|Letters from Wiltshire #34|
Written by wessex_exile on Wednesday, 24th Feb 2021 23:00
I won’t dwell on Robbie’s latest message to the supporters – we’ve all read it, and we’ve all probably drawn our own conclusions about what it doesn’t say as much as what it does. To me, bottom line, I suspect the clock is now ticking for Steve Ball (at least), turn around this terrible form pretty damn quick, or start clearing out your locker. Regardless of personal opinions on any of the individuals concerned, I would like to think none of us actually wants to see people made redundant in the current climate. But, these are difficult times that require tough decisions. If Steve Ball is up to the job and can turn this around, I’ll be more than happy to support him. If he’s not, he has to go before irreparable harm is done…and we all know what that will look like, we’ve been there before…
[b]York City v Colchester United
Letters from Wiltshire #34 goes right back to 2001, and our first round replay against York City in the FA Cup. My apologies in advance, with this evening’s 7pm kick-off approaching fast, and such a crucial game for the U’s as well, this blog is going to be perhaps shorter than usual.
In the context of where we are, and the potential fate that befalls us if we don’t start pulling some results together, having the random match selector choose York City as the opponent is a sobering reminder. In the 4th Division at the time of this replay, York City did of course slip out of the Football League in 2004. It took until 2012 for them to finally get back into the Football League, only to be relegated again four years later, and a year after that relegated to National League North for the first time in their history (though they did win the FA Trophy in the process).
The other reason I was there was work-related – we’d been working on a major road scheme in the Midlands at the time, so when the need for a post-fieldwork on-site progress meeting was called for, it was an easy matter to look in my diary and casually suggest Tuesday 27th fitted well. From there, it was an even easier detour on a post-meeting cold and occasionally wet November evening to watch and see if the U’s could get through to the 2nd Round (for a home tie against Reading, riding high in our league).
I drove over after work, and parked up on one of the local neighbourhood streets around Bootham Crescent, where York City still plied their trade. No doubt as a result of financial difficulties, York City had ceased owning the ground a couple of years earlier, when it was transferred to holding company Bootham Crescent Holdings. It was announced at the time the ground would close and York move to a new stadium in June 2002, but at the time of my visit, there was still no sign of this fabled new ground. This was my first (and last) visit to Bootham Crescent; it was a nice little ground, even if (as usual) us away fans were housed on the shallow open terrace – much like tonight’s opponents Exeter’s old St James Park away terrace before they swapped it for the bouncy-bouncy stand.
[b]Where we were[/b]
Steve Whitton’s U’s lined up as follows:
Steve Whitton was in charge at Layer Road, and had been since the departure of Mick Wadsworth two years earlier. York were managed at the time by Terry Dolan, who I knew very well from his time managing Bradford City whilst I lived in West Yorkshire during the 80s. None of the York City players ring any particular bells with me – Alan Fettis in goal is a name I think I ought to know, and maybe Lee Nogan and Michael Proctor up front? If I had more time I’d do a bit more research – maybe another day?
The U’s started brightly, and it only seemed like a matter of time that we’d take the lead, so imagine our surprise when Chris Brass did exactly that for York City in just the 8th minute. It was against the run of play, but following a needless foul by Bowry on the edge of the box, York City played head tennis in our box from the free-kick, with Brass heading home powerfully his chance.
From there through to half-time, and playing towards the far end in the first half, it was difficult to see quite how close we were getting, but most of the action was definitely in and around the York City box for the first half, but with nothing to show for it at half-time. The York Press described it as ‘laying siege’ and so it was – an endless succession of corners, blocked efforts, sublime stops from Fettis, York City throwing everything on the line and holding out.
Into the second half, and more, so much more of the same. Virtual one-way traffic from the U’s, bearing down on the goal right in front of us, with us merry band of frozen supporters just roaring and roaring them on. Dean Morgan, coming on for Joe Keith at half-time, somehow managed to get his feet in a twist when it looked easier to score a virtual open goal – Fettis superbly palmed out a Micky Stockwell thunderous volley, with Brass sliding in to deny McGleish a certain equaliser from the rebound.
Finally, eventually, and with less than ten minutes to go, we got the equaliser we richly deserved. Alan White swung in an inch-perfect free-kick, and up rose spring-heeled McGleish to head in the equaliser in front of a demented away terrace. Everyone then checking watches now – did we have enough time for a second, York City supporters wondering if there was enough time (and momentum) to regain the lead, and probably everyone wondering on a very cold evening if there was going to be extra-time and penalties (brrrr).
To their credit, under the cosh for most of the game, it was York City who responded to the challenge first, and within three minutes they had unbelievably restored their lead. Proctor hammered an effort narrowly wide as a taster, before Cooper passed wide to Darren Edmondson, who just set off on a bee-line straight to Andy Woodman, with defenders closing to intercept, Edmondson unselfishly squared right into the path of Graham Potter, who made no mistake from there. Talk about having the guts ripped out of you, but even then the U’s didn’t give up, and back they came, this time without a doubt against a ten-man York City defence.
With seconds of normal time to go, a frantic goalmouth scramble say the ball rebound out to Karl Duguid, who calmly slammed home the equaliser, before virtually joining us on the away terrace in celebration. And still we weren’t done – in the 6th minute of extra-time, a crisp shot from Morgan was parried by Fettis, and there was Opara (who’d only be on a second or two) to slot home the rebound. It was one of those awful moments when some of the supporters simply couldn’t stop celebrating long enough to notice the linesman’s offside flag.
And that was that, no further goals in extra-time, and so to penalties…
The penalties were taken at the far end in front of the home support, and it was a long time ago, so please don’t ask me to remember the sequence of them. In short, we came to the last kick of the match, and it was Karl Duguid against Alan Fettis, with Doogie needing to score to keep us in the tie. It was a good spot-kick from my vantage point, to the ‘keeper’s side, low and hard, but Fettis chose the right direction, dived well, and pulled off an exceptional save to knock the U’s out of the cup.
I will finish as I witnessed the match finishing – as everyone around the ground was ecstatically celebrating, supporters on the pitch, players hugging each other, with a dignity that did him so much credit, Karl Duguid calmly walked up to Alan Fettis and shook him warmly by the hand, in celebration of a job very well done on the night.
Though I haven’t got a copy these days, I remember an excellent report written in one of the broadsheets the following morning – I think it was the Telegraph, which gave a very balanced account of the match, and including focusing on Doogie’s dignity and professionalism in defeat. We might have gone out of the FA Cup, but it made me proud to read the report.
York would go on to defeat Reading in the 2nd round, and indeed Grimsby Town (after another replay) in the 3rd round, and would eventual fall against Fulham in the 4th round, but I have no doubt the cup revenue helped them enormously.
Up the U’s
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Letters from Wiltshire #44 by wessex_exile
So here we are, as the nation mourns the passing of His Royal Highness, Duke of Edinburgh, the U’s face the first of two season-defining moments, with our late kick-off match at home to Walsall. Before then, no doubt many will have been focused on events elsewhere, not least the early kick-offs for Grimsby (at home to promotion-chasing Bolton Wanderers), and particularly Essex rivals Southend United, who faced a tricky visit to Exeter City – still very much in the hunt for at least a play-off spot. As I finalise this blog, I know that Grimsby have beaten Bolton 2-1, and Southend earned a credible 0-0 draw in the West Country. More to the point, the U’s will know this too. Whilst I can’t help but feel that will ought to be to our advantage, it surely must also put additional pressure on a squad whose confidence is paper-thin. We must hope that Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale, get their heads right, and send the lads out this evening fired up with self-belief.
Letters from Wiltshire #43 by wessex_exile
Well, that has been a lively week for Colchester United in the press, and not least for Robbie Cowling, with not one, or two, but kind of three club announcements in rapid succession to try and put the record straight. First, we had Tribunalgate, which certainly looked very poor according to the initial press reports, but which on closer inspection when some of the ‘fact gaps’ were filled in wasn’t anywhere near the story that some would have us believe. Then of course we had the ‘leak’ that the U’s were about to go into administration, despite all the reassurances we’d been given in previous statements from Robbie. Not so said Robbie again, and particularly angry at what he believed to be the source of the story. Hence statement #3, repeating his assurances, but this time after passing through the lawyer filter to remove his thoughts on the source. To paraphrase Robbie’s conclusion to that statement, let’s hope we can all have a day off from this sort of media shenanigans and enjoy our game at Oldham tonight!
Letters from Wiltshire #42 by wessex_exile
Well, these sure are strange times at Colchester United, particularly for a club (nor a Chairman) not usually associated with the ‘managerial revolving door’ approach. With results not matching expectations or even minimum requirements, and a brief spell after being appointed Interim Head Coach, Wayne Brown has been released to return to the Jammers, for whenever their pandemic-interrupted football restarts. In comes not one, or two, but three new ‘appointments’. Hayden Mullins steps up as Head Coach to the end of the season, Joe Dunne apparently comes back to the U’s in a sort of unofficial coaching/ team-spirit sort of role, and exceptionally experienced lower-league former Exeter City manager Paul Tisdale arrives to provide Hayden with advice and support – crikey!
Letters from Wiltshire #41 by wessex_exile
This afternoon the U’s take on Bradford City in a bid to gather sufficient points to stay clear of the bottom two. It’ll be a tough gig though, even if (as I suspect) Bradford City have left it a bit too late to challenge the play-off spots. They were on a decent run of form, that is until defeats at Newport, Carlisle, Scunthorpe and a goalless draw at home to Oldham put paid to any lingering promotion hopes. For us, it’s simple, to stay out of the bottom two, for all intents and purposes we only need to gain half (or more) of the points that Grimsby or Southend do. Sounds easy, just wish I felt more confident we will…
Letters from Wiltshire #40 by wessex_exile
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