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Matches of Yesteryear - Bees v U's 31/12/05
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 25th Oct 2019 17:43

Well here’s a first, the random match selector has chosen the very next match I was at following Shrewsbury in the FA Cup back in December 2005 – spooky.

Brentford v Colchester United

Saturday 31st December 2005

Coca-Cola League 1 (Tier 3)

Attendance 6,397

Match #21 of the series, and we’re at my favourite away ground, Griffin Park, home of Brentford FC, with its pub on every corner. This being a New Years Eve match, kick-off was at 1pm, which still gave me and my mate Jon ample time for our customary lap of the ground, starting at the Royal Oak and finishing at the Griffin.

I also enjoy trips to Brentford because I’m a big fan of Robert Rankin’s ‘Brentford Trilogy’ (now ten books) and the adventures of drunken layabouts Jim Pooley and John Omally. Rankin sets his work in and around real locations in Brentford, his Flying Swan pub actually the Bricklayers Arms, which is (or at least was) a good pub just down the road from the ground. The Bricklayers was converted to three houses about ten years ago, but I was delighted to see that the occupant of 67a has recognised the literary significance of their property.

As for the match, if you read the FA Cup Shrewsbury blog you’ll recall the U’s were doing rather well at the time. Following victory at Shrewsbury, we had gone on to equal the club record of eight consecutive wins, then drew 1-1 at Swansea followed by beating MK Dons 2-0 at home. The only ‘blip’ in an otherwise excellent two months for Parky and the team was our most recent match, a 1-0 defeat at Swindon on Boxing Day (Cureton couldn’t play as part of his loan agreement). To put that into context, that was our first away defeat since losing the first three away matches of the season back in August. Brentford were top of the league, having lost only two matches at home all season, so this was going to be a tough game for the U’s, who were in 6th place at the time. The U’s fans, and there must have been about 5-600 of us that day (many in fancy dress), were housed on the old Ealing Rd Terrace, which in those days was an open terrace – fortunately it wasn’t raining that day (unlike other drenchings I’ve had there in the past).

The U’s lined up:

1….Aidan Davison

16..George Elokobi

5….Wayne Brown

18..Liam Chilvers

17..John White

2….Greg Halford

4….Neil Danns (Kem Izzet 79’)

6….Kevin Watson

14..Mark Yeates (Karl Duguid 87’)

11..Chris Iwelumo

24..Jamie Cureton (Richard Garcia 70’)

For Brentford at the time there are a few players worthy of mention. Starting for the Bees was Sam Sodje, one of the many Sodje boys playing professional football at the time, and brother of (very briefly) former Colchester loanee Efe Sodje. After a loan spell in 2004, Brentford had also signed Scott Fitzgerald from us, though he wasn’t playing for this match. By a curious coincidence, they had two Scott Fitzgeralds in their squad, with Scott P Fitzgerald at no. 32 – I don’t think they are related? Ade Bankole, our former goalkeeping coach, was their reserve ‘keeper that day, with Isaiah Rankin another unused substitute. Rankin had been on loan with the U’s for a short spell back in 1997, and really did look the real deal to me (scoring five goals in 12 appearances). However, although he did eventually get a handful of Premier League matches whilst at Bradford City, he never really fulfilled the promise I thought he had.

As for the match, well what a brilliant game of football it was. It started somewhat cautiously, both sides clearly wary of the threat their opponents posed, but before too long the U’s really started to impose themselves on the match, and Mad-Dog Allen’s Brentford were struggling to contain us. Yeates, who was getting the bird a bit from the home supporters (I was never sure why), latched on to a lovely Chilvers free-kick, cut inside from the left and drilled a fierce low drive past Nelson in the Brentford goal to give the U’s a well-deserved lead…and then promptly booked for his somewhat exuberant goal celebrations. The U’s weren’t done with the first half yet, and decent efforts from both Halford and Yeates threatened to extend the U’s lead. However, Brentford were still a very good side, and reminded us all of that just on half-time, when Davison pulled off a reflex save to deny Owusu’s point-blank header.

If the first half had been a brilliant performance (it had), the second half would turn out to be even better. This was rip-roaring end to end stuff, played at a frenetic pace for the entire 45 minutes. Ryan Peters, who came on at half-time, stung Davison’s hands with his first touch of the match – a blistering shot from the edge of the box. Although Brentford were starting to dominate possession, in truth the U’s always looked more likely to score another. Nelson did very well to tip another Yeates effort over the bar, and then the outstretched leg of Sodje was all that stopped Danns scoring after a mazy run into the box. Davison was still being kept busy, but when Iwelumo rose to head home from a whipped Halford cross, we were already celebrating – sadly too soon, as from six yards out he buried it into ground and up and over the bar.

With five minutes to go, all hell broke loose. The Bees were swarming all around our penalty area, and somehow Davison parried Eddie Hutchinson’s close-range shot, which sat up perfectly for Owusu to head the equaliser. Defying the laws of physics, Wayne Brown (who was having an excellent game) managed to get a small deflection, and the ball hit the inside of the post and spun out across the face of the goal and to safety. The premature goal celebrations of the Brentford supporters were still echoing around the ground as Yeates, picking up the ball from Iwelumo on the break, just ran and ran and ran like an arrow towards Nelson in the Brentford goal. Clearly with no other intention, on the edge of the box he superbly drilled an angled shot past Nelson into the far corner of the net, and we were in uproar!

There was no way back from that for Brentford, and to a tumultuous ovation (including applause from the home support), Yeates was subbed a minute or so later, and the U’s recorded a vital 2-0 victory to keep their promotion challenge going.

Brentford 0 Colchester United 2 (Yeates 30’, 86’)

For those who weren’t there, it’s difficult to come up with enough superlatives to emphasise just how good the U’s were that day. If you look at the line-up, that is clearly a very good side, but they were so much more than that on the day – quite unstoppable, and lest we forget, against a very good side in Brentford FC. Leaving Griffin Park that afternoon, and with plenty of opportunities to chat with the friendly natives, the response was unanimous – without doubt the best side they’d seen at Griffin Park all season.

Chris Lightbown of the Times, in his post-match report, stated “There is some superb football being played in this division and particularly in the tightening pack of teams on Swansea City’s tail. Whether it is enough to bridge the discernible gap between the top of Coca-Cola League One and the lower reaches of the Championship is another matter, but on this sort of form, either of these sides would happily play anybody”.

Not only were these Mark Yeates’ first league goals for the U’s (he had also scored one in the Leamington FA Cup game), this was also Jamie Cureton’s last match of his loan spell, and by the following Saturday he was in the starting XI for the Robins (away at Hartlepool – they drew 1-1, and Cureton was subbed halfway through the second half). By April, and with Swindon facing certain relegation, he was back on the bench.

It's very poor quality (apart from Matt Hudson’s excellent voice-over), but I’ve managed to find a video clip on YouTube, which includes highlights of the game.

Please report offensive, libellous or inappropriate posts by using the links provided.

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