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Knees-up Mother Brown #19
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 4th Feb 2024 14:18

February, and the U’s enter the most pivotal month of the season. Six games in just four weeks, with four of them against sides also in the bottom six. By March we should be either well clear of danger, or even deeper in the sh*t. With Danny Cowley’s U’s still unbeaten, and looking stronger game on game, I’m sure it’ll be the former, but first we have to do our bit to consign Steve ‘Sour Grapes’ Cotterill’s FGR back to non-league. After our shambolic 5-0 defeat at New Lawn, nothing would give me greater pleasure, even if it meant losing one of my closest awaydays in the process. What’s the excuse going to be today Steve – shocking pitch, faking head injuries, Mexican banditry or some other bit of sour-grapery bullsh*t?

[b]The world outside U’s World[/b]
In Gaza there is renewed hope for a ceasefire and hostage exchange, with Majed al-Ansari, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson confirming “[i]both sides have agreed to the substance that could guide the coming humanitarian ceasefire and we hope it will be concluded within weeks[/i]”. The deal on the table is reported to comprise the return of all remaining hostages in exchange for a 40-day ceasefire. Although Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu has always maintained the war cannot end without Hamas removed from power, he is coming under increasing pressure, particularly from the US, to reconsider his tactics to bring the war (and appalling civilian casualties) to an end.

The MAGA republican party is never too far from institutional misogyny, so when the news broke that music juggernaut Taylor Swift’s endorsement was being courted by the Biden campaign, you can imagine the meltdown it caused. They are understandably fearful of the tremendous influence she has with an estimated 272 million followers, given when she encouraged her fans to register to vote back in September, 35,000 new registrations appeared literally overnight. Their conspiracy theories have been off the charts as a result, including that Taylor Swift is a Pentagon psy-op “asset”, put there to first rig the Super Bowl (her boyfriend Travis Kelce plays for Super Bowl finalists Kansas City Chiefs), before then endorsing Biden to “steal” the presidential election.

Rishi Sunak is facing a plot from within his inner sanctum to remove him ahead of the next General Election, with a poll allegedly financed by anonymous Tory donors, indicating it will be a labour landslide as things stand. Although Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch, widely tipped as a likely successor to Sunak, urged colleagues to “[i]stop messing around[/i]” and back the PM, it was later reported that she herself was a member of a WhatsApp group called “Evil Plotters”. However, John Rentoul in the Independent reported “[i]if it was a serious attempt to dislodge the PM, it was an unusually cackhanded one[/i]”. Their cunning plan was a poll that asked respondents if they'd prefer Labour's Keir Starmer or an "imaginary" new Tory PM who'd cut taxes, get NHS waiting lists down, and tackle the small boats crisis. Not a lot of wriggle room in that for alternative options…

[b]U’s World[/b]
Although they knew they were already out of the Premier League Cup competition, the U21s put on a fantastic performance yesterday evening to win 2-0 at Kenilworth Road. Both goals came in the first half, a sensational strike from Chay Cooper on 28 minutes, followed by an injury time second from Hakeem Sandah showing excellent ball control to drill a half-volley through the hands of Hatters goalkeeper and Welsh U19 international Oliver Camis. Annoyingly, I only discovered the match was broadcast live on the Luton Town YouTube channel this morning – shame, I probably would have watched that.

The transfer window closed yesterday, with everyone breathing a huge sigh of relief that there were no more departures, apart of course for Ross Embleton. Much has already been said here and elsewhere about the unexpected announcement that he will leave the U’s later this month “[i]taking up an opportunity that he wants to do[/i]”. U’s Sporting Director Dmitri Halajko was quick to express his disappointment about the decision (not in Ross), setting out just how much more than just Head of Recruitment Ross has contributed to the U’s in his time at the club. That included of course his spell as caretaker Head Coach during the transition from Matt Bloomfield to Ben Garner. Dmitri also confirmed the club were already looking for “[i]a quality replacement…as soon as possible[/i]”.

[b]Thanks and best wishes for the future Ross[/b]

Colchester United Women’s dominance in the Essex County Women’s Division 2 continues, following a thumping 10-1 home win over 5th place Hedingham United Ladies last Sunday. The U’s have won all ten of their league games and are currently 8pts clear at the top with a +73 goal difference. Tomorrow, they travel to 4th place Stones Ladies, who are based in Ingatestone, which will be their first match of the second half of the season. It will come as little surprise that four of the five top goal scorers are U’s, with Ruby Greenleaf top of the group with 18 goals from just seven appearances.

It was great to see the club include U’s Women midfielder Jamie Newstead, along with Conor Hall, in an interview with Mid & North East Essex Mind CEO Ginny Idehen last week. In combination with the club and Workhorse Generation, this is part of a new campaign to encourage Colchester United supporters to start a conversation about mental health. Expect to see plenty of activities around this taking place at the JobServe this afternoon, as well as food and clothes bank collection points as part of a combined Colchester United and Forest Green Rovers contribution towards Green Football Weekend. All donations will be split 50:50 between the two clubs, and then redistributed to those most in need via local food banks.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Wycombe Wanderers v Colchester United
5th May 2001
Nationwide Football League Second Division (Tier 3)
Attendance 7,516[/i][/b]

[b]I only have a calendar entry for this one, so am indebted to ColUData for the programme cover[/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for KMB19, and the random memorabilia match selector goes back to the final day of the 2000/01 season and an always anticipated visit to Adams Park to face Wycombe Wanderers. Certainly one of the odder rivalries in English Football (100 miles or so apart by road), and I was reminded by a couple of Swindon fans of another one in the recent visit to the County Ground, the curious tale of the Swindon Town and Gillingham rivalry (131 miles apart by road).

The origin of that rivalry goes way back to 1979, and a fractious encounter at the Priestfield Stadium in March of that year. Swindon captain Ray McHale had been instrumental in winding up the Gillingham players and supporters alike all game. His persistent fouling eventually invoked a torrent of abuse from Gills’ Danny Westwood, who was astonished to promptly receive a red card from David Hutchinson for dissent. Tempers continued to flare on and off the pitch, which finished a fractious 2-2, including the referee being confronted on the pitch by a home supporter.

[b]Danny Westwood’s red card[/b]

The return fixture, exactly 22 years before this [i]Match of the Day[/i], on 5th May 1979 was even more heated. Keen to see some retribution, McHale was the target for some ‘agricultural’ challenges all game, eventually resulting in a second yellow and red card for Gillingham player Terry Nichols. Gills boss Gerry Summers thought McHale had made a meal of an innocuous challenge, but then I suppose he would. Swindon won 3-1, but things really boiled over in the tunnel at the end of the game. Gills pair Ken Price and Dean White were arrested and charged with assault following the free-for-all and given conditional discharges in court. Things haven’t been right between the two sides since.

I was living in Salisbury at the time of the Wycombe game, so travelled up on the train for this one, to join an estimated 7-800 hundred to add to what would be Wycombe’s record attendance that season. Although any hope of the play-offs had perished several months earlier, and threat of relegation finally vanquished during April, we did have the target of our highest Second Division placing since promotion to aim for. Not that the vociferous U’s support needed any encouragement, this was after all, Wycombe Wanderers.

This was Steve Whitton’s first full season in charge, and for the final time that season lined the U’s up as follows:

29..Andy Woodman
19..Alan White
4….Gavin Johnson
5….Ross Johnson
2….Joe Dunne
20..Micky Stockwell (27. Dean Morgan 47’)
14..Chris Keeble (3. Joe Keith 80’)
15..Thomas Pinault
10..Steve McGavin (7. Karl Duguid 84’)
9….Scott McGleish
6….Simon Clark

The Chairboys were managed by Lawrie Sanchez back then, and like the U’s were playing out the season safe from either relegation or promotion. Their line-up included many of the names we’ve grown to know and hate – Steve Brown, Keith Ryan, Dannie Bulman, even Ceefax-man Roy Essandoh. Remarkable to think that Danny Bulman would still be playing and score Crawley’s consolation League Cup goal so recently.

For a game with nothing too much to play for, clearly nobody told the U’s, who started like a train and constantly battered Wycombe all game. Youngsters Pinault with his aggressive tenacious play and deft touches and Keeble’s probing runs, were both putting in fantastic performances, and McGavin and McGleish weren’t doing too bad either, for old lads. Andy Woodman was a virtual spectator all game, the only issue being that we were creating chance after chance, but just didn’t seem able to put one away. In just the first half, Mick Stockwell, McGavin (twice), McGleish and Keeble all went close, but despite the dominance it was somehow still 0-0 at half-time.

Sometimes my memory of what happened during which particular trip to Adams Park gets hazy, probably not surprising given I’ve been there so many times, and alcohol is often involved. However, it was either this visit or the year after when an enterprising lad decided to exercise his initiative and use the ladies loo rather than wait in the long queue for the men’s. The tongue-lashing he received when he emerged from one of our better known female supporters was hilarious – well, to everyone else at least.

Following an injury to ever-present Micky Stockwell, Deam Morgan came on just two minutes into the second half, which was the catalyst for finally breaking the deadlock. Four minutes later, with Steve McGavin’s initial free-kick cleared, Dean Morgan picked up the loose ball and pinged it straight back into the penalty area. Who else but spring-heeled McGleish would rise highest to drill a powerful header into the top corner of the net and send the away stand into raptures.

The U’s were rampant on and off the pitch, and how we didn’t extend our lead is beyond me. Not forgetting also, this was against the same Wycombe Wanderers side who had given Liverpool such a tough game in the FA Cup semi-final just a few weeks earlier. Perhaps they were already on the beach, or maybe the U’s were even better than Liverpool that afternoon?

But, you fail to take your chances at your peril, and wouldn’t you know it, in a rare foray up field Wycombe veteran Keith Ryan managed to get his toe to a loose ball in the box and poke home an ill-deserved equaliser for the Chairboys. Did that change the course of the game? Did it heck as like – the U’s resumed their dominance, and in the 79th minute looked certain to regain their lead.

With a defence splitting pass, McGleish put Keeble through on goal with only keeper Martin Taylor to beat. We were already celebrating our second when Keeble crumpled in a heap with no one near him, and a grateful Taylor gathered up the loose ball. Post-match Keeble reported that he’d experienced a stabbing sensation in his calf and was certain he’d been kicked from behind for a certain penalty; “[i]I was so certain I had been fouled I even asked the referee who kicked me[/i]”.

Despite all of their dominance, in a match we should have won by three or four goals, it was Wycombe who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the final few minutes. A decent Chris Vinnicombe free-kick was deflected just wide for a corner, a Ross Johnson last ditch tackle denied Essandoh, and it took a fantastic diving save from Woody in injury-time to keep out a Michael Simpson effort.

[b]Wycombe Wanderers 1 (Ryan 70’) Colchester United 1 (McGleish 51’)[/b]

Post-match the U’s supporters were kept back in the ground for ten minutes or so, which led to some fractious exchanges with police and stewards, and quite a bit of damage from what I could see to the exit gates. The U’s had finished in 17th place, two points behind Wycombe. Although it was frustrating to learn that with all three points the U’s would have finished in 12th place, this was still our best finish in the league since promotion.

This would be Steve McGavin’s last game in a U’s shirt, but he would continue his playing career for another five years in non-league at Dagenham & Redbridge, Harwich & Parkeston (including a brief spell as player-manager), Stanway Rovers, Clacton Town and Bury Town. Following retirement, he returned to the U’s for a while both in the commercial department and coaching at youth level, followed by spells at Ipswich, Norwich and Aston Villa as Head of Academy Recruitment. Steve’s son Brett currently plays for Torquay United.

[b]Up the U’s![/b]

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Failure to capitalize on opportunities can have dire consequences. In an unusual offensive move, Wycombe's experienced player Keith Ryan was able to quickly react to a lost ball in the penalty area and score an undeserved equalizer for the Chairboys.

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Knees-up Mother Brown #22 by wessex_exile
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