to post.
The fixtures are: First Legs 18/02/2020...Atletico Madrid v Liverpool 18/02/2020...Dortmund v Paris 19/02/2020...Atalanta v Valencia 19/02/2020...Spurs v Leipzig 25/02/2020...Chelsea v Bayern Munich 25/02/2020...Napoli v Barcelona 26/02/2020...Lyon v Juventus 26/02/2020...Real Madrid v Man City
Second Legs 10/03/2020...Leipzig v Spurs 10/03/2020...Valencia v Atalanta 11/03/2020...Paris v Dortmund 11/03/2020...Liverpool v Atletico Madrid 17/03/2020...Juventus v Lyon 17/03/2020...Man City v Real Madrid 18/03/2020...Barcelona v Napoli 18/03/2020...Bayern Munich v Chelsea
The rules are as before.
Three points for a spot-on, one point for the correct outcome.
There will be no first-to-post tie-break decider this round, only most spot-ons. However, please remember you are only allowed one exact match prediction with each one of your group members for this entire round (1st and 2nd legs together), so first to post may be a factor in this regard. If I spot too many exact matches I will do my best to give advance warning, but please don't rely on me to do this - you must watch this one yourselves too.
All predictions are the result at the end of normal time, extra-time and/or penalties will not count.
Prediction deadline is kick-off for any match, and all matches kick-off at 8pm.
Top two from each Group go through.
The Group qualifiers will then form two mini-leagues of 4, and play off against each other predicting all of the Quarter-final matches. Mini-leagues will be comprised as follows: Winner A, Runner-Up B, Winner C, Runner-up D and Runner-up A, Winner B, Runner-up C, Winner D.
The top two from each mini-league will then be drawn from a hat to play off in head-to-head matches, all predicting the semi-final matches.
The finalists will play-off predicting the Champions League Final, this will include predicting different aspects of the game, not just the score - and will be submitted as concealed bids (via PM to me).
I'm a firm believer that if you can't win, at least don't lose, and we're showing we have the strength of character to do that. There's no point trying to gloss over some of our recent dispiriting draws against teams at the wrong of the table, you're right, but overall 25pts from 13 matches is well over 1.9pts per game - that's still usually automatic promotion form.
Great to finally get another victory, keeps us well in the hunt. Interesting set of results elsewhere - Swindon drop 3pts at Newport, Bradford throw away a 2-goal lead to draw at home to Scunthorpe, Cheltenham lose at Crewe, and Salford win at FGR, despite having two players sent off (okay, the second was in the 5th minute of extra-time).
Tuesday is crucial, another victory against Bradford City is essential!
I would like to see him have a decent chance, but I'm not yet convinced he's our key to success this season. Scoring a bunch of goals in what is really non-league standard football in Eire (no disrespect intended) is all well and good, but this is step up for Junior.
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…
It is entirely possible, me and Daniel bump into each other in far-flung places reasonably often. You'll have to arrange your next trip back to Blightly to coincide with a U's game, and we can make sure we do.
LEICESTER CITY v SOUTHAMPTON 2-0 MANCHESTER UNITED v NORWICH CITY 3-1 WOLVERHAMPTON WANDERERS v NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-1 TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR v LIVERPOOL (17.30) 1-3 HULL CITY v FULHAM 2-1 LEEDS UNITED v SHEFFIELD WEDNESDAY 1-2 OXFORD UNITED v ROTHERHAM UNITED 1-1 SUNDERLAND v WYCOMBE WANDERERS 1-0 MORECAMBE v COLCHESTER UNITED 0-2 SWINDON TOWN v CREWE ALEXANDRA 2-1
You may well be right, I know Robbie particularly is into property these days. There was of course the well-publicised sex scandal involving the two of them and a lady following a night out in Colchester, but this being a family forum, I'll say no more about that
The U’s travel to the Globe Arena tomorrow, aiming at the very least to keep the unbeaten run going – though in truth after three somewhat disappointing draws against Exeter, Crawley and Stevenage, surely nothing less than three points is acceptable? Ahead of this trip, the Matches of Yesteryear random number generator has chosen a match which for me has a particularly bitter-sweet poignancy.
Cheltenham Town v Colchester United Saturday 22nd February 2003 Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3) Attendance 3,607
Match #36, and for the first time in the series a trip to Whaddon Road, home of Cheltenham Town. Cheltenham had been in the football league since gaining promotion from the Conference in 1999, and following a successive promotion via the play-offs at the end of 2001/02, this was the very first season we were to play each other in the football league (we had of course already met in both of our Conference seasons). This wasn’t quite my first visit to Whaddon Road, we’d also been drawn away at Cheltenham earlier in the season for a 1st round LDV Vans Trophy match on a freezing night in October, for which I had made my first trip to Whaddon Road. Rather wished I hadn’t in some ways, after the U’s were trounced 4-1 mainly as a result of a Richard McKinney horror-show which concluded on 45 minutes conceding a penalty for their first goal, with the bonus of a straight red for his troubles.
Cheltenham, managed by Bobby Gould at the time, were finding life in the third tier a bit of a struggle, and at the time of this match were bottom of the league, albeit only by one point and still well in touch with those above them, and with only five points separating the bottom nine clubs. The U’s were one of those nine, only two points above the relegation zone, and looking to make some serious progress away from danger and towards the relatively hallowed ground of mid-table obscurity (and safety). Our poor start to the season had lead former manager Steve Whitton to conclude he could do no more for the U’s, and he resigned on 29th January following a home defeat against Blackpool that saw us deep in the relegation mire. As a result, for this game we had Geraint Williams as caretaker manager – his first spell in charge of the U’s – and he wasn’t doing too badly either, getting a decent point at Stockport, victory at Ashton Gate, and then a home win against Mansfield.
The U’s lined up: 1….Simon Brown 25..Sam Stockley (Micky Stockwell 45’) 5….Scott Fitzgerald 19..Alan White 18..Liam Chilvers 7….Karl Duguid 10..Kem Izzet 6….Thomas Pinault 3….Joe Keith 23..Gareth Williams (Dean Morgan 63’) 9….Scott McGleish
My in-laws lived just outside Cheltenham, and my father-in-law particularly was a proper football supporter – born and bred within sight of Old Trafford, and a genuine Manchester United fan as a result (unlike the hordes from the Home Counties etc.). He would take any opportunity to get to a match, and was therefore delighted when his daughter hooked up with the sort of football fanatic who was always trying to get to any games that were possible. This was our second visit together to Whaddon Road, as he had braved the elements to be there with me for the dreadful LDV game too. We were never happier than with a glass of scotch or two watching Match of the Day on a Saturday night, marvelling at the skill, and howling with laughter at the incompetence in equal measure. Over the years we shared many excellent trips together to watch football, mainly Colchester United, sometimes Gloucester City, and even Salisbury City on occasion, before he was tragically taken from us by cancer at far too young an age. I can genuinely say he was one of the finest people I have had the privilege to meet, and I miss him terribly to this day. My trip to Old Trafford was tinged with the regret that he wasn’t there with me – he would have loved it.
Prior to kick off, as neither of us were wearing colours, we popped into the large home-only Cat and Fiddle pub on Whaddon Road for a pre-match beer. This is another football pub that has since disappeared, converted into flats in 2009, and subsequently demolished and rebuilt as some form of housing facility – not sure, but it looks like warden-assisted flats or some such now? I can only assume calling this new-build “Arkells” is in reference to the former pub that occupied the site?
The Cat and Fiddle shortly after closure
Back in 2003, away supporters were housed at the south end of the Wymans Stand – the new Whaddon Road End stand where we gather these days wasn’t built until 2005. I don’t recall it being a huge U’s following that day, probably no more than about 150-200 I’d guess, but we were in good voice hoping to see the positive uplift in results continued. Unfortunately, we’d barely warmed our seats when giant striker Julian Alsop headed home his tenth goal of the season after just 90 seconds. Although a massive set-back right at the outset, I always console myself in these situations with the belief that we still had plenty of time to put things right.
Cheltenham were proving to be no slouches on the pitch, despite their lowly position, but the U’s gradually began to impose themselves in the game as the first half went on. We rightly received our reward following good approach work by Joey Keith, when Gareth Williams drilled home an equaliser just before half-time. This was the first goal scored for the U’s by Williams, who had signed on loan from Crystal Palace a month earlier, along with Liam Chilvers from Arsenal. They were, I think, the last two players bought into the club by Steve Whitton – not a bad brace to finish on I reckon.
Both managers changed things around at half-time to try and gain an advantage. Gould replaced McAuley with David Bird, and George brought on Micky Stockwell for Sam Stockley (incidentally, it had been Micky Stockwell who was sacrificed following McKinney’s red card in the LDV, to allow benched Simon Brown to go in goal). The second half was just as evenly contested, with both teams well-matched on the pitch. Gould mixed it up further after 58 minutes, bringing on Damian Spencer for Tony Naylor, which was countered by George five minutes later, replacing goal-scorer Gareth Williams with Dean Morgan. The final roll of the dice was Bobby Gould’s, replacing Devaney with Marvin Brown with just over twenty minutes to go, but to no avail, and the match finished without any further goals.
Cheltenham Town 1 (Julian Alsop 2’) Colchester United 1 (Gareth Williams 44’)
Geraint Williams had finished his caretaker manager spell with two wins, two draws and no defeats, and had rightly put himself forward to become the new permanent manager. Peter Heard interviewed George and two other (then unknown) short-listed candidates in London – the Evening Gazette at the time reported on the Sunday that the interviews had taken place the day before (on the matchday!). I can’t believe that to be the case, it must have been either Friday 21st February, or Monday 24th February, and on Tuesday 25th February the relatively unknown (and completely untested) Phil Parkinson was announced as the new manager. Without the benefit of hindsight, I thought that was unfortunate for George, who I believed had earned his chance. But Parky clearly recognised the value of Geraint Williams as well, and moved swiftly to get him signed up as his assistant – and the rest, as they say, is history.
Cheltenham were to continue to struggle to adjust to life at this level, and although they did climb off the bottom eventually, they couldn’t escape the relegation zone, and finished fourth from bottom in May. Although it took a few seasons, it was our very own John Ward who eventually steered them back into League 1 via the 2006 play-off final.
Off the field, it was being widely reported that the broadcaster ITV Digital was in serious financial trouble, beset by low audience figures, piracy issues and a frankly unaffordable broadcasting rights multi-million pound deal with the Football League. This was proving to be a serious financial problem for many clubs, who based on the hype surrounding the broadcasting deal, had budgeted on the expectation of substantial revenue from the arrangement. Bradford City and Barnsley both went into administration, clubs were forced to cut staff and sell players, and ticket prices were increased to mitigate the shortfall in revenue from broadcasting. In all, 14 clubs went into administration in the four years following the collapse of ITV Digital, and many believe it was a major factor in most of these cases. Fortunately, the ever-wise and ever-prudent Peter Heard had refused to believe the hype surrounding ITV Digital, had never budgeted more than the U’s could afford, and as a result we were largely unaffected by the collapse.