|When Saturday Comes #15|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 21st Nov 2021 13:35
When Saturday Comes, and finally the U’s return to the league programme after what seems an age as a result of our international break. The Forest Green match has been rearranged for 21st December, the last Tuesday before Xmas, and it will no doubt be a chilly night on top of the hill overlooking Nailsworth. Originally billed as a 7pm kick-off, it seems to have been pushed back to 7.45pm now – better make sure before I set off on the short drive for that one. Talking of short drives, bravo to our U18s winning 2-0 at Swindon in the FA Youth Cup midweek, to set up a mouth-watering home tie against Arsenal in the 3rd Round.
This weekend is another common destination in my football calendar, Stevenage at the Lamex Stadium, though I confess with an awful lot of other things going on this weekend, I’m still undecided whether to make the trip. It was definitely off for dog-sitting duties at one point, then potentially back on with dog-sitting probably now rearranged to midweek next week (trying to keep the hooch entertained whilst I watch the Exeter City iFollow stream). I think it’ll wait until the morning for a decision whether to travel to Stevenage or not (probably depend on whether the boy has made plans with mates to go terrorising the locals around town or not…).
Nor indeed Judge Schroeder, who went to any lengths to steer the jury towards that verdict, virtually demanding it in fact. Referring to a juror in a previous trial as “the Black” (the only person of colour on that particular jury as well), singing “Autumn Leaves” a capella to a smiling Rittenhouse, insisting the victims of Rittenhouse be referred to as looters or rioters during the trial, not victims, demonstrating clear bias repeatedly admonishing the prosecution – a catalogue of deeds which in any decent world would show him to be not fit to preside.
Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL star, stated the verdicts were the result of a racist justice system. “[i]We just witnessed a system built on white supremacy validate the terroristic acts of a white supremacist. This only further validates the need to abolish our current system. White supremacy cannot be reformed[/i]”. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hit the nail on the head in a post to her Twitter account “[i]What we are witnessing is a system functioning as designed and protecting those it was designed for[/i]”.
Donald Trump has written to Rittenhouse congratulating him on the verdict – says it all really.
[b]Closer to home[/b]
As if one cup competition wasn’t enough, through a stroke of good fortune thanks to Ajibola Alese’s appearance for the West Ham U21s, we now also face a tricky visit to Swindon Town in the 2nd Round knock-out stage of said Papa Johns EFL Trophy. Still, if the youth team can do it at the County Ground, why not the 1st XI. Though I couldn’t make it over for the U18 match, I’ll hope to be there on Tuesday 30th November for that one.
[b]”[i]Have you seen this man?[/i]”[/b]
It's proving tricky to keep tabs on all of the rearranged dates, and to add to the confusion our midweek trip to Bradford City on Tuesday 7th December has been pushed back to the Wednesday to accommodate our Sunday FA Cup kick-off against Wigan. Between now and the end of the year we now have eleven fixtures to complete in less than six weeks, and some bloody tricky ones in the league too – Exeter (h), Newport (h), Bradford (a), FGR (a), Leyton Orient (h) and Sutton (a) to name but a few. Where we will be going into 2022 is anyone’s guess but looking at the games coming up if you offered me right now mid-table obscurity, in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup and Folivi fit and well and raring to go, I’d bite your hand off.
Following their promotion to the Football League in 2010, our paths first crossed back in 2011 when Stevenage won back-to-back promotions to League One via a play-off victory over Torquay United. Remarkably, given our overall record against the Boro, we were hammered in that first encounter 6-1, and only managed a 0-0 draw in the return fixture at Broadhall Way. Thereafter, we won the next six in a row, and it would take until 2018 for Stevenage to win again, though to be fair they did do the double over the U’s that season (thanks Guthrie!). At Broadhall Way our record if anything is even better – in nine attempts (including an EFL Trophy game) we’ve won five times, drawn three times and just one defeat in 2018.
[b]Match of the Day
Like the U’s, [i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC14 returns to football league action this weekend and given there’s a bit of a Swindon theme going on at the moment for both the Junior and Senior U’s, coincidentally the random match generator has chosen another of my many trips to the County Ground. I’ve already covered my Cuckoo Farm petition signature harvest at Torquay (WSC05) back in November of the previous year, and this was another of them, again coordinated by the inestimable Rob Knight.
With work to do, this wasn’t to be a beer-fuelled away day, so after returning from a stay away at the in-laws, I met up with Rob and the rest of the petition team outside the ground to plan our strategy. Whilst most headed off around the ground pre-match to start gathering signatures from mingling fans, my eyes set upon the adjacent County Hotel – “[i]I’ll take that Rob 😊[/i]”. Normally a home fans only drinking venue, and with me in my U’s shirt, the doormen were a little befuddled to start with – could I go in to collect signatures in “that” shirt? Eventually, after a bit of a mental coin toss, they decided f’ck it, it was my funeral if it went south.
They needn’t have worried, the Swindon supporters, once they’d got over the shock of seeing a U’s shirt in their midst, listened to what I had to say, why we were raising a petition, and virtually every one of them more than happy to sign the petition. Of course, there were more than a few comments along the lines of “anything to get rid of that Layer Road dump”, but heart-warming solidarity as soon as they realised the petition was really to try and persuade a reluctant council to actually do something – council being the magic word.
Less than an hour later, and with half a dozen sheets completed, it was time to regroup and ready ourselves for the game. I decided I’d probably pushed my luck as far as I should and decided to not try and sneak a cheeky half in the County Hotel – in fact if memory serves, I don’t think I even had time for one at the ground either.
The U’s lined up:
Veteran ‘keeper Aidan Davison was rested for this one, still recovering from a groin strain, and a youthful teenage Dean Gerken was given the nod in goal. Before we go any further though, can we all just take a moment and bow our head in prayer that we ever see a line-up like that again for the U’s. Parky, in his second full season in charge, was starting to assemble a really impressive squad, and whilst the results weren’t yet matching that potential, there were clear signs we were heading in the right direction. His signings included Neil Danns, who had been on loan from Blackburn as injury cover for a couple of months earlier in the season, and finally signed permanently for the U’s just two days before Christmas – a real coup as far as the faithful were concerned.
Swindon had a deserved reputation as a good footballing side at the time, and were handily placed in 10th spot, just three points outside the play-offs. With a game in hand and a six-point margin to the relegation zone, I wouldn’t say the U’s were in a comfortable place in the league, and really needed the points to keep any nagging worries about relegation at bay. We’d had a poor December really, without a win at all since that match at Torquay, but a battling 2-2 at Luton just after Christmas had certainly helped morale.
Nevertheless, it wasn’t really much of a surprise that for the opening 20-25 minutes Swindon were pressing the U’s hard, stifling most opportunities for us to get up the pitch and pose a threat of our own. Mind you, the defence were more than a match for what Swindon had to offer, and whilst the %age stats might have been skewed in Swindon’s favour, it was by and large a fairly even contest between two teams trying to play the right way.
And then everything started to click for the U’s – first off, Gavin Johnson timed his run perfectly to meet a corner and bullet home a point-blank header which stunned the County Ground into silence – well, apart from our merry gang that is. We weren’t done there either, and seven minutes later it was 2-0. A long throw from (I think) Greg Halford bounced back out to him and whipping in a peach of a cross the ball broke kindly for newbie Neil Danns to hammer home past the despairing dive of ‘keeper Rhys Evans – Dannsy’s first goal since signing full-time.
Swindon were shell-shocked (in fact, rumoured to be hungover as well after a New Years Eve party allegedly), and needed half-time to regroup and have some fire put in their belly by manager. Whatever he said to them, within two minutes of the second half kicking off it was all undone by a rampant U’s. A surging mazy run from midfield by Danns saw Swindon players just backing off and backing off, before (whether by accident or design) the ball broke perfectly for Richard Garcia to drill into the bottom left corner of the goal and send the travelling faithful into raptures (with boos and jeers echoing around the rest of the County Ground).
And that was that, Swindon had had the stuffing literally knocked out of them, and there was no way back. The U’s defence marshalled what little lacklustre effort they made to get back in the game. We didn’t really even have to try too hard to get a fourth, though it would have been nice, the match was done, time to just keep things tight and return to Essex with a much-needed 3pts and a welcome clean sheet for youngster Gerks (in fact, I think his first victory in a U’s shirt?). A couple of tactical substitutions by Parky with less than ten minutes to go, bringing on John White and Stephen Hunt for goalscorers Garcia and Johnson, was the final nail in Swindon’s coffin, and the U’s had made a perfect start to the New Year.
[b]Swindon Town 0 Colchester United 3 (Gavin Johnson 31’; Neil Danns 38’; Richard Garcia 47’)[/b]
That result kind of put the mockers on any serious promotion challenge by Swindon Town, and they finished mid-table. The U’s, although buoyed by the result, and a follow-up battling 0-0 at Layer Road against Oldham, still struggled to find real consistency in their form through most of January and February.
But Parky wasn’t going to be swayed from his path and following a decent point in a 0-0 at Port Vale in early March, the U’s went unbeaten for the rest of the season, eventually finishing lower mid-table and comfortably clear of any serious relegation worries. That run of form, matched in equal measure by dogged resilience when needed, for the final 11 games of the season was heartening to see, and with the benefit of hindsight, clearly a portent of better things to come the following season.
Remarkably, the highlights are still available on YouTube for your entertainment.
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When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
It’s the 15th of January, and still the U’s are attempting to play their first home match of 2022. Weather looks good (check), players have returned from injury (check), no on-day Covid testing to get in the way (check), so barring fire famine or flood, I reckon we must have at least a 50:50 chance of a game at the JobServe this afternoon. Whether it’ll be three much-needed points or not, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I at least did see green shoots at the New Lawn on Tuesday. We still lost, and the table doesn’t lie, but definitely signs to encourage me that whilst it’s not going to be a comfortable journey, we’ll be alright by May.
When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, what should have been the first home game of 2022, and I discover seconds before posting this that the game is called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Having gone to the trouble of writing this, even though we’re not playing I’m going to post it anyway – it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.
When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…and the U’s find themselves fixtureless again, following Hartlepool’s request to postpone the game because of positive Covid tests amongst their squad. To heap further fixture congestion problems on the U’s, in short order Forest Green Rovers did likewise for our already rearranged match at the New Lawn on Tuesday night, and for the same reason. They’re not on their own either, with in all (so far) four Premier League and 19 EFL matches postponed today – all for positive Covid tests in their squads.
When Saturday Comes #18 by wessex_exile
A little later than usual today I’m afraid – ‘tis the season to be jolly and all that, so I have just been out for the obligatory Xmas tree – bah humbug. Mind you, I was treated to the sight of literally hundreds of Santas (and the occasional elf) on a charity fun run through Calne on the way, which for want of a better expression was certainly surreal. Officially entitled [i]Santa’s Scamper[/i], the entry fee for participants goes to charitable causes, and to date the organisers have raised nearly £8k for charities such as Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Dorothy House, Hope for Tomorrow, Barnardos and of course their main charity every year, Hannah’s Trees – well done Santas!