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Matches of Yesteryear - Southend v U's 17/2/04
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 7th Feb 2020 21:51

…Parky couldn’t quite keep the momentum from September going in the league, and we finished 11th at the end of the season. However, for the entertainment of the faithful, he was just about to embark with the U’s on two successful runs in both the FA Cup and the LDV Vans Trophy, the latter just about to start the following Tuesday (14th October) at Cheltenham”.

Prophetic words it turns out to close Matches of Yesteryear #41…

Southend United v Colchester United

Tuesday 17th February 2004

LDV Vans Trophy (Southern Area Final Second Leg)

Attendance 9,603

Little did I realise that my closing comment on the previous blog would be a signpost to this match, but there you have it – the random match selector seems to have a habit of doing this sort of thing. Match #42 of the series, and we come to the end of our LDV Vans Trophy cup run of 2003/04, away at Roots Hall in the Southern Area Final Second Leg. I have already covered the First Leg (Match #17), and indeed that splendid ‘Silver Goal’ victory at Sixfields (Match #7) in the Southern Region Semi-Final.

For many of us, this match followed straight on from our long trip to Sheffield United on the previous Sunday, to watch our brave U’s go out of the FA Cup in the 5th Round, losing 1-0 to Colin’s Blades in a game they really deserved more from. For me, it was my fifth game in barely a month, stretching back to that memorable Tuesday night FA Cup 3rd Round replay against Accrington Stanley in mid-January – Em and Alfie’s first and only trip to Layer Rd, though the lad didn’t know much about it at the time, as he wasn’t to be born for another eight months.

So what constitutes a ‘cup run’, is there a recognised metric to define performance in a cup competition as such? I’m not aware of one myself, but I’d say any run of four or more matches ought to be about right. On that basis, I’d reckon that the LDV Vans Trophy cup run of 2003/04 is probably unique for me, as I’d managed to be at all six matches – helped enormously by the accident of geography that the first two rounds were games at Cheltenham and then Yeovil.

Southend at the time were struggling near the foot of Nationwide League Division 3, and at considerable risk of relegation out of the football league. The U’s were mid-table in Division 2, with an outside chance of possibly sneaking the play-offs with a decent run of results. However, being more than a division apart hadn’t made much difference in the 1st leg, with the U’s losing 3-2 at Layer Rd, leaving themselves lots to do at a packed-out and as usual hostile Roots Hall. This wasn’t just my first visit to Roots Hall since our Boxing Day 2-0 victory back in our Conference relegation season of 1989/90, this was the first visit since then for Colchester United as well.

This was school half-term week, so with my eldest two away at their mums, and Em working away on the Isle of Wight (after Alfie’s first 10-week scan on the Monday), I was free to be able to travel over to Essex for this match, popping in to see my youngest sister before the match (she lived then on Colchester Road, right next to Roots Hall) and staying at my Mum’s overnight. I met up with my brother-in-law, nephew and niece for the game, to join a pretty much full away end of vociferous U’s supporters – as usual happily exchanging pleasantries with the South Essex bottom-feeders. I remember the following day the Gazette carried a very full match report, together with plenty of photos, a few of which also captured the four of us in the stand behind the goal, but sadly I didn’t keep a copy for posterity – but then again, why would I?!

The U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown

22..Greg Halford (Rowan Vine 61’)

19..Alan White

18..Liam Chilvers (Wayne Brown 45’)

25..Sam Stockley (Gavin Johnson 81’)

7….Karl Duguid

6….Thomas Pinault

10..Kem Izzet

4….Joe Keith

9….Scott McGleish

12..Craig Fagan

The Blues at the time were managed by Steve Tilson, who had taken over from our very own Steve Wignall during November. Appointed by Ron Martin, his task was made clear to him on day one, avoid relegation at all costs, and they were just starting to pull clear by the time of this match. On the pitch that night were a host of players we have grown to hate over the years, including Kevin Maher, Tes Bramble and Drewe Broughton. Carl Emberson, bought in by Wignall, was on the bench as the reserve keeper, indirectly losing his place as the No. 1 to Darryl Flahavon after just seven matches of the season.

As for the match, well it couldn’t have started better for the U’s, with Southend’s one goal advantage wiped out in just the third minute. Determined to take the game to the Blues from the outside, McGavin and Izzet exchanged passes in the home penalty area, with diminutive midfielder Kemi poking home from close range to send the away end into bedlam. With the match no level, and away goals not counting, we were in fine voice, and the U’s responded with wave after wave of attacks.

However, Southend had already been showing their resilience in the league, and were gradually working their way into the game, giving as good as they got. As you might imagine, with so much at stake against fierce local rivals, the game had quite a feisty edge to it too, with both Lewis Hunt and then Sam Stockley booked in the first half. In the third minute of first half injury time they got their reward, when Broughton, who also clipped the post with a fierce drive, smashed one past Brown to level the scores on the night, and restore their one goal advantage.

The second half was a bit of a disappointment, with the game descending into a niggly messy affair, with no team really getting on top. Parky bought on Wayne Brown for Liam Chilvers at halftime to tighten up the defence, and for his second debut at the U’s. The competitive edge was still there, with Craig Fagan, Kevin Maher, Alan White and Jamie Stuart also picking up bookings during the half. Broughton wasted an excellent chance to put the Blues 2-1 up on the night, heading over when it looked easier to score, but the miss of the night was for Tes Bramble, who made a right mess of his chance from only six yards. He nearly made amends five minutes later with a rasping 25-yard effort, but Brown performed miracles to save it.

In the final ten minutes, we threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Southend, with Doogie in particular going close on a couple of occasions. However, the seminal moment came in the 3rd minute of injury time, when Izzet was flattened in the box for a clear penalty – clear to everyone that is apart from referee Mike Ryan, who was having none of it. Absolute mayhem followed, with U’s fans spilling over on to the pitch, stewards desperately trying to maintain order, and I’m pretty sure Izzet (and possibly also McGleish) booked for their protests. However, all to no avail and the match finished 1-1, with Southend victorious 4-3 on aggregate over the two legs.

Southend United 1 (Broughton 45+3’) Colchester United 1 (Kem Izzet 3’)

So Southend progressed to their first major final appearance, though at the Millennium Stadium not Wembley, facing Steve McMahon’s Blackpool in front of 34,031 supporters. McMahon had won this competition two seasons earlier with Blackpool, and they ran out comfortable 2-0 winners on the day, with an early goal from Murphy, and a second from Coid ten minutes into the second half.

As there’s little else to chuckle about – missing out on a cup final appearance to our fiercest local rivals, let’s remember a happier moment from our battles through the ages…

Up the U’s

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Letters from Wiltshire #05 by wessex_exile
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