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Letters from Wiltshire #15
Written by wessex_exile on Tuesday, 10th Nov 2020 18:22

Well, there’s a turn up for the books, the mighty U’s unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by lowly Marine AFC, four tiers below us in the league pyramid. These things happen, and we’ve done it to others on more than a few occasions, but the manner of the result on Saturday is what rankles the most. Virtually our strongest line-up available, but the complete lack of any urgency right from the outset was dreadful to see. Even as we reached squeaky bum time into the 2nd half, having drawn level, still we ponderously passed aimless triangles in midfield for far too long. Someone has to pay for that debacle, so let’s hope it’s the auld enemy Southend tonight in the Pointless Trophy…

[b]Colchester United v Southend United

A brief history of time…[/b]

I’m afraid this will have to be a mercifully brief blog, as time has rather run away with me with work, and I have less than an hour to do this ahead of kick-off tonight. With so little time available, it’s not going to be much more than a crunching some numbers in the long and sometimes ‘tense’ relationship with our South Essex cousins. In that context, I was particularly pleased to find the programme cover photo above on the internet, given it was a match I was at and remember very well indeed.


Following our formation in 1937, there were a handful of non-competitive friendlies and such like against Southend, with the very first a 2-1 win for the U’s on 10th May 1939 at Layer Road in the [i]Colchester Challenge Cup Final[/i] – no idea what that was about, never heard of that competition at all. Our paths didn’t cross in a competitive match until we were elected into the Football League South – the very first league match played out on 14th October 1950, back when Southend were playing at the Southend Stadium greyhound track. We lost 2-4, our goals scored by Turner and Curry, and in front of a crowd of 18,358! This remains the largest crowd for a match between the two sides.

Southend moved back to Roots Hall in 1955, originally being evicted when the site was designated for storage at the outbreak of the First World War, and according to my records (and Graeson’s) our first visit to Roots Hall was 11th April 1955. This conflicts with the font of all knowledge Wikipedia, which states Roots Hall wasn’t re-opened until August 1955, so I’m not sure which one is correct. However, if that April ‘55 date was our first match at Roots Hall, we lost that one 2-4 as well ☹.

Overall, we’ve played each other 79 times in various competitions, and as we’d probably expect, the WDL ratios are fairly even, with Southend victorious 33 times, the U’s 29 times, and 17 games drawn. Goals for and against are pretty even to, scored 118 and conceded 124.

Over the years, there have been one or two significant victories for the U’s. Our highest score was winning 5-2 at Roots Hall back in January 1985 (Adcock, and two each for Groves and Bowen), and our largest margin a 4-0 victory in November 1968 at Layer Road (Oliver, Simpson, Gibbs and Dyson). We’ve also won 4-1 twice (January 1972 and January 1986, the latter in the Associate Members Cup) and 4-2 once (October 1985).

The shoe has been on the other foot on a fair few occasions as well. Twice Southend have beaten the U’s 6-3 – in 1964 at Roots Hall, and depressingly at Layer Road in 1955. Twice they’ve beaten us 4-0, at Southend Stadium in 1953 and Roots Hall two years later, and there have been a handful of 4-1, 4-2 and even one 4-3 defeats as well. One of those 4-1 defeats back in November 1956 was our first meeting in the FA Cup, and to rub salt in the wounds, it was at Layer Road in front of 11,280 as well. Would that sting any more than losing to Marine AFC – probably, if I’m honest.

As for streaks, our longest streak for consecutive victories was five matches between November 1984 and February 1986, and with three draws either side of these victories, our longest undefeated streak is eight matches from April 1984 to October 1986. Southend United clearly liked playing the U’s in the early years, and for the first 15 matches they won eleven of them (and drew one). However, they never really exerted total dominance, and have never achieved more than three consecutive victories in a row. After those first 15 matches, the head-to-head record until quite recently very much favours the U’s.

[b]…and finally[/b]

Just a brief comment on the Boxing Day 1989 match at Roots Hall (programme cover above). I don’t have this programme in my collection, but me and my brother-in-law were at the match. By the time we arrived, the police weren’t letting U’s fans into the away end, so we decided to take up seats in the main stand amongst the Southend support.

We weren’t wearing colours, so initially it wasn’t a problem, but it did become a bit tense once the U’s took the lead through Grainger in the 65th minute, and those around us started to suspect they’d been infiltrated. When English put us two up just four minutes later, we just couldn’t help ourselves I’m afraid 😊. To be fair, although there was some blue-rated ‘bantz’ going back and forth thereafter, no one actually did anything, and the stewards were content to leave us where we were.

You will all remember that this was the season we were relegated to the Conference, and I’m pretty certain Southend were promoted (possibly as champions?). It is somewhat ironic, given the current form of the Blues, that we also play each other on Boxing Day this season. What are the chances of history, in reverse, kind of repeating itself?

“[i]Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way

Oh what fun it is to see United win away![/i]”

Up the U’s

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Letters from Wiltshire #47 by wessex_exile
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