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Knees-up Mother Brown #15
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 10th Dec 2023 14:10

After another break from blogging, with the U’s getting last Saturday off thanks to our FA Cup first round departure at Shrewsbury, not that there was too much disgrace from that particular performance, [i]KMB15[/i] returns. Heaven knows though, there’s been precious little to smile about in recent weeks, conceding 11 goals in the last three matches alone. Not counting when he was temporarily stood down as interim Head Coach, this is Matty Etherington’s tenth game in charge, and his future as manager is already hanging by a thread. Ironic therefore that today he goes up against his former club Crawley Town, so here’s hoping the WAGMI-owned club fold as easily as their embarrassingly worthless contract clause claim did.

[b]The world outside U’s World[/b]
As the war in the Middle East continues to claim the lives of thousands of innocent civilians (17,177 and counting according to the Gaza Health Ministry), Israeli Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu is facing mounting pressure to stand down, after it was revealed that Israel had plenty of warning that the attack was coming. Leaked emails from the Israel military’s 8200 cyber-intelligence unit show that highly detailed warnings were received, including from Egyptian sources, that Hamas were actively training to take over kibbutzim on the Gaza border and overrun military posts. Netanyahu is already on very thin ice politically, and he’ll know that unless he can comprehensibly overrun and eradicate Hamas, whatever the cost in civilian lives, he won’t have a chance to continue in Israeli politics, and so the war will sadly rage on…

Our own Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, is also facing mounting criticism at home, with letters of no confidence from his own MPs already into double figures according to their very own Daily Mail. Then again, the Daily Heil was never really going to be fully behind someone with brown skin I suppose. Although party chair Richard Holden warned that a leadership bid would be “[i]insanity[/i]”, many fellow conservative MPs cannot see beyond a crushing defeat at the ballot box if Sunak doesn’t go. Their concerns are amplified with the impending vote on Braverman’s resurrected and odious Rwanda asylum plan, already deemed unlawful by the UK Supreme Court.

In lighter news, Northampton Town stadium DJ Matt Facer (known as DJ Matty) has publicly apologised after potentially knocking more than 7,000 people out of the annual [i]Whamageddon[/i] cult game. The game, which has been in existence for over ten years, is a last man standing competition to see who can go longest without hearing Wham’s [i]Last Christmas[/i] before Xmas Eve. DJ Matty said “[i]I gave it a spin, thinking it would be quite funny to wipe out 7,000 people who couldn't avoid it, but clearly it isn't funny. I had a bit of an insult on Twitter, light-hearted, [saying] it was not a nice thing to do, and apparently that was quite tame to what was being said in the stadium. So I officially apologise to everybody whose Christmas I've ruined[/i]”.

[b]U’s World[/b]
Considering we’re leaking like a sieve at the back, it is encouraging to see that one of the few players to come out of the ongoing crisis with well-deserved distinction, Arthur Read, has been nominated for the November Sky Bet League 2 Goal of the Month competition. This is for Arthur’s deft goal against Sutton United, leaving defenders on their arse in his wake before curling a peach into the far corner of the South Stand goal. A link to vote is below, so let’s see if we can raise a bit of cheer about the place!

I’m not about going after individual players, and it’s not all about the goalkeeper when you’re not doing well, but Tom Smith must surely be getting tired of picking the ball out of his net? Conceding 21 goals in just six appearances is shocking stats, particularly when you consider that of our current –12 goal difference, Smith is responsible for ten of them. Goalkeepers thrive on confidence, and defences are more composed when they have confidence in their keeper, so surely it must be time to give him a rest, rather than hoping he’ll eventually come good?

After easing past Heybridge Swifts 4-0 in the 3rd round of the BBC Essex Senior Cup, the U’s U21s have been drawn away at Isthmian North Walthamstow in the 4th round. The game will be played at their Wadham Lodge ground on Tuesday 19th December, kick-off at 7.45pm. The Stow needed a penalty shoot-out to get past Billericay Town in the 3rd round, but the U’s should be confident of making it through to the last eight, despite being drawn away.

Remarkably, despite a record of won seven, lost none, drawn none, and a goal difference of +54, the Colchester United Women have, for now, lost their top spot in the Essex County Women’s League 2 table to Sudbury Sports. Sudbury have, however, played two more games than the U’s, and only hold a slender one point lead, so I wouldn’t expect that situation to last for long. Ironically, the U’s should have been playing Sudbury tomorrow, but that has been postponed in favour of a trip to Emerson and Upminster in the 1st round of the League Cup. With Emerson and Upminster second from bottom in League 1, the U’s Ladies should still be hopeful of progressing. The match will be played at Upminster Hall Playing Fields, Hall Lane, Upminster, RM14 1BT, with a 1.30pm kick-off for anyone who fancies a short drive down the A12.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Colchester United v Millwall
2nd April 2016
Sky Bet League 1 (Tier 3)
Attendance 5,377[/i][/b]

[b]No programme for this one, but do still have the ticket[/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for KMB15, and in the context of our current plight, the random memorabilia match selector has really pulled off a gut punch, going back to early April 2016, with the U’s fighting for their League 1 survival (again!). It was going to be easy either, up against promotion hopefuls Millwall under manager Neil Harris, looking to bounce back into the Championship at the first attempt. This was the season of seven different managers for the U’s, with the current incumbent, Kevin Keen, in charge as number five. That tells its own story really, but it didn’t stop us from driving over in support, on what was a beautiful day weather-wise.

The U’s had been in the relegation zone since before Christmas, but back to back victories at home to Doncaster and away at Coventry had renewed hope we could still pull off another Prestonesque great escape. However, we were still seven points from safety, effectively eight really given our –36 goal difference, and games were running out fast. Now, I’m not making excuses, but in the middle of a run between 20th October and 1st of March without a single league victory, the U’s progressed to the 4th round of the FA Cup and a sell-out game against Spurs. I’ll be honest, as much fun as it was, I’d have traded those four games for league points any day of the week and twice on Sundays.

After a quick drink and some grub outside the ground, backed by a very good local band getting their groove on in a shipping container, we took our seats up the back of S2. There was a decent crowd too, certainly helped by 1,800 ‘wall travelling up from South London in anticipation of an easy three points to keep their promotion bid on track. But those two victories had really boosted confidence among the U’s, and I didn’t expect we’d be the pushover Millwall might have been hoping for.

Kevin Keen made two changes from the midweek win at Coventry, replacing injured Joe Edwards with Richard Brindley, and giving Tom Lapslie a much-deserved start ahead of captain Owen Garvan, with Alex Gilbey picking up the armband. As a result, Keen’s U’s lined up:

33..Elliot Parish
24..Richard Brindley (22. Kane Vincent-Young 59’)
31..Nicky Shorey
15..Frankie Kent
18..Tom Eastman
8….Alex Gilbey (captain)
20..Tom Lapslie (28. Darren Ambrose 65’)
10..George Moncur
11..Gavin Massey (7. Drey Wright 77’)
12..Elliot Lee
9….Chris Porter

Despite being almost an entire league between the two sides, the U’s definitely started the brighter. Barely two minutes in Chris Porter went close with a glancing downward header, and a decent George Moncur effort ten minutes later from outside the box deflected narrowly wide with keeper Jordan Archer stranded. However, Millwall gradually got back into the game, and really should have gone ahead roughly midway through the first half.

A low cross from O’Brien, after we’d failed to clear our lines, was poked back straight into the path of Lee Gregory, who managed to blaze his effort over the bar – not that we were complaining. A much-needed wake-up call for the U’s, which Elliot Lee heeded, forcing a fine one-hand stop from Archer to keep out his stinging drive. Now the game was becoming more end to end, with Millwall next going close five minutes later, but Chris Taylor could only scoop his soft point-blank effort straight into the welcoming arms of Elliot Parish when either side would have certainly been the first goal.

It would be Millwall who registered the last half-decent chance of the first half, with Gregory latching on to a header from Morison into the U’s box. But, his touch was poor, taking him too far wide of the goal, and his left-foot swing nearly cleared the South Stand roof, much to the amusement (and relief) of us watching on. 0-0 at half-time, and a fair reflection on the balance of play.

Into the second half, and Neil Harris made a change at the break, replacing Aiden O’Brien with Shane Ferguson. However, the U’s came out of the blocks much faster, and for the opening ten minutes or so were dominating their high flying opponents. Barely two minutes into the half George Moncur’s free-kick caused all manner of consternation in the Millwall box. Not that it should have done, it was a poor free-kick, but a Millwall playing gave a swing and a miss air-shot trying to clear it, and Elliot Lee rounded the defence only to be denied by the outstretched arm of Archer.

It was Gavin Massey’s turn next, five minutes later. A short corner for the U’s worked its way across the front of the box to Massey, who’s fierce swerving 25-yard effort Archer did well to palm away at his far post for a corner. The U’s were buoyant on and off the pitch, could this be three wins in three? Approaching the hour Keen replaced Richard Brindley with Kane Vincent-Young, but it was Millwall who had the next effort. It was always going to be a tight angle, but Gregory did well to get around Tom Eastman and clip an effort at goal that Parish could only palm away into the danger area. However, making amends for his mistake, Eastman was first to the ball to clear the danger.

But still the U’s pressed, with Porter going close twice in rapid succession, firing a speculative looping shot from the corner of the box just over Archer’s goal, and heading straight at Archer from a pinpoint cross from Vincent-Young. That being said, the closest effort to being a goal would fall to Millwall with just over ten minutes to go. Taylor had a half-decent deflected effort from the edge of a crowded box which looked to have a scrambling Parish beaten, only to see it bounce off the outside of the post – phew!

And that was that – Millwall huffed and puffed for a late winner, but had met their match in the U’s that afternoon, and the game finished 0-0 – another valuable point towards survival for the U’s.

[b]Colchester United 0 Millwall 0[/b]

Reflecting on the drive home, that was a decent point against one of the top sides in the division, but I couldn’t help feel that with the chances we had, we might look back and see the result as two points dropped. The positive vibe continued the following Saturday, with another 1-0 win away, this time at fellow relegation strugglers Blackpool to give the U’s 10 points from 12.

However, time was running out, and after an undeserved 4-1 defeat at home to Peterborough, and conceding an injury-time equaliser at Crewe, our relegation back to League 2 was finally confirmed with a lacklustre 3-0 defeat at home to Burton Albion. With relegation confirmed, Kevin Keen left ‘by mutual consent’ (as in “[i]I think we can both agree I’m sacking you[/i]”), with David Wright taking over for our penultimate fixture, and then Steve Ball for the final fixture. The appointment of John McGreal had already been announced, but he didn’t take up the reins until the season was concluded – I guess he didn’t want a relegation on his resume as soon as he started?

As much as we despair the loss of our League 1 status, it’s sobering to consider that the 2015/16 League 1 included Scunthorpe United, Rochdale, Southend United, Bury, Oldham Athletic and Chesterfield – and they all avoided relegation that season! Millwall would miss out on automatic promotion, finishing second in the play-off zone. However, as is often the case with the lottery of the play-offs, promotion was won by Barnsley, who scraped into the 4th play-off slot on goal difference alone ahead of now National League North Scunthorpe United.

There is still a highlights reel on YouTube if you’re so inclined.

[b]Up the U’s![/b]

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Knees-up Mother Brown #22 by wessex_exile
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