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Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Macclesfield 4/4/92
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 28th Mar 2020 14:33

Good afternoon everyone, I sincerely hope you are all doing well? Today would have been a vital home match against Mansfield, struggling at the wrong end of the league this time after a couple of seasons flattering to deceive at the sharp end. Since the last blog, we now know that all football below the National League is cancelled, and the season expunged from records. A tough break for the likes of Jersey Bulls in the Combined Counties League Division 1, who had won all of their 27 matches and already promoted, but then these are very strange times indeed. I sincerely hope the EFL season can be completed somehow, but I’m increasingly pessimistic about whether it will be.

[b]Colchester United v Macclesfield Town

Saturday 4th April 1992

FA Trophy (Semi-Final 1st leg)

Attendance 5,443[/b]

Match #51 of the series, and we return to happier times, albeit given the U’s under Big Roy McDonough were in their second consecutive season playing in the Conference. As well as riding high in the league, we were doing pretty well in the FA Trophy as well, and for this match faced Macclesfield Town in the first leg of the semi-final, and just two games away from what would be a first trip to Wembley. This was our second season attempting success in this competition, the previous finishing somewhat ignobly with a 2-0 home defeat to Witton Albion in the quarter-final.

Cup fever was gripping the town, and with Wembley in our sights, the programme featured a rousing article about our famous 1947/48 FA Cup run. Back then, we were the first non-league side to reach the 5th round of the FA Cup, and the programme recalled that moment by reproducing a number of cartoons from that time that had featured in the national press. Though a few teams have since equalled our record, it would take until 2017 before Lincoln City finally went one further and reached the quarter-finals.

I drove over for this game on my own (my partner was pregnant at the time with my first child), and after lunch at Mum’s headed over to the game with my brother-in-law. It was a long time ago, and although I remember the occasion extremely well, the precise details of the match are rather more hazy – though fortunately there are plenty of bits of reference material about to help. I certainly do remember it was a bright dry day, a very boisterous Drury was packed out before the match, as was Layer Rd when we finally got in, with nearly 5,500 jammed in (our biggest home crowd of the season at the time). Layer Rd was so packed out in fact that the kick-off was delayed by ten minutes to try and get everyone in. As well as a programme, I’m not 100% certain but this might have been the first time I also bought a Colchester United fanzine (“[i]Out Of The Blue[/i]” – Issue 9) – it’s certainly the earliest U’s fanzine I still have, that’s for sure.

We had opened our 1991/92 Conference campaign back in August ’91 with a home game against Macclesfield, which the U’s had won 2-0. Going into this match we were of course top of the Conference, but as we know, with Wycombe breathing hard down our necks – and to say it was already a two-horse race was a bit of an understatement. I think, at the time, Redbridge in 3rd place were something like 20 points behind the U’s? Macclesfield were having an indifferent season, floating around mid-table, with no real likelihood of relegation, and certainly no chance whatsoever of going anywhere in the opposite direction.

Remarkably, as it rarely seems to happen, the U’s lined up exactly as listed on the back of the programme:

1….Scott Barrett

2….Warren Donald

3….Paul Roberts

4….Mark Kinsella

5….Tony English

6….Dave Martin

7….Jason Cook (Eamonn Collins 75’)

8….Ian Stewart (Garry Bennett 70’)

9….Roy McDonough

10..Steve McGavin

11..Nicky Smith

Managed by long-standing manager Peter Wragg, and without any disrespect to Macclesfield Town, none of their team that day stand out to me as notable names. A handful had football league experience, including goalkeeper Mike Farrelly (at PNE) and Mark Dempsey (Man U apprentice, and played with Sheffield United, Rotherham, Swindon and Chesterfield), but the Silkmen were widely considered as no slouches in non-league football. If nothing else, they knew their way around this cup competition, winning the inaugural 1970 Wembley final 2-0 over Telford United in front of over 28,000. They’d been there more recently too, just three years earlier, and again against Telford, though they lost that one 1-0. In the Conference, they were also known for their well-marshalled defence, with only the U’s and Wycombe conceding fewer goals at the time of this match.

Despite Macclesfield’s non-league pedigree and robust defence, no one was really expecting anything other than a U’s victory, and probably a comfortable one at that (bookies were already listing us as 5-4 on favourites to win the trophy). However, there is such a thing as complacency, and early on Macclesfield reminded us of that, when Askey should have done better from inside the penalty area than shoot straight at Scott Barrett. For the opening twenty minutes or so, it was a fairly even competition, neither side really carving out clear-cut chances.

Then, on 23 minutes that all changed – Dave Martin passed a free-kick to Ian Stewart, who tried to then feed it on to McGavin in a threating position. However, the ball struck the referee, rebounded perfectly back to Stewart, who delightfully took this huge slice of good fortune and drilled it past a wrong-footed Farrelly in the Macclesfield goal. Layer Road erupted, and the roars were still echoing around the ground when less than two minutes later it was 2-0. Another somewhat fortuitous goal, Tony English and Big Roy played a clever one-two, after a foul on McGavin was played on for advantage, with Tony’s shot deflecting off defender Hanlon and into the back of the net. We were now in uproar, everyone expecting the U’s goal-machine would just roll on and absolute demolish Macclesfield. However, they were made of sterner stuff that day, and not only managed to stifle our attacking threat, but actually get themselves back in the game.

In the early stages of the second half, with still no more goals, it was actually Macclesfield who came closest to scoring next. Askey almost atoned for his miss in the first half, intercepting an under hit back pass to Barrett, but Scott did well to race out and spread himself to prevent a goal. For Macclesfield, worse was to come not long after, with Askey this time turning provider, lifting a beautifully weighted cross over Barrett for what looked like an easy tap-in for Andy Green – but he somehow contrived to let the ball slide under his foot and the opportunity was lost.

By now, we were getting really nervous, jittery even. A 2-0 victory in the first leg would be okay, but not insurmountable, and a 2-1 home victory (or worse) could be a disaster. However, cometh the hour, cometh the man, and three minutes later we were all breathing a bit easier. With a long-throw aimed at him, I’d say McDonough made a bit more of a meal of the pressure from his marker Edwards than was really there, but it worked and the referee pointed to the spot. Who else but Roy McDonough to step up – he’d earned the penalty, he was taking it, and sending Farrelly the wrong way, hammered it into the corner of the goal.

[b]Wembley here we come![/b] (© EADT)

From then to the end of the match the noise was deafening, the sense of relief was palpable, surely we’d done enough now to book our first visit to Wembley! Big Roy dabbled in a bit of game management, replacing Stewart with Gary Bennett straight after his goal, and then five minutes later bringing on Eamonn Collins for Jason Cook, and we held on for a comfortable 3-0 first leg lead. According to Graeson’s ColUData website (https://www.coludata.co.uk/) this would turn out to be Eamonn’s last appearance in a U’s shirt.

[b]Colchester United 3 (Ian Stewart 23’, Tony English 25’, Roy McDonough 70’) Macclesfield Town 0[/b]

[b]Spoiler Alert:[/b] We had done enough, and as I couldn’t join the army of 800 U’s fans making the long trip to Moss Rose for the second leg the following Friday night, and it won’t therefore feature in this series, I’m happy to report the U’s drew 1-1. It was nervy mind, with Macclesfield taking the lead early on, but Jason Cook levelled the scores in first half injury-time, and the U’s comfortably kept out a deflated Macclesfield in the second half.

Incidentally, the second leg should have been played on the Saturday afternoon (and I should have been there), but it was bought forward to avoid clashing with Chester City’s home game against Birmingham. Yep, you read that right, back then Chester City were in the old Third Division, alongside teams like Birmingham, West Brom, Huddersfield and Fulham.

From Issue 9 of “[i]Out Of The Blue[/i]”, and for a bit of fun, there’s a crossword on pages 4-5 that’ll have you scratching your heads – it probably would have been fairly easy back then, but a completely different kettle of fish 28 years later – good luck brainiacs! (you might have to zoom in a bit though)

Up the U’s

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