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When Saturday Comes #27
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 27th Feb 2022 13:06

[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and our must-win four home games are now whittled down to three, following a thoroughly dispiriting 2-1 home defeat to Hartlepool on Tuesday night. As ever, when your down on your luck nothing ever seems to go your way, and Coxe’s jinking run into the box really deserved more than the goal kick eventually awarded. After beating the ‘keeper at the near post, if the ball had struck the base of the post a fraction firmer it would have been a tap-in for Sears, a fraction slighter and it glances/ spins in, but exactly at the point it did hit, it spins across the face of goal and out for the goal-kick. Just to say too, probably one of the best performances I’ve seen for Coxe too.

Still, we must dust ourselves down, learn what we can from some powderpuff defending, take our chances when they’re presented, and go again. Three home wins from four would still be a good return in out position, and none more so than today against the form side in the relegation scrap, Oldham Athletic.

However, to put our football woes into context, at least we’re not in Ukraine. As predicted, Putin’s Russian forces finally rolled into the country this week. As brave as the 250,000 men and women of the Ukrainian armed forces no doubt are, they are significantly outgunned by the Russian army facing them. Although they are mounting a valiant and determined opposition, no one actually expects them to prevent Russia taking over the country.

The West, fearful of being pulled into a European war with Russia, are at present holding back from military intervention. Instead, in addition to the supply of equipment, their chief weapon is going to be sanctions aimed at impacting both the Russian economy in general, and specifically the bank balances of leading politicians (including Putin) and other oligarchs. Amusingly, if that’s an expression that can be used in this context, Putin staged a press briefing to put on display the Russian leaders of business, giving the West a handy who’s who of precisely who to target.

On top of the economic sanctions, the rest of the world is moving to ostracise Russia, freezing them out of international bodies and events. The Council of Europe has suspended all Russian representatives from the pan-European rights body, including the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The Champions League final has been taken out of St Petersburg and moved to Paris, and Formula One have dropped the Russian Grand Prix from its schedule.

The International Olympic Committee are urging national sports federations to move planned events (including volleyball, shooting and hockey) out of Russia, and no doubt most federations will do so. Manchester United have dropped their commercial deal with Aeroflot, after the state airline was banned from using UK airports. Every little counts in this process, so bravo to the Eurovision Song Contest organisers, who have banned Russian entertainers, and frozen the Russian public out of the voting system for the competition.

I’m sure this is of little comfort to the people of Ukraine, but short of World War III in Europe, it’s at least a start in bringing pressure to bear on Putin, both externally and internally.

[b]U’s World[/b]
Not much to report on in U’s World to be honest, other than the ongoing social media debate about whether or not Wayne, Joe and Dave are the right management team to get us out of this pickle. Ask me a few weeks ago and I’d have said definitely yes. Ask me today and I’m far from certain, in fact leaning towards probably not. BUT – we have these three home games to face, so I’m reluctantly prepared to reserve judgement until they are done – let’s hope the damage is done by then.

What I will say, however, is if we do survive this relegation battle (and I’m sure we will), I’m convinced we’ll need a new manager coming in. On paper we’ve got a very good squad, and I can’t fault Robbie for putting his hand in his pocket to strengthen significantly during the January transfer window. We really should be doing better than we are, which to me points to the leadership, and neither Hayden nor now Wayne seem to be able to get the team to play to their potential. I do draw the line at Colin though…

Incidentally, for anyone that was wondering, the Club United revised seat design proposal appears to have died a death somewhere at the JobServe, or at least that’s what I assume as I haven’t heard anything at all from the club since resubmitting it. I’m not a fan of constantly having a go at the club, and firmly believe in the wise words of Bill Shankly – “[i]if you can’t support us when we lose or draw, don’t support us when we win[/i]” – but in this matter I am very disappointed in the club. I’m not disputing that my revised proposal was a cheeky punt designed to elicit at least some sort of engagement from the club, given the complete absence for the first proposal, but the fact it didn’t get any response at all was very poor. It has been said on more than a few occasions, this wouldn’t have happened under Matt Hudson’s watch.

[b]Stat attack[/b]
With John Sheridan returning to Oldham for an incredible sixth time as their manager (including two stints as caretaker), the Lancashire side have turned what looked like a nailed-on relegation berth into a genuine expectation of survival. Undefeated in the last five games, with three wins and two draws, they currently sit 7th in the League 2 form table. A win today and the Latics leapfrog the U’s, a win for the U’s and we widen the gap to 5pts, and potentially overtake any or all of Leyton Orient, Stevenage and Barrow..

The U’s are 19th in the form table, actually two places better than we are in reality, thanks mostly to Carlisle, Leyton Orient and Bradford City, who are dropping like stones (particularly Carlisle, who play at Orient today). If anything is going to save us, it’s likely to be having two teams worse than the U’s in the league (again), and at present Scunthorpe and Carlisle aren’t doing anything to dent that hope.

Since our paths first crossed after removal of the Third Division regionalisation, we’ve played Oldham 52 times including our 2-1 victory at Boundary Park earlier this season, all in the league. If you’re thinking that doesn’t add up, our home fixture against the Latics was one of those lost when the 2019/20 season was curtailed because of the pandemic.

As with most opponents, results against Oldham tend to balance out over the years, with the U’s winning 15, drawing 21 and losing 16. In so much as there can be such a thing as a ‘bogey team’, since 2003 the U’s have won nine, drawn 14 and lost just five. One can only hope that’s a pointer to where today might be going.

Notable victories include a 5-1 at Layer Road under Benny Fenton in 1961, and a 4-1 victory for John Ward back in 2011. We’ve been on the wrong end of a thrashing on a few occasions too, and all at Boundary Park, including two 4-0’s (1967 and 1971), a 4-1 (under Whitton in 2002), and of course Hayden’s cataclysmic 5-2 defeat just last year.

Incidentally, today is Colchester United’s 4,055th competitive fixture as a football club, our 1,346th in the 4th tier of the football league (1,355th if you include play-offs), and our 41st of this season.

Formed originally in 1895 as Pine Villa FC, following the folding of neighbours Oldham County in 1889 they moved into the vacated Boundary Park and renamed themselves as Oldham Athletic. Pre-WWI Oldham were promoted to the top-flight in 1910, but the inter-war years were not kind to the Latics, falling through the leagues to start the 1945/46 season in the Third Division North. They briefly returned to Division Two in the 50s but had to wait another twenty years for what might be described as their ‘purple patch’ as a football club.

In 1974, under player-manager Jimmy Frizzell, Oldham returned to the Second Division, only this time their visit was to last. Under Frizzell, and then Joe Royle from 1982, the Latics established themselves as a solid Second Division side, with Royle eventually taking them back to the First Division, the inaugural season for the new Premier League, in 1991.

Unlike our dear friends up the A12, Oldham managed to retain their top-flight status for a few years, eventually being relegated back to the Second Division in 1994. Their demise was rapid, and just three years later they were back in the third tier. Unable to mount a serious promotion challenge during their time in League 2, and often beset by financial worries, Oldham were eventually relegated back to the basement in 2018, their first time since 1971, and have remained here ever since.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Colchester United v Derby County
28th January 2006
FA Cup (4th Round)
Attendance 5,933[/i][/b]

[b]© ColuData[/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for this blog is, thanks to the vagaries of the random match selector, a return to much happier times for the U’s, with our 2006 4th round FA Cup game against Derby County at Layer Road. I don’t have a programme or a ticket stub in my memorabilia collection, just a scribbled entry on my calendar (and of course some cherished memories). Therefore, the programme cover above is again courtesy of Graeson’s ColuData website, and with thanks.

Technically this was only our second game against Derby County, if you count our 1977 FA Cup 4th Round draw and replay as the first time. Back in 1977 the U’s were very unlucky against a cynical Derby County just desperate to avoid the ignominy of defeat to lower league opposition, so this for me was the chance for some payback. Well, they faced the same challenge for this game too, only this time with Derby County struggling in the Championship, and the U’s flying high in League 1 – in reality I think it was just seven league places separating the two sides at the time.

For me, it was also an opportunity to meet up face-to-face with [b]Mr Happy[/b], to pass on my commemorative mug (and a souvenir newspaper of the day) for winning the Happy League. A lifelong supporter of Derby County, it was a pleasure to meet up with Haps before the match for a catch-up and receive my award. Fortunately, as I was planning to go Barside for the game, a very friendly steward was happy to stash my trophy bag safely at the turnstiles for the game, or I fear it might not have survived what was to come.

Colchester United under manager Phil Parkinson were in an incredible run of form at the time, with 17 victories in the last 19 games in all competitions. We’d reached the Area Final for the Football League Trophy, obviously still in the FA Cup and were 2nd in the Football League. Hopes were therefore high that afternoon, as I took my place amongst a packed out Barside, with nearly 6,000 jammed into Layer Road.

Parky’s U’s lined up:

13..Dean Gerken
7….Karl Duguid
12..Pat Baldwin
19..Garry Richards
17..John White
2….Greg Halford
4….Neil Danns
10..Kem Izzet
14..Mark Yeates (8. Gareth Williams 78’)
11..Chris Iwelumo
28..Richard Garcia (25. Sam Stockley 77’)

Just take a moment to marvel at that U’s line-up – apart from Cureton, who hadn’t been allowed to extend his loan spell from struggling Swindon Town – what a matchday XI! Injuries had played their part too, Parky drafting in youngsters Deano in goal and Garry Richards and Pat Baldwin at the heart of the defence. Derby County were managed at the time by perma-tan Phil Brown, and although struggling in the Championship, still had quality players like Paul Pechisolido and Morten Bisgaard in their team, not to mention Dean Holdsworth on the bench.

2006 seems like a long time ago now, so the memory banks are struggling to remember too many specific details from the game, no doubt not helped by some excellent pre-match refreshments in the Drury. But things I do remember – the deafening roar as the U’s took to the field (was this when the loudest crowd noise that season was recorded, or was that the Championship game against Derby?). I also remember that despite most of the first half being goalless, the U’s hardly broke sweat against their higher league opponents, always looked in control, and often threatened to take a lead their dominance thoroughly deserved.

That reward eventually arrived a minute before the end of the first half, with Neil Danns blasting home his 12th of the season to turn Layer Road ballistic and give the U’s a half-time 1-0 lead that they thoroughly deserved.

It didn’t take long to double our lead in the second half either. Derby were all at sixes and sevens failing to deal with another Halford long-throw, Garcia’s initial shot was blocked by Rams defender Andrew Davies, and there was ace predator Danns to stab home his and the U’s second, and remarkably his seventh of a very productive January. We were going mental, falling over each other in celebration, and already dreaming of a big-name draw for the 5th round.

Those dreams became a reality just six minutes later, when Garcia completed the route. His header from a perfectly weighted Halford cross (who was playing a blinder that day btw) could only be parried by ‘keeper Lee Camp, and it was Garcia who reacted quickest to slid in and steer the rebound past the stranded goalkeeper and into the Layer Road net.

With the U’s surely now safely through, they did sit back a bit in the final twenty minutes, allowing Derby County a foothold in a game they barely deserved. With just over ten minutes to go Tommy Smith (not that one) did pull one back from the spot for an infraction I have no recollection of, but that was all they could muster, and the U’s comfortably and deservedly progressed to the 5th Round of the FA Cup.

[b]Colchester United 3 (Neil Danns 44’, 52’; Richard Garcia 59’) Derby County 1 (Tommy Smith 79’p)[/b]

You don’t need to be a club historian to know that our reward was a mouth-watering trip to Stamford Bridge, nor indeed that 6,000 loud and proud U’s faithful witnessed an epic performance from the mighty U’s, eventually bowing out 3-1, but only when the Chosen One had to show us some respect and bring his big guns off the bench.

Likewise, you don’t need reminding that our league form continued, albeit with one or two wobbles, and the U’s were eventually promoted to the Championship for the first time in our history with a 0-0 draw at Huish Park. Derby did eventually avoid relegation, and although they finished just two places outside the relegation zone, they still had an 8pt gap between them and third from bottom Crewe Alexandra.

Mr Happy and I didn’t meet up post-game, but I gathered later he’d stormed the players coach outside the ground to berate the woeful Rams and manager Phil Brown 😊.

I can’t find a video of the FA Cup game, so here’s the equally impressive league victory the following season in the Championship.

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When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
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