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When Saturday Comes #25
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 13th Feb 2022 14:45

[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] returns this weekend after my grand day out last Saturday at Brisbane Road, and what a grand day it was. Beer, mates, a thousand of the vociferous faithful, and a well-deserved 3pts from a sublime Sears strike to cap off an excellent day. It was a shame the U’s couldn’t maintain their momentum on Tuesday night in a very competitive fixture at high-flying Mansfield, but not for want of trying, and certainly on the second performance a point would not have been undeserved. But those are the breaks when you’re at the wrong end of the league and your luck is against you.

A gnarly old pro League 2 defender would have had Rhys Oates down in the blink of an eye, and quite happy with the yellow card it would earn. The penalty was soft in the extreme, but Eastman left a leg dangling in mid-air and Ollie Clark certainly wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to fall over it. I’m not bemoaning Clark, I would hope any one of ours would have done exactly the same – it was down to what was an exceptionally poor referee to have called it out for simulation. Even after Judge’s technically superb free kick from the narrowest of angles (running his own one-man goal of the season competition it would seem), the U’s cavalry charge still looked to snatch an equaliser in the dying seconds, but to no avail. From the comfortable warmth of my iFollow stream, special mention must also go to the fantastic support provided by the 106 U’s faithful, including our very own [b]Durham[/b], [b]Gerry[/b], [b]Noah[/b] and Mr and Mrs [b]Witham[/b].

Still, we dust ourselves down and go again against Carlisle this afternoon at the JobServe, and (fingers-crossed) a long overdue home victory.

They say a week is a long time in politics, so two weeks seems like an aeon. Issues have arisen, dominated the headlines and as rapidly almost faded away completely – tomorrows chip paper indeed. Still, let’s have a go anyway…

Following a damning report into the Met by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC), which highlighted “[i]disgraceful[/i]” misogyny, discrimination, bullying and sexual harassment in the force, Dame Cressida Dick has announced she will step aside as Commissioner of the Met. In making her announcement she highlighted London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s publicly stated lack of confidence in her leadership, as if that was the driver behind her decision – but in truth her tenure as Assistant Commissioner and then Commissioner has been a litany of one apology after another for the actions of the officers under her command and her own failings.

Remember post-Brexit trade deals? Well, we now have Canada putting pressure on the UK government to abandon the ban on hormone-treated beef to open up a market for them to flood. Although UK farmers and environmental campaigners are strongly opposed, Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng insists that treating their cattle with hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to produce leaner meat is “[i]perfectly safe[/i]”. With this government, why do I feel that ultimately this will not be decided on the science, but by who is going to put enough feed into their trough?

Two weeks ago, I highlighted the ongoing tension surrounding Ukraine, and the show-of-might stand-off between the West and Russia. Well, that one certainly isn’t now tomorrow’s chip paper, with the US and UK now advising their citizens in the country to “[i]leave now while commercial means are still available[/i]”. Washington is advising that a Russian invasion is imminent, and if so it will likely commence with aerial bombing of key infrastructure, including airports – just let those words sink in a bit!

Foreign Secretary and wannabe Prime Minister Liz Truss, in post since September, has issued warnings of sanctions during tense talks on the Ukrainian crisis with her Soviet counterpart Sergei Lavrov, a veteran with 18 years of service as a foreign minister. In an icy press conference after the talks, Lavrov described the talks as a conversation of the “[i]mute and the deaf[/i]”, and that the talks contained “[i]nothing secret, no trust, just slogans shouted from the tribunes[/i]”.

Although there’s nothing even remotely funny about this current situation and the threat to world peace, Lavrov, using all of his experience as a diplomat to snare Truss by demanding in the talks she recognise Russian sovereignty over the regions of Voronezh and Rostov was a thing of beauty. “[i]The UK will never recognise Moscow’s claim![/i]” was her defiant response…”[i]errr, they’re already part of Russia, not Ukraine[/i]” muttered the British Ambassador in her ear – ouch!

[b]U’s World[/b]
Now that the dust has settled over one of the busiest January transfer windows I can remember, and with some hand looking new additions too, there hasn’t been too much other U’s news to report on since the last blog. The Met (yep, them) have investigated the alleged racist abuse directed at Corie Andrews after he was subbed in the 80th minute and deemed that no charges will be made against the accused spectator.

Can’t really speculate on that to be honest, it could mean a number of things – it didn’t happen and Corie misheard, it happened but can’t be proven, or simply that there was very little chance of a conviction either way. I have my own thoughts on this one, which I will keep to myself, but I am pleased to see the club publicly stand alongside Corie throughout.

In other news, it’s great to see the JobServe be selected again for an England international, this time the U20s match against auld enemy Germany on Tuesday 29th March. Never mind the revenue, which I’m sure is most welcome, putting our club on the international stage yet again is great for the club’s profile, and I’m sure it’ll be a very well-attended game (any chance of an iFollow stream).

Talking of streaming football, the U’s home match against table-toppers Forest Green Rovers has now been switched to Monday 21st March to allow Sky to broadcast the game live. Again, great news for the coffers, and provided I can somehow get hold of a Sky day pass, great news for the exiles who get to see another game…and who knows, given current form, perhaps Sky sense an upset in the air?

[b]Stat attack[/b]
Over the years we’ve played Carlisle 51 times in the league, with three games in various cup matches, but more of those later. Club historians (and Wikipedia) recognise that the Cumbrians originated in 1896 as Shaddongate United, but the official date for the formation of Carlisle United is recognised as 17th May 1904.

With the lower divisions originally regionalised until 1958, it would take until 21st August 1961 for the two CUFCs to eventually meet, the U’s winning 2-0 at Layer Road under Benny Fenton. Since then, it’s fairly honours even, with the U’s winning 21, the Blues 18 and 12 matches drawn – including our game earlier this season at Brunton Park. Notable victories for the U’s include Lamberk’s 5-0 demolition at the JobServe in 2008, and McGreal’s 4-1 victory in 2017.

Special mention must also go to Joe Dunne’s 2014 4-2 victory at Brunton Park, not usually a happy hunting ground for the U’s. In fact, the Cumbrians have put four past the U’s at Brunton Park on no less than six separate occasions over the years, most recently of course the 4-0 battering of McGreal’s U’s in 2018. I prefer to remember Joe’s Great Escape 2-0 victory in 2013, still one of the best awaydays I’ve had following the U’s.

Traditionally a lower league side like the U’s for most of their history, including the obligatory brief drop into non-league…like the U’s, the Cumbrians did have a decent run of seasons in the second tier in the late 60s and early 70s. This sustained period of overachievement culminated in promotion to the First Division in 1974, and after winning their first three games (notably two away at Chelsea and Middlesbrough) they topped the league. They remain to this day the smallest location by population to have a team in the First Division, but it didn’t last and they were relegated at the end of the season, never to return.

As for the cup matches, well each of them in one way or another is significant in the history of the U’s. We start of course with our one and only 1971 appearance in the short-lived Watney Cup – a brief pre-season knock-out creation for the two highest scoring teams from each of the four divisions. In the pool that season were also First Division Man Utd and WBA, Second Division Carlisle United and Luton, Third Division Halifax Town and Wrexham, and joining us from the Fourth Division, Crew Alexandra.

As Mickey Mouse as the competition seemed, the U’s attracted 8,186 to Layer Road for the 1st round 1-0 victory over Luton Town, and a very respectable 7,971 for the visit of Carlisle United for the mid-week semi-final. The U’s won 2-0 with goals from Gibbs and Lewis early in the second half, to earn a place in the final against WBA at the Hawthorns in front of 18,487.

Of course, everyone knows what happened then – Mahon gave the U’s an early lead, only for Cantello and then Astle on the half-hour mark to make it 2-1 to the Albion. Dave Simmons immediately equalised, only for Bob Hope (not that one) to cancel it out and restore a 3-2 lead minutes later. Into the second half, Mahon grabbed a second to bring the U’s level, and a Brian Lewis penalty on 86 minutes seemed to settle it for the U’s, only for that man Astle to bundle home in the dying seconds to take the game to penalties.

The concept of a penalty shootout was created for this competition, with this shootout only the second in football history, and the first to be televised (the game was shown on Match of the Day). It was an eventful shootout, with Graham Smith saving two penalties that were then retaken for infringements, but eventually it was left to teenager Phil Bloss (I think the youngest player on the pitch) to score the winning kick and the U’s lift the trophy.

The U’s are part of a very select group alongside Derby County (original winners in 1970), Bristol Rovers (1972) and Stoke City as holders of the trophy. As a nice footnote to the competition, following dissolution of the competition the trophy was put up for sale. It was bought by Derby Museum, who immediately presented it back to Derby County for display in their trophy cabinet. Spotted in 2018 by Stoke City’s fans council chairperson, a share deal was arranged between Stoke and Derby to allow both clubs to continue to display the trophy.

Our cup paths with Carlisle crossed again in 1974, in the 3rd Round of the League Cup at Layer Road, a match I was fortunate enough to be among the 7,842 for. Second half goals from Bobby Svarc and a Steve Leslie penalty in rapid succession ensured the U’s progressed to the 4th Round, and another home fixture in front of 9,515 against high-flying Southampton. A spirited 0-0 took the game to a replay at the Dell in front of 11,492, where against the odds Barry Dominey scored his first goal for the U’s in an unlikely 1-0 victory. The reward (for me included) was a packed out Layer Road quarter-final against Aston Villa, where despite a much-deserved goal from Froggatt with barely 5 minutes to go, the U’s lost 2-1. It would be Old Trafford before we reached that stage of the League cup again.

Finally, and I’ll be brief on this one, we also faced Carlisle in one of our three Wembley appearances, in 1997 for the AutoWindscreens Trophy final. Carlisle were challenging for automatic promotion, the U’s still had an eye at the very least on the play-offs. A tough edgy game ensued, Carlisle definitely the better in the earlier stages, but as the game wore on goalless, and into extra-time, the U’s were more and more in the ascendancy. But still neither side could fashion a goal, and we went to penalties.

Traumatically for the U’s, unlike at the Hawthorns all those years earlier, this time it was heartbreak, particularly for Karl Duguid. As Doogie stepped up for the fourth kick, Carl Emberson had given the U’s a 3-2 advantage saving Owen Archdeacon’s kick. His effort was well-placed, but Carlisle ‘keeper Tony Caig just got his fingers to it and tipped it onto the post, leaving Doogie in tears on the pitch. That man Aspinall scored his effort, and then big man Peter Cawley was also denied by Caig, leaving Steven Hayward to snatch the shootout victory and Carlisle the trophy literally with the last kick of the game.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Southend United v Colchester United
26th December 2009
Coca-Cola Football League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 10,329[/i][/b]

[b]© ColuData[/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC25 is another random match generator, but this time with a bit of a twist, our Boxing Day trip to Roots Hall back in 2009. It’s in my memorabilia collection as a calendar entry, and no doubt a highly optimistic one at the time, given it was Boxing Day. I’m going ahead and featuring it even though I know full well I didn’t make the game – hence the programme cover is courtesy of Graeson’s ColuData website.

At the start of every season, I scour the fixture list and will usually flag matches that look possible for football trips on the family calendar. Invariably, if there’s ever a dispute about who’s doing what, where and when, the “it’s on the calendar” defence is a powerful argument. At the time, we hadn’t finalised Xmas plans, and a trip to Essex to see family was entirely feasible. Entirely wrong as well it would turn out, as the family (mine and the in-laws) came to us in Wiltshire that year.

Still, it’s a doozy, so I’m sticking with it for this blog, relying on all the usual sources for the match report.

2009/10 was the Lamberk, Dunne, Boothroyd season, and by Christmas the U’s were comfortably in the promotion hunt in 3rd place. Southend were having a much tougher time of it and were already deep in a relegation dogfight. However, current form is rarely a constraint on crowds when the two Essex rivals meet, and even though this was a 1pm kick-off on Boxing Day, 10,329 jammed into Roots Hall, including 1,500 of the faithful making the short trip across the county.

Aidy’s U’s lined up:

1….Ben Williams
4….Magnus Okuonghae (captain)
6….Paul Reid
23..Marc Tierney
25..John White
31..Phil Ifil (11 Simon Hackney 85’)
8….John-Joe O'Toole
10..Kem Izzet
22..Anthony Wordsworth
9….Clive Platt (19 Joël Thomas 74’)
18..Steven Gillespie (20 Kevin Lisbie 64’)

Not much to report as far as the Seaweed lined-up, other than Lee Barnard, who in a side bereft of confidence was still a big threat as a goal scorer. As far as U’s connections were concerned, during that season Scott Vernon, Pat Baldwin, John White, Matt Heath and Jabo Ibehre would all make appearances for Southend United, but none of them on that day (unless you count John White, still in the U’s squad that day).

The surprise move from Aidy was to give Gillespie his first start of the season, dropping leading goal scorer Kevin Lisbie to the bench. His decision was almost vindicated in the opening exchanges too, with Gillespie shooting narrowly over the bar in the 8th minute, after catching Jean-Francois Christophe in possession followed by a sharp one-two with Clive Platt. He nearly did it again on the quarter-hour mark, so nearly nipping in between a dithering Ian Joyce in goal and his defender Adam Barrett to have an empty net to tap into.

As the first half wore on, the match settled into a scrappy bitty affair, with Southend getting more into the game following those two half-chances for Gillespie. Franck Mousa forced a regulation save from Ben Williams, and shortly after Christophe really should have put the Blues ahead when he glanced a Simon Francis corner just wide, followed by a Francis Laurent cross that flew across the face of the goal with no one there to convert the chance. Southend finished the half on top, and had Laurent done better with what turned out to be a weak effort straight at Ben Williams at the death, could have gone into the break 1-0 up.

Aidy Boothroyd must have read the riot act to the promotion chasing U’s at half-time, because we came out of the traps at a sprint in the second half. Barely a minute after the restart, Clive Platt sent a searching pass down the left wing for Gillespie to chase down, who crossed into the box perfectly for Phil Ifil to slip his marker and bury his header past Joyce, and right in front of the Blue and White Army too.

Although Southend did their best to respond, under a barrage of taunts from the U’s faithful, with Laurent’s headed attempt forcing a decent save from Ben Williams, barely ten minutes after taking the lead, the U’s scored again. Wordsworth earned the free kick on the edge of the D, drawing a clumsy foul from Christophe. Dusting himself down he proceeded to then plant a perfect free kick around the wall and into the top corner of the net, well beyond the despairing dive of Joyce. As luck would have it, the entire event was captured from a perfect angle by a U’s fan behind the goal, so do enjoy the moment.

[b][i]It’s going in mate[/b][/i] 😊

Although that should have been the signal for Southend to finally fall apart, they dug in and held on, and with 14 minutes to go snatched one back through leading goal scorer Barnard, a close-range header from a Francis cross. Sensing an unlikely point that they ill-deserved, Southend turned the screw looking for an equaliser. Williams palmed a dangerous cross away from right in front of Barnard, and McCormack should have done better with a weak shot straight at Williams. With five minutes to go Simon Hackney replaced goal scorer Ifil to tighten up the midfield, and the U’s held on for another precious 3pts, and a very welcome victory at Roots Hall.

[b]Southend United 1 (Lee Barnard 76’) Colchester United 2 (Phil Ifil 46’; Anthony Wordsworth 57’)[/b]

We maintained our promotion challenge right through until the end of February. I won’t dwell on our fall from grace after that, I’ve already touched on it previously, but eight defeats four draws and only two victories from there to the end of the season tells its own story.

We finished eight points adrift of the play-offs, though if you consider it in the context of who finished above us – Norwich City, Leeds United, Millwall, Charlton Athletic, Swindon Town, Huddersfield and Southampton, by any measure you’d say that must have been a good season – were it not for what could have been if we’d held it together.

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When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
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