|Matches of Yesteryear Blackburn v U's 29/01/05|
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 23rd Aug 2019 23:35
Blackburn Rovers v Colchester United
Saturday 29th January 2005
FA Cup (4th round)
For the first time, the Matches of Yesteryear dips out of league fixtures, with our first foray into the FA Cup – League 1 Colchester United away at Premier League (and previous champions) Blackburn Rovers. Quite a memorable match too, and for the most part because of one quite memorable moment – but more of that later.
The U’s were managed by Phil Parkinson (currently available, having resigned from beleaguered Bolton Wanderers). This wasn’t his first serious foray into the FA Cup, having taken the U’s to the 5th round the previous season, only to lose narrowly (and undeservedly) 1-0 at Bramall Lane. It wasn’t his last either, taking the U’s to the 5th round again in 2005/06, losing 3-1 but with great distinction at Stamford Bridge (“who needs Mourinho, we’ve got Phil Parkinson!!”).
We hadn’t necessarily had the easiest of routes to this match, drawn away in all three previous rounds, albeit against teams below us or in our league. We eased past Mansfield in the first round with a comprehensive 4-1 replay victory at Layer Rd (goals from Garcia, OG, Fagan and Williams), after drawing 1-1 at Field Mill, then thrashed Rushden and Diamonds at Nene Park 5-2 in the second round (Halford hat-trick and two from Fagan), and then finally winning 2-0 at high-flying Hull City (Williams and Fagan) in the third round, in front of an over 14k crowd.
The U’s lined up:
1….Aidan Davison (Dean Gerken the unused sub goalkeeper)
14..Stephen Hunt (Liam Chilvers 55’)
26..Neil Danns (signed from Blackburn the previous month, hence his relatively lowly squad no.)
4….Gavin Johnson (Joe Keith 79’)
8….Gareth Williams (Guylain Ndumbu-Nsungu 58’)
It is also worth noting that although Blackburn Rovers had fallen away from their mid-90s success in the Premier League, they were still a formidable force to be reckoned with – lining up that day with, for instance, Brad Friedal in goal, Dominic Matteo, Brett Emerton, Tugay, Morten Gamst Pedersen and of course everyone’s bête noire – Robbie Savage (who had signed for Blackburn Rovers 10 days earlier for a £3m fee). However, much of the coverage leading up to the game focused on one player, Bobby Svarc. Brought from Boston United by Jim Smith when he took over our management, and who formed a deadly partnership with Jim Froggatt in the mid-70s, and then taken by Jim Smith when he left us to take over Blackburn Rovers in 1975. Glossing over Jim and Bobby’s somewhat ignominious return to Layer Rd in ’77 (thrashed 4-0 in the League Cup replay after drawing 1-1 at Ewood Park – I was at both matches), he was and still is a U’s and Rovers legend. So much so, that the programme featured a double-page spread interview with Bobby, which hopefully you can more or less read in this photo.
I travelled up from Salisbury on the train for this match, and had the pleasure of sharing a taxi from the station to Ewood Park with one of our previous visitors to the U’sual, a young lad by the name of Irish Eagle. I’m not sure quite how many made the journey to follow the U’s that day, but it must have been close on 2k – not bad for such a long journey – and we were all definitely in good voice…and for over 20 minutes, we more than held our own, on what has to be said was a horrible pitch. Robbie was inevitably getting the bird at every opportunity, but with the team that was (largely) to take us to the Championship the following season, we were not overawed, nor outplayed.
But then, the seminal moment – an easy back pass from Kevin Watson to Aiden Davidson, which just required a leathering from Aidan back up field. He sized it up, took a mighty swing, and at the crucial moment the ball bobbled on the dreadful pitch, Aidan swung and missed right under it, and the ball rolled embarrassingly into the empty net. Doubly embarrassing, because the Match of the Day cameras were there ready for a potential upset, and we were subjected to endless re-runs of a massive blooper for months to come. Pundits to this day may still argue about blame – Watson should never have passed back to his ‘keeper towards his own goal, Davidson should have kept his eye on the ball, but ultimately it was a freak goal borne solely of the dreadful pitch at Ewood Park that day. I have searched the internet for footage, and I’m kind of glad I haven’t managed to find any.
The U’s were devastated, we were devastated, and with the stuffing knocked out of us it didn’t come as any surprise that Jemal Johnson doubled the lead shortly after. Despite working hard to get back in the game, it was to no avail, and with Matteo getting a third, Blackburn eased passed the U’s into the 5th round.
Blackburn Rovers 3 (Watson OG 21’; Johnson 27’ Matteo 51’) Colchester United 0
If it can be counted as some sort of pyrrhic ‘victory’, Blackburn Rovers went on to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, losing to Arsenal 3-0 at the Millennium Stadium (and Arsenal went on to win the final, one of the dullest ever, 5-4 on penalties against Manchester United after a 0-0 draw). Robbie Savage is largely credited with turning around Blackburn Rovers’ season when he joined in January 05, and they eventually finished 15th in the Premier League.
As for me, after the game I headed back to the train station. My connections meant I was sat in a pub in town for half an hour whilst most of the faithful departed to Essex (and elsewhere). This lead to one of my more tense experiences following the U’s (and there have been a few), when one of the locals decided I was his focus of his attention. He hadn’t even been at the game, but three sheets to the wind he decided I was the bloke to give a hard time to. Now, I’m not a hard-nut by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m big enough and ugly enough to look after myself if it came to it – but this was on another level of crazy. Thankfully, sparing me from either a beating, or delivering one and arrest, the landlord spotted the problem and chucked my inebriated idiot out, and I left for my train home.
Not a good way to end a difficult day, but I’d have taken the thrashing of my life if it could have somehow undone that own goal…
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