Cheltenham v Northampton on Tuesday night is an interesting conundrum. A solid win for Cheltenham keeps the Cobblers behind us, and will improve our GD advantage. However, reverse that result and although we drop a place, 4th/5th position is still viable. On paper, logic suggests a draw would be the preferred result, but then they both marginally improve their position over the U’s. Personally, I think I’m leaning towards a thumping Cheltenham victory to put a big dent in Northampton’s goal difference, but in truth no result would necessarily be bad for the U’s.
Objective #1 Bradford slip up, losing 2-1 at the Exiles, to drop 4pts behind the U’s. Port Vale drop 2pts at Walsall, and the U’s move ahead on a vastly superior goal difference. FGR continue to drop like a stone, and with a 9pt gap now between them and the play-offs, they are surely out of contention? Northampton’s 2-0 victory over Exeter is probably the only blot on the landscape for this objective.
Objective #2 Cheltenham gain a narrow 1-0 home win over Mansfield, but Plymouth drop two points at home to Cambridge, U’s close the gap by those 2pts.
Objective #3 Northampton’s win does at least keep 3rd place just about in reach, but the enormity of that challenge, despite our excellent battling performance at Salford, is still daunting.
CRYSTAL PALACE v NEWCASTLE UNITED 1-1 LEICESTER CITY v MANCHESTER CITY (17.30) 1-2 CHARLTON ATHLETIC v LUTON TOWN 2-0 FLEETWOOD TOWN v PORTSMOUTH 1-1 NEWPORT COUNTY v BRADFORD CITY 2-1 NORTHAMPTON TOWN v EXETER CITY 1-2
My mate Chris, who you've met at Prenton Park, is first and foremost a Tranmere supporter, but he also takes his boys to see their local team Chorley, so if the U's game is off, that'll be our next port of call (if that survives the weather too). Failing that, Preston v Hull might be an option, but as between us there's absolutely no love for either of those two, it'll be a match where we hope both lose
I had a chat earlier this week with my neighbour, Head Groundsman at Forest Green, lamenting the interminably dreadful weather we’ve been experiencing, and he wryly asked the rhetorical question ‘do you know when it last wasn’t raining – October!’. Not literally, but it does feel like it right now, and all but the most pristine of surfaces are really starting to creak at the seams now. The news that there’s a pitch inspection at 9am tomorrow does not fill me with hope, particularly as I’ll be halfway to Birmingham by then…
Yeading v Colchester United Saturday 12th November 1994 FA Cup (First Round) Attendance 1,500
Match #45 of the series, and we’re back in FA Cup action, and I think for only the second time the Matches of Yesteryear random match selector has chosen a game under George Burley as manager. The first round of the FA Cup, and we faced a tricky tie at non-league Yeading, many years before an eventual 2007 merger with their near-neighbours to become Hayes and Yeading United. At the time of this match, Yeading were in the middle of a bit of a purple patch in their history, having been promoted to the Isthmian Premier Division in 1991, and were on quite run in that division when we met. I don’t have the programme for this match, for reasons I’ll go into below, so I have gratefully borrowed this image from Graeson’s ColUData website.
I do, however, still have my ticket stub, and again with good reason, because it was all-ticket for the U’s faithful, who I think (if memory serves) numbered 800 on the day, in an official capacity crowd of 1,500 – there weren’t that many left in the ground by the end, that’s for certain.
I travelled over to this match on the train, arriving in what I thought was good time to grab a taxi from Hayes train station to the ground. Now, this is where things started to go a bit wrong. I’d got it into my head, because I recall at the time there was comment that Yeading actually played in Hayes – I’m not sure where I heard that, and on reflection, it was probably meant as Yeading played in the borough of Hayes. I took it to mean the match was at the Hayes FC ground, which at the time was (I think) at Church Rd. After a longer than expected wait for a taxi at the station rank, imagine the slight bemusement of the taxi driver when I insisted (in my Col U shirt) that I wanted to go to Hayes FC. Still, who was he to argue, and we duly set off. It wasn’t that far, but after travelling through streets clearly not thronged with supporters and dropping me off at a ground with suspiciously little (i.e. zero) activity going on, I realised I’d made a horrible mistake – well, two actually, because my ride was off down the road without a backward glance.
Back in the days before smartphones, satnav and GPS, I had at least remembered to travel with my trusty and battered copy of the London A-Z, so after much feverish leafing through pages, I realised where I needed to be. This was at least 20 minutes walk away, and it was 2.45pm – ah well, time to get on Shanks’s Pony double-quick. Fortunately, winding my way through the suburbs of Hayes, I met up with a very dubious looking chap who appeared willing to help me on my way. Grateful for his help had perhaps dulled my stranger-danger radar a tad, and when he asked if he could see my ticket, like an idiot I handed it to him as we traipsed through the streets. In an instant, my inner alarm bells were ringing – he looked a handy sort, I’m definitely not – what if he then decided to leg it, or crack me over the head, take my cash, and then leg it? Not quite snatching it back out of his hand (well, I didn’t want to appear rude), I did more or less take it straight back out of his hand, whilst he was holding what turned out to be the stub – and both halves duly separated. However, it turned out he wasn’t the near-do-well I thought he might be, returned the stub, and genuinely did point me on the quickest route to the ground.
The U’s lined up: 1….Carl Emberson 2….Simon Betts 3….Tony English 4….Peter Cawley 5….Gus Caesar 6….Tony Dennis 7….Adam Locke 8….Steve Brown 9….Steve Whitton 10..Mark Kinsella 11..Paul Abrahams
Before we get to the match, it’s worth highlighting one particular player for Yeading that day, none other than Kyung Hoon Park (I believe to the Koreans it is Park Kyung-hoon). Not necessarily a household name admittedly, but back then he had played nearly 100 internationals for Korea, including two World Cups! I didn’t know the background at the time, but apparently this was something arranged by Spurs.
I eventually arrived at the ground ten minutes after kick-off, and with no programme sellers to be seen. After explaining the story of my ticket and stub separation debacle to the chap at the turnstile, I was begrudgingly admitted into the ground, and took up a place near the front of the small terrace allocated to and packed out by the U’s faithful. Our supporters were also thronged 2-3 deep around the pitch perimeter fence behind the goal and on the opposite side – proper non-league stuff, reminded me of a number of trips during our Conference years. After my nightmare journey getting to the ground, I was both elated and deflated to discover when I got in that I’d already missed Kinsella’s opening goal for the U’s, but heyho – here goes for a comfortable victory and safe passage into the second round I thought.
However, on a pitch that was not good at all, Yeading clearly hadn’t read the script, and getting back into the game as the half progressed, drew level just before halftime with a headed goal by the fantastically and outrageously named Johnson Hippolyte. This prompted the start of some agricultural banter between our supporters on the terraced section, and a crowd of equally vociferous supporters on the other side of a segregation barrier formed of some rather flimsy and hastily constructed heras fencing. This was just the start…
Into the second half, and our footballing skill, despite the playing surface, began to show through again, and it wasn’t a surprise when Abrahams put the U’s back in front after a dreadful fumble from their goalkeeper. Bedlam ensued amongst the faithful, with yet more goading of the disgruntled supporters on the other side of the fence. However, this didn’t last that long, and when Phil Dicker drilled home for Yeading to again bring the scores level, it prompted a charge at the fence by the Yeading supporters, to be more than matched by a group of the U’s supporters, who did their level best to pull down the fencing to allow a more physical exchange of views. Remarkably, the fencing just about held, stewards more or less restored order, and the game entered the final 20 minutes with the U’s more hanging on than anything else, clearly happy to get the f’ck out of Dodge with the draw, and finish the job at Layer Rd.
Now we come to the final, and most memorable moment of the match (not in a good way). With about 5 minutes to go, and Yeading doing all of the pressing to snatch a winner, I became aware of a column of 20+ Met police filing into the terrace area behind me. At first I assumed they were actually going to position themselves along the segregation fence to prevent any further altercations between the two sets of supporters. How wrong was I – at what must have been a preordained signal, they just veered left up into the U’s supporters on the terrace, clearly intent on grabbing those they perceived as the ring-leaders amongst the faithful.
Absolute pandemonium followed, police truncheons were flying at anyone who appeared to be in their way, supporters desperately trying to prevent both themselves and others being snatched, it was totally out of control. Old men, women, children, the police were flailing out at anyone within reach. I saw an old lad go down from a crack to the head, and those of us near the front of the terrace had to bail over the perimeter wall just to get out of the way. This was just the start of our problems, because they now had more police with truncheons – and dogs – on the pitch as well. It was one of those life-changing moments, do I choose a clubbing, or being savaged by a dog? Myself and others on the edge of the pitch were remonstrating with the policeman in charge (he had a peaked cap) that his force was out of control – for my troubles I was told to ‘f*ck off’ by the commander – nice! To be honest, it was one of the most completely out of control situations I’d ever found myself in.
Eventually, the police hauled out a number of U’s supporters and withdrew, we could get back off the pitch, and temporary order was restored for the final few minutes of the game, which needless to say finished 2-2.
Yeading 2 (Johnson Hippolyte 45’, Phil Dicker 64’) Colchester United 2 (Mark Kinsella 9’, Paul Abrahams 56’)
There had been a rumour going around the terrace that some of the ‘Yeading’ supporters weren’t quite what they seemed, and that one of the big London clubs had a firm in the ground that day – I thought it was Spurs, but thrillseeker has since confirmed it was QPR. I also hadn’t realised that the Barside and them had a bit of a ding dong in the car park after the game – I missed that, the police were clearly up for a bit more truncheon swinging, so I was out of there and on the long walk back to the station.
Having dodged our customary non-league FA Cup exit banana skin at Yeading, we made no mistake in the replay, thrashing them 7-1 at Layer Rd, where a decent pitch allowed true class to prevail. We would eventually go out 0-1 in the 3rd Round, away at Wimbledon – playing then at Selhurst Park.
I’ve found the MOTD highlights video on YouTube, which also includes a nice short feature on Kyung Hoon Park – GOSBTS, you might want to skip the first 1 minute or so…
The first week of matches has finished, as follows: Atletico Madrid 1 Liverpool 0 Dortmund 2 Paris 1 Atalanta 4 Valencia 1 Spurs 0 Leipzig 1
For those that follow these things, not necessarily a bad result for Liverpool in Madrid, nor Paris's one goal deficit at Dortmund (given they've also got an away goal). Definitely a bad night for Valencia, getting hammered 4-1 at Atalanta, and although not by the same scoreline, a terrible night for Spurs losing 0-1 at home to Leipzig.
I've tweaked the presentation of results, thanks to some top tips from mfb, and the MoY series learning curve I'm on. Predictions in bold are first to predict, predictions underlined are second, and no format third. Score highlighted in yellow are permitted exact matches.
Group A Noah does brilliantly to score 5pts, with the Atletico result spot-on, and the Dortmund and Leipzig victories as outcomes. However, mfb_cufc is right on his tail, also with the Atletico result spot-on, and Atalanta's home win as an outcome. Remarkably, just one point behind mfb, BFG predicts the Dortmund 2-1 home win spot-on, to keep this group very close.
Group B Sector4 and sevebalo go toe to toe, both getting the Dortmund result spot-on, and the Atalanta home win as an outcome, to be level on 4pts at the top of the group. Lewis keeps in touch, also with the Atalanta home win, and there's plenty of time to improve on that.
Group C Thrillseeker gets Atletico's 1-0 victory over Liverpool spot-on, to go top on 3pts. Daniel keeps in touch with the Atalanta home win for 1pt, but blueeagle is yet to get off the mark.
Group D In Group D, basher takes a solid lead, picking the Dortmund result spot-on, with the Atalanta home win as an outcome. Blue4U2 stays in contention with the Dortmund home win, but concordman is yet to score.
Relatively narrow home wins for Atletico Madrid (1-0) and Dortmund (2-1) tonight. I'll do a full update after tomorrow's matches, but suffice to say quite a few points, including seven spot-on predictions, already scored by the U'sual Champions League competitors.
Hi Daniel - you have some exact matches to fix I'm afraid:
Dortmund 1 Paris 2 matches with both thrillseeker and blueeagle, but that's okay as your one permitted allowance with both of your competitors.
Unfortunately Spurs 2 Leipzig 1, Napoli 0 Barcelona 2 and Real Madrid 1 Man City 2 also match with thrillseeker and will have to be amended. Bear in mind that you can't change those to 1-0, 1-1 or 1-1 respectively, as that would also clash with blueeagle's predictions.
If you don't spot this message in time, you're okay for tomorrow, but will need to change the Spurs v Leipzig prediction ahead of Wednesday's 8pm kick-off. The other two you have until next week's kick-offs to alter.
So, after a disappointing result at Port Vale, our mission is clear, and has three simple objectives:
Objective #1 - stay in the Play-Offs Pretty straightforward really, with goal difference on our side, we just have to do as well as the best performing team below us. Currently, and realistically, that means Northampton and Bradford City, with Forest Green 6pts adrift at the moment. We've still to play away at both of those two, which makes those games absolutely massive. If it proves necessary, we also have the luxury of FGR at home for the last game of the season.
If we manage that...
Objective #2 - finish 4th or 5th Much trickier - Plymouth and Cheltenham both have two games in hand, and Plymouth might be too far ahead to be caught already. However, we still have Cheltenham at home to come, win that and we'll be right on their heels. The Play-Offs are a complete lottery, but if I had the choice, I'd rather go into the second leg of a semi-final, knowing what we had to do, at home.
If we manage that...
Objective #3 - pinch 3rd place Dreamland, obviously - it would need us to win almost all of our remaining fixtures. I thought 80pts might be enough, Durham thought 82pts, and I reckon it'll be somewhere around that mark - certainly not less than 80pts. If we accept that our games at Bradford and Northampton are must-win because of Objective #1, and we win all of our remaining home matches, that's eight victories. Notwithstanding what teams around us do to each other, that leaves us needing a couple of good results at Salford, Carlisle, Newport or Walsall.
Stranger things have happened - I'll be there at Salford to see how the run-in starts.
I'm always optimistic, after 50 years following the U's, I have to be. Mathematically, of course we can still get in the top three, but 9pts adrift, and probably 12pts once the game in hand is factored in, it isn't very likely now. If 80pts is going to be enough, we have to win nine and draw at least one of the last 12 - not impossible mind you...