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Matches of Yesteryear - Yeovil v U's 4/11/03
at 16:58 13 Dec 2019

Ahead of a tricky trip to Scunthorpe tomorrow, our Matches of Yesteryear series returns to the EFL Trophy in November 2003, back when it was known as the LDV Vans Trophy.
Matches of Yesteryear - Yeovil v U's 4/11/03
at 16:57 13 Dec 2019

Ahead of a tricky trip to Scunthorpe tomorrow, our Matches of Yesteryear series returns to the EFL Trophy in November 2003, back when it was known as the LDV Vans Trophy.

Yeovil Town v Colchester United
Tuesday 4th November 2003
LDV Vans Trophy (2nd Round)
Attendance 3,052

Match #29 of the series, and we are at Yeovil for the second round of our 2003/04 LDV Vans Trophy cup run. Sounds familiar? Well it should do, this cup run has already featured in the Matches of Yesteryear series, with games against both Northampton and Southend already covered. This doesn’t come as a surprise to me, as I managed to be at all six matches of this cup run. To ease the burden on clubs and their supporters, this competition is regionalised into Southern and Northern sections. However, this was of little benefit to the U’s faithful, facing a long trip to Cheltenham for the first round, and then an even longer trip to Yeovil for the second round – let’s face it, most of the clubs in the Northern section were closer! However, these were perfect for me and the other south west exiles.

This was Yeovil’s first season in the football league, having smashed their way to the Conference title by a whopping 17 points, scoring 100 goals and with a goal difference of +63 in the process. The points margin at least was, and possibly still is, a record for that division. For the U’s, one league above, this was Parky’s first full season in charge, and an opportunity for him to start putting into practice what he had learned gaining his UEFA A and B Licences, and the whole concept of sports science, diet, training etc. that he had been exposed to at Reading. It was working too, and coming into this match we were 3rd in the league, after winning 1-0 at Wrexham on the previous Saturday (by a curious coincidence, Yeovil’s opponents in the FA Cup 1st round the following Saturday).

The U’s lined up:
1….Simon Brown
22..Greg Halford (Scott McGleish 71’)
5….Scott Fitzgerald (Pat Baldwin 90’)
19..Alan White
25..Sam Stockley
12..Craig Fagan
6….Thomas Pinault
17..Bobby Bowry (Richard Johnson 77’)
3….Joe Keith
8….Wayne Andrews
16..Rowan Vine

Before we move on to match, it’s probably worth reflecting that this was our first visit to Huish Park since that terrible day in the FA Cup almost exactly three years earlier, when we were well and truly hammered 5-1, all the goals coming in the second half. Quite a few on the pitch this evening played that day, including Simon Brown, Scott Fitzgerald and Alan White, so we had plenty to prove, and with the added determination that we weren’t going to be giant-killed again.

I was living in Salisbury at the time, so a trip to Yeovil was the simplest of journeys on the train, albeit both of Yeovil’s train stations happen to be about a zillion miles outside the town itself. But, there was a perfectly good shuttle bus from Yeovil Junction into the town, and a late train home that evening that should be comfortably achievable. I also had time for a couple in The Bell before the match, to be the scene of some epic celebrations a few years later on that fateful day in May 2006.

I was also fortunate to meet up with James in the pub too, another former visitor to the U’sual shores (JAS if anyone remembers him – he’s the one kneeling down in the photo), and I know his dad quite well too. It won’t come as too much of a surprise that the open away terrace on a cold winter’s evening wasn’t exactly crammed – about a hundred or so I reckon, but considering this was only the second round of what was even then quite an unfashionable competition, not a bad turnout from both us and the Yeovil fans.

As for the match, or at least what I can recall, the U’s were under considerable pressure right from the start, and you would have had difficulty telling which team were the higher league side to be honest. It certainly didn’t come as much of a surprise when Jake Edwards put the Glovers ahead with just 11 minutes on the clock. They had other chances too, with Gall and Edwards keeping our rear guard like rabbits in the spotlight for much of the first half. However, very much against the run of play, four minutes from half-time Wayne Andrews levelled for the U’s, to at least give us something to keep warm jumping up and down for.

The second half continued in a similar manner, albeit the U’s were starting to push out more, and hold a higher line. Gary Johnson was the first to change things around, replacing Colin Pluck (plucking Pluck if you will) with former youth player Steve Reed. Whether this was a tactical masterstroke, or just plain coincidence, Yeovil restored their lead 8 minutes later when that thorn in our side Gall put the Glovers 2-1 up. This then was probably the turning point in the game, with Johnson pretty much immediately substituting Jake Edwards with more defensively-minded Adam Stansfield, and shifting to one up front. Suddenly, relieved of pressure on the defence, the U’s starting to be able to play their own game. Parky made his own attacking substitution, replacing Halford with Scott McGleish, and it paid off before too long, with Scotty equalising for the U’s.

I know Parky took off Bowry for Johnson at about the same time as the goal, I just can’t remember if it was immediately before or after the goal (think it was the latter). From here to the end it was all U’s, with Yeovil struggling to get to grips with the game following their formation change. However, though plenty of chances came our way, it wasn’t to be, and normal time finished 2-2. Parky bought Pat Baldwin on for the start of extra-time, as fresh legs for Scott Fitzgerald, but despite plenty of huffing and puffing from both sides, there were no more goals, and thus on to the dreaded penalty shoot-out – never usually a positive thing for the U’s back in the day.

The penalties were taken at the far end, in front of what is known these days as the Thatchers Gold Terrace, where Yeovil’s more vociferous supporters stand, which wasn’t a good start as far as we were concerned. However, it certainly didn’t faze Simon Brown, who superbly saved Gavin Williams opening penalty. Rowan Vine, Kevin Gall, Scott McGleish, Adam Lockwood and Wayne Andrews all then comfortably converted to leave things poised 2-3 to the U’s after three kicks. Then came Simon Brown to the rescue again, with another excellent save to deny Darren Way, leaving Joe Keith to convert our fourth out of four to send the U’s through 4-2 on penalties.

What was really funny about this was that Gary Johnson had brought on Jamie Gosling in the dying seconds of extra-time, presumably as his fifth and final penalty taker, and he never actually had the chance to take a kick thanks to Joey – in fact I don’t actually think he touched the ball at all, is this some sort of record?

Yeovil Town 2 Colchester United 2 aet (2-4 penalties)

After the match, Gary Johnson wasn’t a happy chap, and is reported as saying "We are all disappointed because we should have been four up in the first-half. The game should have been over. We outplayed them, but we didn't outscore them. I don't want to keep on meeting the press after a game saying that although we played very well we lost".

He added "We only scored two goals in the penalties, while our keeper didn't get close to any of theirs. Chris (Weale – their goalkeeper) will be practising saving penalties all this week and the penalty-takers will be practising taking them. We've got to have more mental toughness in such situations".

Having mentioned above that there was a handy late train I could get back home after the match, suddenly after unforeseen extra-time and penalties, that wasn’t looking that optimistic for me. Having legged it back to the pub as soon as possible after the match, I was lucky enough to pick up a taxi from there and get to Yeovil Junction just as my train was approaching – phew!
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Matches of Yesteryear - Swindon v U's 1/9/01
at 12:41 6 Dec 2019

I have the first of several Xmas work outings tonight, so I'm posting this a bit earlier.
Matches of Yesteryear - Swindon v U's 1/9/01
at 12:40 6 Dec 2019

I have the first of several Xmas work outings tonight, so I'm posting this a bit earlier.

Match #28 of the series, and we return to league action following our brief foray into the shadowy underworld of fanzines. We also return to the County Ground for a second visit – given my location, it will come as little surprise that there are quite a few more trips to Swindon in my collection.

Swindon v Colchester United
Saturday 1st September 2001
Nationwide League Division 2 (3rd Tier)
Attendance 4,889

Perhaps already the date has resonated with some of you as somehow familiar, or maybe significant, but can’t quite put your finger on it – but more of that later.

This was our fourth consecutive season in the third tier, and our third season under Steve Whitton, taking over after the departure of Mick Wadsworth in 1999. As I’ve mentioned in other blogs, the U’s had started this season exceptionally well, and went into this game top of the league with three victories and a draw, ahead of Brentford on goal difference (thanks in no small part to smashing Chesterfield 6-3 at Saltergate on the opening day). With my wife working away on the Outer Hebrides at the time, this was a men behaving badly opportunity, so my brother-in-law came down to watch this game with me, and of course share a few beers.

The U’s lined up:
21..Andy Woodman
3….Joe Keith
12..Scott Fitzgerald
18..Alan White
5….Micky Stockwell
6….Karl Duguid
8….David Gregory (Dean Morgan 75’ – I think it was for Greggers?)
10..Kem Izzet (Bobby Bowry 80’)
14..Thomas Pinault
9….Scott McGleish
20..Kevin Rapley

As for Swindon Town, they did have Richard McKinney on the bench as their reserve goalkeeper, but the big name (in more ways than one) was Neil “Razor” Ruddock in the middle of defence, arriving on a free transfer from Crystal Palace. Ruddock was signed as a player/coach, and this was to be his debut for the Robins. Mind you, it very nearly didn’t happen, as his club struggled to find a supplier capable of providing shorts large enough to fit his (ahem) ample frame. I recall there was much amusement amongst the U’s online community (back in the good old days of Rivals) about Ruddock, e.g. turning circle of an oil tanker, it’ll take two minutes to run around him etc etc. Shorts were eventually found for Razor – they had to be flown in from Egypt!

We drove over to Swindon from Salisbury on a bright September day, and with time for a quick one in the Merlin beforehand. There was a fairly decent turnout for the U’s (about 250 I reckoned), and we as ever were housed at the east end of the Arkell’s stand. Swindon had had an indifferent start to the season, and were sitting lower mid-table at the time, perhaps a factor in a surprisingly low crowd for them of under 5k.

There weren’t too many clear-cut chances in what was a fairly uneventful first half (described as “no-thrills” by the BBC reporter at the time). Ruddock was obviously getting plenty of banter directed at him from the U’s faithful, but if it was getting to him, he really didn’t show it, and commanding his defence like a great big silverback. There were one or two close calls, Andy Woodman getting down well to keep out Jo Osei-Kuffour when through on goal, and that man Ruddock booting a Pinault effort off the line at the other end. However, other than that, not much to speak of, and at half-time it was still 0-0.

The second half certainly started better, and to be fair for both sides, with a bit more attacking intent, and some real end to end stuff. The deadlock was finally broken in the 53rd minute, and I just knew it would have to be Razor Ruddock. Swindon were awarded a free-kick 20-25 yards out, and there was Ruddock lining up to take it. Lumbering forward to get up to speed (think glacial), he put all his prodigious weight behind a left-footed pile-driver, which simply burst through the wall as if it wasn’t there. The kick took a slight deflection on the way through, which wrong-footed Andy Woodman, who could do nothing about it. Probably just as well, because if he’d got behind it, he’d have ended up in the back of the net as well. Ruddock embarked on a mazy Neanderthal celebratory run back towards the Town End, certainly the fastest he’d moved all afternoon, whilst his teammates clung on like oxpeckers on a hippo.

From a U’s perspective, this was the start of fairly sustained constant pressure through to the end, with numerous chances to equalise going begging – Micky Stockwell, Kevin Rapley and Dean Morgan all missing scoring opportunities with only the goalkeeper to beat, but try as we might, we couldn’t find a way through. It’s not churlish, or sour grapes to say we at least deserved a draw that day, and on clear-cut chances made, a victory wouldn’t have been a shock, but it just wasn’t our day.

Swindon Town 1 (Neil Ruddock 53’) Colchester United 0

Although there’s no sound, I have found an extremely grainy YouTube video of the highlights from the County Ground, including that Ruddock thunderbolt. Ruddock only scored one league goal in his time at Swindon – why did it have to be against Colchester United!

However, now to that date – Saturday 1st September 2001, and Germany v England World Cup Qualifier at the Munich Stadium. Having planned ahead, we were out of Swindon straight after the final whistle, and by kick-off in Munich, already a couple of beers to the good in a packed-out football pub in Salisbury (alongside a sizeable number of Pompey’s 6:57 crew as I recall). I tend not to get over-excited or over-hyped about England these days, bitter experience has shown me often that there’s little point, but that night we watched the most comprehensive dismantling of one of the leading football nations in the world I’ve ever witnessed.

When Jancker poked home to put Germany ahead after just 6 minutes, I feared the worst, but nothing could prepare us for what was to come. On 12 minutes, a Beckham corner is cleared, only to be returned with interest, Barmby heads down to Owen, who finds the net with the home side appealing for offside. Crucially, on the stroke of half-time, following another Beckham free-kick, the ball found it’s way out to Gerrard, who from what must have been well over 25 yards, blasted the ball low into the far corner of the goal – needless to say, the pub erupted, beer, glasses, people flying everywhere!

If we were in bedlam then, imagine the scenes just three minutes after the restart, when Owen again found the net, an excellent poachers goal if ever there was one, and we had a vital two-goal cushion to sit back and defend. Like heck we did, on 66 minutes Owen, doing most of the work himself this time, burst through to fire past Oliver Khan for his hat-trick to make it 4-1…and we weren’t done then either, Emile Heskey competing the rout on 74 minutes from an excellent Scholes pass.

It’s never easy seeing the U’s lose, particularly lose in a game we didn’t deserve to, but that night England certainly eased my disappointment – enjoy!

Germany 1 (Jancker 6’) England 5 (Owen 12’, 48’, 66’; Gerrard 45+4’; Heskey 74’)

The fallout from this result was profound: from comfortable group leaders, Germany slipped behind England on goal difference, and a position they couldn’t retake. With only the group winners qualifying, England went through, and Germany had to suffer the ignominy of the play-offs to qualify. Of course they did qualify, but I’m loving the fact that they were so confident of winning the group that they’d already arranged friendlies for the dates of the play-offs! Let’s put that night into context, Germany had never been beaten, ever, in a World Cup qualifier at home. The last time they lost a World Cup qualifier at all was back in 1985. Since 1966, we’d only beaten Germany once in a competitive match, and Germany deserved a stuffing after beating England 1-0 in the match to close the old Wembley Stadium.
Matches of Yesteryear - The Blue Eagle (Issue 39)
at 16:29 3 Dec 2019

Well it had to happen eventually…
Matches of Yesteryear - The Blue Eagle (Issue 39)
at 16:22 3 Dec 2019

Well it had to happen eventually…

Some of you may recall when I first introduced the concept behind the Matches of Yesteryear series that my list of football memorabilia from which matches are selected includes not only a small number of non-U’s programmes, but also slightly more Colchester United fanzines. As a result, the random match selector ahead of our EFL Trophy match against Stevenage tonight has finally chosen a fanzine – in this instance Issue 39 of “The Blue Eagle” from back in February 2000.

I knew this would eventually happen, but hadn’t quite worked out what I was going to do about it. I’d considered just doing a blog about the fanzine itself, but that would be a bit dull to be honest. I also thought about throwing in another random match, but thought that would be a bit too…errr…random? In the end, I’ve decided to include a relevant additional match, either the closest to the date of the fanzine, or a match that had particularly relevance to the content of the fanzine. For this blog, the decision was easy – I bought the fanzine outside the ground ahead of the game between Colchester United and Burnley, and that match is also mentioned on a number of occasions in the fanzine itself, so there we have it.

Colchester United v Burnley
Saturday 26th February 2000
Nationwide League Division 2 (3rd Tier)
Attendance 6,194

First off, for reasons I can’t recall, I have two copies of this issue of “The Blue Eagle”. I’ve no idea why, and certainly don’t need two issues, so if anyone out there wants one of them, I’d be happy to share. I don’t have too many copies of this fanzine, unlikely Daniel’s resurrected version “The U’sual” – of which I think I have pretty much all of them (thanks in no small part to Daniel himself). I’m not that familiar with the history and development of “The Blue Eagle” (other than I think it originated during our Conference years?), so if anyone can share more information, it would be much appreciated. By Issue 39 the fanzine was edited by Jason Skinner, whom I think I’m on “vaguely know your face” nodding terms, and the contributors to this issue include other well-known names in CUFC circles, including Bob Searle, Lea Finch and Dave Todd.

As mentioned, the editorial includes brief focus on the visit of Burnley, and indeed a notable recent signing for the Lancashire club “…it does seem that we only win against clubs doing well, so that should at least be an incentive when Ian Wright and Burnley are in town next week”. However, far more column inches are devoted to the fallout following the dismissal of Brian Launders, one of Wadsworth’s ill-fated signings. Launders was sacked for gross misconduct, and the fanzine isn’t shy about reporting that this allegedly involved fiddling his living expenses. Launders had reacted by taking the U’s to a tribunal, alleging that he was sacked for refusing to answer questions from the club about legal proceedings also being brought against the U’s by his agent Barry Silkman. The letters page is particularly entertaining, clearly the editor either had a very good lawyer on call, or in the true spirit of proper fanzines, really couldn’t give a sh*t…

As for the match, many of you reading this will have been jammed into Layer Rd that afternoon, with over 6k there on the day (including a packed out away terrace of Burnley fans). I was on the Barside terrace that day, for what would turn out to be quite a notorious and controversial day for the U’s faithful.

The U’s lined up:
1….Simon Brown
2….Joe Dunne (Aaron Skelton 84’)
3….Joe Keith
4….Ross Johnson
5….Richard Wilkins
6….Gavin Johnson
7….David Gregory (Lomana Tresor Lua Lua 50’)
8….Jason Dozzell
9….Karl Duguid
10..Jamie Moralee (Tony Lock 62’)
11..Steve McGavin

As for names of note, there’s really only one worth talking about. Former England international and Premier League star Ian Wright MBE had been persuaded by manager Stan “The Man” Ternent to sign for Burnley just 12 days earlier (on Valentine’s Day apparently – that’s sweet!), and this was only his second game for the Clarets (and his first away from home). The media circus frenzy that followed was remarkable, rumour having it that Burnley recouped a large proportion of what it cost them in “Wright” replica shirt sales almost immediately. Without doubt a significant proportion of the increased gate for this match was specifically to see Ian Wright, and probably enjoy giving him a bit of bird in the process…

Although manager Steve Whitton was struggling to undo some of the post-Wadsworth fall-out from the previous season (like bringing back cast aside Joe Dunne to Layer Rd), going into this game we weren’t doing badly at all. Six wins out of eight since early January had propelled the U’s up to mid-table, and we were actually the form side of the league ahead of the Burnley game. Burnley were having a better season, in 3rd place for this match and challenging hard for automatic promotion.

Wrighty started on the pitch, and the game started at a high-tempo pace, with both teams spurred on by vociferous support, inevitably much emanating from the Barside being directed at Wright, and in particular his wife (more of that later). There are few specific details I can recall about the actual match itself, other than the chants, but the history books show that Steve Davis (not that one) put Burnley 1-0 up after just 17 minutes, side-footing home at virtual point-blank range from a wicked left-wing cross. However, that didn’t last long, following a bit of a cock-up by Crichton in the Burnley goal, who calmly side-footed a pass back to him straight to McGavin in the penalty area, who didn’t need another invitation to equalise. Burnley were however clearly the better side, and it really wasn’t unexpected when Davis grabbed a second to restore Burnley’s lead before half-time, this time rising high to bullet home an unstoppable header from a corner.

The second half was more positive, particularly following the introduction of our own star in the making Lua Lua on just 50 minutes. Burnley sat deeper, happy to try and hold on to their lead in the bear-pit atmosphere of Layer Rd, and despite all of our efforts, could not be breached to give the U’s a share of the spoils. With my blue-tinted glasses on, I’d say we deserved a point, but it wasn’t to be. The comedy moment, quite near the end of the match, was when Doogie and Wright got into a bit of a tussle right down next to the corner flag next to the Barside, and from my perspective appeared to square up to each other. The ref was having none of it, and promptly booked both players, much to the intense pleasure of the Barside.

Colchester United 1 (Steve McGavin 19’) Burnley 2 (Steve Davis 17’; 38’)

Now, to the elephant in the room, the chanting. I’m not going to repeat it here, suffice to say it was extremely disrespectful to both Ian Wright, and particularly his wife, much of it focussing oh her (ahem) fuller figure. It was harsh, it was unrelenting, and it clearly got to Ian Wright – some might say job done, even if Burnley still won the game. In some of the chanting, there was indeed reference to Mrs Wright’s skin colour, but I’ve always believed it was in a non-racial way. Is it possible to refer to skin colour in a non-racial way? I’d say so, because in the context of the chanting, it wasn’t her skin colour that was the focus of attention, it was her size. Extremely insulting – certainly, actually racist – I don’t believe say. However, I’m not living in some bubble here, I know only too well that there were indeed at that time quite a few on the Barside who were most certainly racist, and thankfully most were left behind when we moved to the new ground.

There was inevitably fall-out after the game, with Ian Wright demanding an apology “after derogatory comments were directed at his family during Burnley’s weekend win” – note, not racist according to Wrighty, derogatory. U’s spokesman Brian Wheeler refused to condemn the chanting as racist, stating “We have had no complaints from Burnley fans or anyone connected with Colchester, fans or officials. The facts are that the chants were offensive but they were not racist”. Colchester United had already arranged for the delivery of a large bunch of flowers to Mrs Wright by way of apology, and everything seemed to calm down fairly quickly.

That was until five years later in 2004, when Stan Ternent published his autobiography, in which he described Layer Rd as an “Essex fleapit” (fair enough), and the treatment of Wright as “the foulest racist abuse I'd ever heard at a football match”. Marie Partner, the U’s Chief Executive at the time, hit the proverbial nail on the head with this measured response “At the time, the club dealt with the incident in the appropriate manner and made a full apology to Ian Wright. With that in mind, we feel it is a shame that Mr Ternent – who has a reputation for being an extremely professional manager – has to stoop to that level to sell books and we will not be drawn into making similar comments”.

Ian Wright would go on to make 15 appearances for Burnley that season, of which at Layer Rd was one of only four that he started, mostly coming on as an impact substitute. At the end of the season he permanently retired from his playing career, embarking full-time as a TV football pundit. Whether it can be attributed to Ian Wright is debatable, but Burnley finished second and were automatically promoted back to Nationwide League Division 1 alongside PNE, with Gillingham promoted via the play-offs. The U’s slipped back from our mid-table position that Saturday, finishing in 18th place, albeit a relatively comfortable 8pts clear of relegation.

Incidentally, both Launders and Silkman lost their tribunals – and good riddance to the pair of them.
[Post edited 3 Dec 16:28]
Jam tonight
at 19:07 29 Nov 2019

Anyone else planning to watch the Jammers tonight? Given we have another tedious weekend off, I'm quite looking forward to it.
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Matches of Yesteryear - Exeter v U's 27/11/91
at 20:16 22 Nov 2019

So, back again after my break for international duties. With our ongoing exploits in two of the three domestic cup competitions, it’s nice that the random match selector has chosen one of our earlier forays into a cup competition – albeit the one competition we’re no longer involved in this season…
Matches of Yesteryear - Exeter v U's 27/11/91
at 20:16 22 Nov 2019

So, back again after my break for international duties. With our ongoing exploits in two of the three domestic cup competitions, it’s nice that the random match selector has chosen one of our earlier forays into a cup competition – albeit the one competition we’re no longer involved in this season…

Exeter City v Colchester United
Wednesday 27th November 1991
FA Cup (1st Round replay)
Attendance 4,066

Match #26 of the series, and we go all the way back to November ’91, and the FA Cup first round replay at St James’ Park. This was our second season in the Conference, and having been spared the ignominy of qualifying in 1990/91 we weren’t so fortunate this season, entering the FA Cup at the 4th qualifying round. The last time we had to do so was nearly 41 years earlier, beating Woodford 7-1 away on 11th November 1950, and let’s hope we never have to do so again. However, in 1991/92 our passage was just as comfortable, easily despatching Burton Albion 5-0 at Layer Rd in the 4th qualifying round.

Drawn at home to struggling Division 3 side Exeter City in the first round, clearly an upset was expected, as the Match of the Day cameras were at Layer Rd (as was I) a week and a half earlier, but the match finished 0-0 – despite Grecian Steve Williams getting sent off after just 18 minutes. This is a game that may well feature in the future, so no more of that for now.

So, on to the replay at St James’ Park, for I’m pretty sure what must have been my first ever visit to the ground. I’d only moved down to the south west just over a year earlier, and it had been almost exactly two years since our last match there, so I can’t imagine there were any other visits in earlier days. As many will recall, we were housed on the open terrace at the St James’ Road end, and I’d say there was probably 150-200 who had made the long trip for a cold evening game. Not such a heroic trek for me, I was working on the Ilchester to Odcombe pipeline at the time, and therefore only about an hour away. Incidentally, this match kicked off slightly earlier, at 7.30pm.

Before we move on to match details, just pause to reflect on that programme front cover – what the feck is going on with that? Was this drawn by the match sponsor’s daughter, and why does the Exeter City player appear to have a zombie face?!

The U’s lined up:
1….Scott Barrett
2….Warren Donald
3….Jason Cook
4….Mark Kinsella
5….Tony English
6….James Goodwin (programme says Shaun Elliott; Martin Grainger 65’)
7….Eamonn Collins
8….Gary Bennett (Steve Restarick 109’)
9….Roy McDonough
10..Steve McGavin
11..Nicky Smith

Having been to St James’ Park many times since, I was certain this was the match that Exeter played a 16-year old in goal, who was mercilessly torn to shreds by the U’s faithful behind him – the sort of thing that these days would probably result in some sort of UN resolution – but it can’t have been. In goal for Exeter that evening was Kevin Miller, at the time 22 years old, and destined to go on to have a very good career as a goalkeeper, at one point signing for Premiership Crystal Palace for £1.5m. Not bad considering he started his football career as a midfielder.

There aren’t too many connections between the clubs that I can see looking at their squad that evening, other than obviously their manager Alan Ball. Alan had joined Colchester United as assistant to Jock Wallace in early 1989, and had played his part in staving off relegation at the end of that season. Shortly after the start of the 1989/90, he left for the assistant role alongside Mick Mills at Stoke City, taking over the reins just two weeks later following the sacking of Mills. He had been appointed manager of Exeter City in July 1991, and although struggling, he was still just about keeping them out of the relegation zone.

As for the match, my recollection is just as vivid as it is for the initial game at Layer Rd – pretty much zero. There are definitely aspects I do remember – it was cold, with a heavy dewy mist/ fog hanging around, but never quite bad enough to threaten a postponement. I also remember the U’s faithful had quite a feisty edge to them that evening. I know there has been a bit of history between the two clubs over the years – who can forget the infamous Barside flag-burning incident for instance – but this seemed to be on another level. Now, I wasn’t the seasoned traveller I am these days, but there were a few faces amongst the more vociferous antsy supporters that I didn’t recognise at all, and there was a whispered rumour going around the terrace that there may have been some Plymouth Argyle agent provocateurs amongst us.

Maybe, maybe not, but regardless the support wasn’t sufficient for us to overcome Exeter City in the replay, which after 90 minutes and a further 30 minutes of extra-time still ended in another goalless stalemate. And so we came to a first (well almost first), because the FA had decided from this season onwards, there would be no more endless succession of replays for cup matches (in 1971 it took Alvechurch six matches to finally overcome Oxford City). At the end of the first replay and extra-time, the game would be decided on penalty kicks. I have no recollection who was successful or not for the U’s in the shootout, other than we weren’t very good at all, and Exeter City prevailed 4-2 on the evening. I definitely do remember that the final penalty for Exeter, to clinch the tie, was scored by none other than goalkeeper Kevin Miller.

This wasn’t quite the first penalty shootout of the FA Cup, Rotherham had beaten Scunthorpe 7-6 on penalties the evening before, but even that wasn’t the first. Back in 1972, Birmingham beat Stoke in a penalty shoot to decide the 3rd and 4th places for the losing semi-finalists, back when they played such a meaningless match.

However, we do hold the somewhat dubious distinction of being the first team to go out of the FA Cup without conceding a goal in open play.

Exeter 0 Colchester United 0 aet (4-2 penalties)

As Exeter and their supporters celebrated victory, a significant proportion of the U’s support, wherever they may have been from, went over the fence, clearly intent on confrontation. A few of the Exeter supporters appeared willing to have that confrontation, but to be honest it was all a bit handbags, and the stewards/ police very quickly restored order.

Exeter went on to beat Swansea in the 2nd round (another replay), before bowing out in the 3rd round at home to Portsmouth, who themselves went on to the semi-finals, ironically losing on penalties in a replay to eventual winners Liverpool. In his first season in charge of cash-strapped Exeter City, Alan Ball just about avoided relegation, finishing one place and two points outside the relegation zone. The U’s, as we know, fared considerably better, and were promoted back into the Football League as Conference champions.

For me, a disappointing end to the two FA Cup matches, particularly given we certainly hadn’t been overawed by a team two divisions higher than us, but there was that as consolation as well. In truth, with promotion our highest priority, an FA Cup run would probably have been a distraction we could have done without, and it’s not like we didn’t go on to have a fantastic day out at Wembley that season anyway.

Can history repeat itself this season?
November 30th
at 22:46 17 Nov 2019

Thinking about it, Bradford have an FA Cup replay on Tuesday night against Shrewsbury. Though they probably won’t, if they lose, couldn’t we play our rearranged league game against them on the 30th? Alternatively, Stevenage also have a replay at Posh on Tuesday - if they lose (much more likely), can we schedule our EFL Trophy match for the 30th?

...or do we stick with it as the U’s traditional Christmas shopping day for the WAGS?
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Gills 5/11/94
at 21:16 11 Nov 2019

Interesting that on the eve of our Mickey Mouse game against Ipswich, the match selected is from 1994, when we were managed by George Burley. We know a song about him…
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Gills 5/11/94
at 21:15 11 Nov 2019

Interesting that on the eve of our Mickey Mouse game against Ipswich, the match selected is from 1994, when we were managed by George Burley. We know a song about him…

Colchester United v Gillingham
Saturday 5th November 1994
Endsleigh League Division 3 (Tier 4)
Attendance 3,817

Match #25 of the series, and we go right back to November ’94, and our third season since returning from the Conference. After two seasons under Big Roy, the chairman George Parker had decided that enough was enough, and George Burley was appointed to take over as manager. It hadn’t started well, with six straight defeats on the bounce (including two in the League Cup) leaving the U’s at the bottom of the league by the end of August. However, Burley started to turn things around, and after shooting up the league following a further five victories, one draw and one defeat, we went into this match in sixth place.

Gillingham were having a tough time both on and off the pitch, the team only two points outside the relegation zone, and the club beset with financial problems as well. So much so that both Burley and programme editor Jim French commented sympathetically in programme notes about their plight – Jim writing “you will have probably read in the press that Gillingham are presently facing an uncertain future, with a financial cloud hovering over them…we trust that they will overcome their latest problems and that we can look forward to many future tussles”.

This happened to be only my second match of the season, which was surprisingly few for me, but a quick glance at the previous matches shows that the fixture computer hadn’t been exactly kind to us south west exiles – even our game at Exeter had been a Tuesday night, so my only previous game had been a 3-3 draw at Torquay (I don’t have a programme or ticket for that one, so it won’t feature). My next game after this match? Away at Yeading in the FA Cup one week later, but that’s one that may well feature in the future, so no more on that for now…

The U’s lined up:
1….John Cheesewright
2….Simon Betts
3….Tony English
4….Peter Cawley
5….Gus Caesar
6….Adam Locke
7….Trevor Putney
8….Steve Brown
9….Steve Whitton
10..Mark Kinsella
11..Chris Fry (Paul Abrahams)

Given the relative proximity of the two clubs, it won’t be a surprise that there were quite a few connections between us – even George Burley had formerly played for the Gills. Names on the pitch that Saturday included Joe Dunne at no. 2 and Robbie Reinelt at no. 10, both of whom would go on to play for the U’s. There was of course also Scott Barrett, on the bench as their reserve goalkeeper that day, and Andy Arnott in the squad (though not taking part in this match). They were managed by Mike Flanagan, in his day an exceptional striker, but also home to a quite exceptional mullet…

Remember remember the 5th of November – well, it’ll come as little surprise that I really can’t remember much at all about this game, other than me and my brother-in-law were there on the barside, after a few refreshments in a very lively Drury beforehand, and with a decent away following supporting the Gills despite their ongoing troubles.

They were cheering loudest first too, with Robbie Reinelt putting them ahead after just eight minutes. It didn’t get much better for a while after either, as Chris Pike doubled their lead after 27 minutes. Incidentally, for everyone’s inner football nerd, Chris Pike is Gareth Bale’s uncle!

Under the cosh right from the start, Twiggy gave us hope just two minutes later, pulling one back for the U’s, and less than ten minutes later Peter Cawley had the chance to level the scores from the penalty spot at the Clock End. Sadly, whilst I can’t remember if he missed or it was saved, he didn’t, and at half-time Gillingham were holding on to their lead, and a valuable 3pts to ease their relegation worries.

However, Mark Kinsella had other ideas, and about ten minutes into the second half, he levelled the score 2-2…and that’s how it finished. To be honest, I can’t remember whether that was a fair result or not, but relieved as I was to see the U’s come back from 2-0 early on, I do remember thinking it was an opportunity lost to really push on as promotion contenders.

Colchester United 2 (Chris Fry 29’, Mark Kinsella 53’) Gillingham 2 (Robbie Reinelt 8’, Chris Pike 27’)

Although dropping two points at home against a relegation contender was a bit of a set-back, we were still on a bit of a roll under Burley, so much so that coming up to Christmas we were in the play-off places, and well poised to push on in the New Year.

However, you don’t need to be a Colchester United historian to know what happened next – coming off the back of an impressive 2-1 victory at high-flying Doncaster, George Burley walked out on the U’s for the managerial hot-seat at Poorman Rd. Dale Roberts looked after the U’s until Steve Wignall was appointed, but we never recovered those lofty heights, and finished in 10th place. Gillingham went into administration in January ’95, but these were the days before any form of sanction would be imposed by the FA, and they clung on to finish fourth from bottom to avoid relegation (Exeter finished bottom, but weren’t relegated because Conference champions Macclesfield’s stadium didn’t meet capacity requirements).

Incidentally, on March 4th of that 94/95 season, at home to Darlington, the U’s decided to throw the doors open for all to attend free of charge, including the Darlington supporters. In front of a bumper crowd of 6,055 the U’s won 1-0.

Whilst there appears to be a complete dearth of match reports about this game on t’internet, bizarrely I have found a grainy low-resolution video on YouTube of the corresponding fixture that season in April ’95, so I’ll leave you with that to enjoy…

Matches of Yesteryear - Mansfield v U's 18/8/18
at 12:55 9 Nov 2019

Another busy week, so apologies this has had to wait until today. Once again the random match selector throws a curve ball – with the cheers from our imperious victory at Field Mill last Saturday still fresh in the memory, we return to Field Mill (aka The One-Call Stadium) for this one.
Matches of Yesteryear - Mansfield v U's 18/8/18
at 12:54 9 Nov 2019

Another busy week, so apologies this has had to wait until today. Once again the random match selector throws a curve ball – with the cheers from our imperious victory at Field Mill last Saturday still fresh in the memory, we return to Field Mill (aka The One-Call Stadium) for this one.

Mansfield Town v Colchester United
Saturday 18th August 2018
Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 3,909

Match #24 of the series, and my one and only trip to Field Mill so far, and just over a year or so ago near the start of our 2018/19 campaign. Not my first match of this season, I’d already travelled to Notts County on the opening day, coming away thinking 0-0 at one of the likely promotion contenders wasn’t a bad point at all – and look how that turned out...

My years following the U’s have almost always been beset by one constant banana skin, the oft fallibility of our rail network. I therefore approached this one with a certain amount of trepidation – nearly five hours each way, with three changes there and back to negotiate. Plenty of opportunities for things to go wrong, bad enough that I could miss kick-off, but far worse the possibility of not actually getting home that night. If proof was needed, as I departed that morning, I was still wrangling with GWR for a refund after significant delays getting back from Notts County a fortnight earlier.

This is a match for which I don’t have the programme, though do still have the matchday ticket – slightly disappointed that I didn’t cop a freebie for this one and had to pay face value. Also, baffled why the instructions were “Turnstiles 9-12 vs Carlisle United” – wrong CUFC Stags…

Despite my concerns, the four-leg journey to Mansfield (via Bristol, Birmingham and Nottingham) was completely trouble-free (insomuch as a near 5-hour journey can be trouble-free), and with plenty of refreshment during the journey, I arrived in good spirits to hopefully see the U’s maintain their solid start to the season. I joined a modest throng of what must have been about 200 of the faithful in the North Stand, still in good voice though.

The U’s lined up:
1….Dillon Barnes
2….Ryan Jackson
22..Kane Vincent-Young (Tom Eastman 86’)
6….Frankie Kent
5….Luke Prosser (c)
4….Tom Lapslie
8….Harry Pell
10..Sammie Szmodics
7….Courtney Senior (Luke Norris 72’)
11..Brennan Dickenson
45..Frank Nouble (Mikael Mandron 87’)

Other than being managed by David Flitcroft, there really weren’t many names in the Mansfield squad that day that meant much to me. For the U’s, Norris was on the bench again, yet to make his league debut, though he had played (and scored) in the previous match at Cheltenham in the League Cup (we lost 5-6 on penalties). Mind you, Mansfield had put down a marker of their own the same night, smashing six past Accrington Stanley.

As for the game, well there are plenty of match reports and personal perspectives, not least Durham’s excellent match report - still out there on the internet to read, but from my point of view I think I’ll borrow from the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and describe it as “mostly dour”.

For the first half, the U’s were clearly more than happy to sit deep for the most part, soaking up any pressure that Mansfield could exert. That turned out to be very little to be honest, quite surprising considering they blew Stanley apart in their previous match, and there was more than a suspicion that we were watching two teams that were far too wary of each other to show any real commitment to have a go. That’s not to say there weren’t chances, fairly early on CJ Hamilton cut in from the right and let fly from outside the box, but it never looked likely to trouble Dillon Barnes. On 18 minutes, a rare U’s foray forward earned a corner, and from Dickenson’s corner to the far post, Prosser’s header bought a good save from Conrad “who ate all the pies” Logan. Still, by and large an eminently forgettable first half of unimaginative football saw the game 0-0 at half-time. A welcome boost for me was spotting Durham and Gerry off to the right as I headed for my half-time Bovril, good to see them both and share a friendly wave.

Without wishing to appear cynical, I think we’ve largely given up hope that McGreal will deliver a morale-boosting kick-up-the-arse team talk at half time, and this game did not appear to buck that trend. The second half started in much the same vein as the first half finished, neither side really putting either under consistent pressure, and the U’s particularly looking more and more happy to hold on to a point. Flitcroft was the first to realise things needed to be changed if he was to get anything from the match, bringing on Craig Davies approaching the hour mark. On 72 minutes McGreal changed things around, taking off Senior (who was being constantly manhandled without any protection from ineffectual referee Michael Salisbury) and replacing him with Luke Norris for his league debut. However, my hope that this would change our approach to the game, in fact the game full-stop, proved somewhat optimistic. Flitcroft clearly saw the same too, and five minutes later tried a double-substitution, bringing on both Neal Bishop and Danny Rose.

Finally, with less than ten minutes to go, the dour deadlock was broken. Davies had a right-footed attempt blocked on the edge of the box, picked up the rebound, and instantly lashed a left-footed absolute pile-driver past the despairing dive of Dillon Barnes. A match like this really didn’t deserve a goal of that quality, it was an absolute rocket (reminiscent of Crawley’s opener in the Carabao cup), and Barnes had no chance. And that looked to be that – the U’s, devoid of any attacking intent all match, were suddenly trying to find third and fourth gears we had hardly used all game. However, we did give it a go, and for the remainder of the match it was Mansfield more than happy to sit deep and soak up wave upon wave of U’s attacks. With less than five minutes to go, McGreal brought on Eastman, and then Mandron, to try and rescue something from the game. Hope came with the announcement of four minutes of extra-time, but still Mansfield kept us at bay.

In the final seconds of extra-time, Mandron picked up a half-way line long throw from Jackson, cut across the edge of the penalty area and unleashed a ferocious left-footed shot, which Logan did well to palm away for a throw-in near the corner flag. Four minutes were already passed, this clearly was going to be our one last chance – Jackson hurled it long, right into the six-yard box, and inexplicably Logan made no attempt to jump for it at all, letting it slip between his hands for Sammie to stab home from point blank range.

We went absolutely mental, talk about last gasp! I’m not even sure the referee restarted the game, it was that close to the end.

Mansfield Town 1 (Craig Davies 81’) Colchester United 1 (Sammie Szmodics 95’)

As gratifying as it was to snatch a point in that manner, and it probably was the fair result, there was no disguising it hadn’t been a good performance by the U’s, and with worrying signs of things to come for that season. Still, it did mean we all went home reasonably happy.

As for my journey home, everything went well until I reached Bristol for my eighth and final train back to Chippenham – I’ll leave you to work out which train on the destination board was my one…

[Post edited 9 Nov 13:57]
Man Utd v Col Utd
at 16:53 4 Nov 2019

The official Manchester United twitter feed has just confirmed that our match will be Wednesday 18th December, kick-off 8pm. It's not on TV.
Matches of Yesteryear - Tranmere v U's 12/1/02
at 17:45 1 Nov 2019

Well, after a tremendously exciting week for U’s fans everywhere, what better way to calm things down than remembering the daily grind of league football.
Matches of Yesteryear - Tranmere v U's 12/1/02
at 17:44 1 Nov 2019

Well, after a tremendously exciting week for U’s fans everywhere, what better way to calm things down than remembering the daily grind of league football.

Tranmere Rovers v Colchester United
Saturday 12th January 2002
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 8,387

Match #23 of the series, and we have a visit to Prenton Park to watch the U’s play John McGreal’s former club Tranmere Rovers. This has been a fairly frequent destination for me over the years, with very good friends (Ange and Chris) and their family living in the north west, and Chris a Tranmere supporter as well. With the U’s previous visit to Prenton Park almost exactly 13 years earlier (before we had met), this was the first opportunity for us to attend a match between our two sides, so I travelled up on the train Friday evening to be collected by Chris at Manchester Piccadilly, for a relaxing evening of beer and good company. Saturday morning, we all drove out to Prenton Park, picking up a couple more of his mates on the way, and arrived in good time for a few pints at the Mersey Clipper before kick-off. Another great pub by the way!

Under Steve Whitton, we were settling into an indifferent season in the league. We’d started well, in and around the play-offs for most of August and September (even top after the first match beating Chesterfield 6-3) – we’d even beaten Tranmere 2-1 in the corresponding home fixture. However, by the start of 2002 we’d slipped back to mid-table, and needed to raise our game if we wanted to again challenge the play-off spots. Tranmere had been relegated from Nationwide League Division 1 the previous season, along with Huddersfield and QPR, and most expected them to be one of the stronger sides this season. However, they too were struggling to adjust, and were only 1 point better off than the U’s going into the match. They did have the slight distraction of an ongoing FA cup run as well, and after despatching Southend United 3-1 at Roots Hall just five days earlier, had been drawn at home to fellow Division 2 side Cardiff City in the 4th round later in January.

The U’s lined up:
1….Simon Brown
19..Alan White
12..Scott Fitzgerald
6….Simon Clark
3….Joe Keith (Dean Morgan 78’)
10..Kem Izzet
17..Bobby Bowry (Thomas Pinault 45’)
7….Karl Duguid
20..Micky Stockwell
9….Scott McGleish
11..Graham Barrett

There were a few names in the Tranmere line-up that resonated, not least Achterberg in goal, Mickey Mellon, Welsh international Jason Koumas and journeyman striker Wayne Allison. The one name missing from the teamsheet that day was long-throw specialist Dave Challinor. He is listed in the programme as no. 5 in the squad, but either had already or was just about to sign for Stockport County. Curiously, considering most teams seem to rely on a long-throw specialist these days (take a bow Jacko), I recall back then he was considered something of a freak by supporters of other clubs, his ability almost akin to cheating by some.

Me, Ange and Chris had considered seating arrangements already, and decided for this one we’d part ways to our respective ends, to meet up again at full-time. In matches to come, more often than not we all would sit in the away end, always tricky for Chris particularly when Tranmere scored.

As goal-less matches go, overall it actually wasn’t too bad a game. The first half was fairly pedestrian, not necessarily poor, just solid and unimaginative from two teams that rather cancelled each other out. In the circumstances, at half-time I was probably the happier of our party, a point at a recently relegated Division 1 side certainly not to be sniffed at, if we could hold on. At half-time, Whitton decided to bring on the attacking flair of Pinault for the more defensively-minded Bowry.

In the 52nd minute the game really did come to life, as Joe Keith raced clean through on goal, only to be scythed down by Graham Allen. I’ve found a very grainy photo of the aftermath, the look on Allen’s face clearly showing he knew what was coming – and sure enough, a straight red card was shown by referee Mike Pike.

However, despite the numerical advantage, we simply couldn’t break through a resolute Tranmere defence. With just over 10 minutes to go, Dean Morgan came on as a last-ditch attempt to get something from the game, and he forced not one but two brilliant saves from Achterberg in those final few minutes, but then again Brown also kept us in it, doing well to keep a Jason Price effort out after a wicked deflection off Fitzgerald. Right at the death in injury-time Tranmere really should have won it. Firstly, as our defence went missing, Koumas latched on to an excellent pass from Price, but fired straight at Simon Brown, and then secondly a Clint Hill header was cleared off the line.

In that context, even though playing against ten men, those late close calls gave the 0-0 result a bit more of a positive blessed relief feel to it, and I was quite happy with the point. We all collectively agreed post-match that it was just about the right result too, so it wasn’t just me.

Tranmere Rovers 0 Colchester United 0

The pack chasing the play-offs at the time was incredibly close, with just one point separating Oldham in 7th and the U’s in 12th, so despite only gaining one point, we actually jumped two places to 10th after this result. Though we weren’t to know it at the time, that was as high as we managed from then to the end of the season, eventually finishing in 15th place. As a fair reflection on the match outcome, Tranmere also finished mid-table, in 12th place.

Tranmere easily brushed Cardiff aside in the FA Cup 4th round, winning 3-1, to earn a plum home tie against Tottenham Hotspur in the 5th round, which they lost 4-0

How embarrassing for them, couldn’t even beat Spurs…
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