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When Saturday Comes #33
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 10th Apr 2022 14:32

[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and there was a time, not too long ago, when today’s game against the charmless Steve Evans and Stevenage was looking like it might be a relegation 6-pointer. Whilst we’re not out of the woods quite yet, back-to-back victories over Tranmere Rovers and Harrogate mean we go into this game knowing even if we were to slip up against Stevenage, we’ll still be 8pts plus goal difference ahead of them, and only five games left to play. Still, let’s not dwell on negatives, because three wins on the bounce will be the confidence-booster we’ll need ahead of the tough trip on Good Friday to St James’ Park.

We’ll need it too, with the Grecians having already sold well in excess of 6,000 tickets and looking like they’ll be close to a sell-out for the game. Their club twitter feed has been highlighting all week the dwindling number of home tickets available, which at the last count was down to just over 700. Mind you, including yours truly, I expect the U’s to bring a decent number of the Faithful, despite not only a long trip south west, but with a hellishly early 5.30am start for those from Essex because of the 1pm kick-off. Not so bad for me, obviously, and the nuisance of an early kick-off is somewhat offset by knowing I’ll be home by tea-time after.

[b]TWTWTW[/b]
When you thought perhaps the atrocities being committed by Russian forces in Ukraine couldn’t get any worse, a Russian Tochka U short-range ballistic missile strikes Kramatorsk railway station. The station was being used at the time to evacuate civilians away from the war zone, and the attack left at least 52 confirmed dead, and many hundreds more injured. The Tochka U is a cluster munition, exploding in mid-air to rain down multiple bomblets over a wide area, and they are specifically designed to inflict maximum casualties on people – not destroy armour or infrastructure.

Cluster munitions have been banned under the 2008 [i]Convention on Cluster Munitions[/i] international treaty, a treaty that Russia refused to sign up to. Predictably, after originally claiming it was an unintentional misfire, a Kremlin spokesman then went full-on denial, claiming they had no involvement in the attack, and that the missile was instead one used by Ukrainian forces. Meanwhile, as Putin’s crimes against humanity continue to accumulate, following the Russian withdrawal a forensic team has entered the shattered city of Bucha to recover and examine the many hundreds of civilian bodies left lying on the streets, and start the difficult process of exhuming mass graves.

Closer to home, beleaguered Chancellor Rishi Sunak seems unable to get out of the forensic glare of the public spotlight. After being ridiculed for staging a photo-op trying to show the multi-millionaire to be a ‘man of the people’, filling up a Kia Rio at a Sainsburys petrol station that he had to borrow from one of the members of staff, now it’s his non-dom billionaire wife’s turn. Now, apparently there is nothing illegal about claiming non-domicile status to avoid paying taxes on overseas income in the country you are resident in. But, when your husband is Chancellor of the Exchequer, you live in a tax-payer funded London flat, and you are still raking in millions in profits from Daddy’s company’s success in business with Russia, it’s certainly morally reprehensible.

Many believe that this is something that ultimately might mean an end to Sunak’s ambition to one day be Prime Minster. Sunak is furious, believing he is the victim of a “[i]political hit job[/i]”, a coordinated attack timed to coincide with his rise in National Insurance contributions – even if Public Eye had already exposed her non-dom status over a year ago. The fact his anger is because the news has leaked out speaks volumes. In a bid to try and resurrect her husband’s political career, Akshata Murty has now said she will pay UK taxes on her overseas income.

…and finally, in a move that surprised no one, Will Smith has been banned from the Oscars gala and other Academy events for the next ten years. Coming soon, breaking news as he moves to his Aunty and Uncle’s in Bel-Air.

[b]U’s World[/b]
Another relatively quiet week in U’s World, although great news that promising youngsters Gene Kennedy and Brad Ihionvien have signed U’s professional contracts. Kennedy has already managed a handful of first team appearances, including league starts against Sutton and Mansfield. Ihionvien has yet to turn out for the first team, but the talented striker has been banging goals in for fun in the U18s and U23s.


[b]Congratulations Gene and Brad[/b]

Junior Tchamadeu predictably won the U’s March Goal of the Month competition with his blistering injury-time volley to beat Tranmere Rovers – well done Junior, thoroughly deserved.


[b]Never tire of watching this[/b]

[b]Stat attack[/b]
Stats and Stevenage – pfft, not going to bother too much here. I’ve featured the origins and history of Stevenage before, no intention of doing it again. The only stat worthy of consideration is that they are long overdue relegation, even if it means losing what is often a good awayday for the Faithful in favour of a mentally long trip to Barrow.

Having dispensed with the services of former U’s ‘advisor’ Paul Tisdale, Boro have finally found the bottom of the barrel in Steve Evans. It’ll be a shame for Luke’s Norris and Prosser to suffer the indignity of relegation – both did their all for Colchester United whilst here, and I certainly bear them no ill-will – so hopefully if relegation does finally arrive for Boro, they can pick up League 2 deals elsewhere.


[b]Good luck Luke, just not today…[/b]

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Bristol Rovers v Colchester United
1st March 2011
Npower Football League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 5,181[/i][/b]


[b]No programme for this one, just my calendar entry[/b]

[i]Match of the Day[/i] for this blog, and the random match selector has bizarrely taken us back to Bristol Rovers’ Memorial Ground literally just a few weeks after I was there in person. This trip was a rearranged evening game back in March 2011, after the first attempt in December 2010 had been postponed, along with pretty much all other U’s fixtures that month bar a 0-0 draw at home to Yeovil Town.

I was actually scheduled to go to the original fixture in December, so I was buggered if I was going to miss out a second time, only this time Alfie came along with me. It meant a late night for the lad on what was a school night, but he was keen so I thought why not, and being only a short train journey from Bristol Temple Meads, we wouldn’t be back too late….or so I thought.

Although back in December when the game should have been played the U’s were comfortably in the play-off zone, a combination of fixture congestion and poor form since then had seen us win only four out of 13 and slip down to tenth place. By no means out of the race for a play-off spot, but now relying as much on the results for others instead of having our destiny in our own hands. Mind you, we were in a much healthier position than our opponents Bristol Rovers, who were embroiled in a battle at the bottom to avoid relegation to the basement, along with West Country rivals Plymouth Argyle and Swindon Town.

Following the departure of Aidy Boothroyd in the summer to Coventry City, his assistant John Ward was promoted to Manager for Colchester United. After three years of spend spend spend, without promotion to show for it, Robbie had to cut back on finances, and John Ward inherited a much-reduced transfer budget to work with. Nevertheless, despite losing David Fox, Kevin Lisbie, Clive Platt, David Prutton and Danny Batth, Ward shopped shrewdly, signing free agents Lloyd James and Brian Wilson, non-league stars Andy Bond and Ben Coker, and Dave Mooney was brought in from Reading on a season-long loan.

In a return to his former club, that evening John Ward’s U’s lined up:

1….Ben Williams
3….Lee Beevers
6….Nathan Clarke
28..Matt Heath
10..Kem Izzet (captain) (8. John-Joe O’Toole 78’)
14..Andy Bond
22..Anthony Wordsworth
24..Ben Coker
26..Lloyd James
15..Kayode Odejayi (18. Steven Gillespie 73’)
16..Ian Henderson (7. Ashley Vincent 89’)

As for the game, it was a half-decent game to be honest, certainly as far as the U’s were concerned. Right from the outset it was clear to see why Bristol Rovers were struggling in the league, with the U’s controlling the game. It wasn’t always pretty, but we took the game to Bristol Rovers, whilst simultaneously closing down virtually all avenues for them to get into the match.

Gas defender Jean-Paul Kalala had already cleared one effort off the line with his goalkeeper Conrad Logan beaten, and Logan then did well to deny Lloyd James, who was having a brilliant game, from opening the scoring. However, there was nothing much Logan could do about Odejayi’s goal. On 22 minutes Logan’s clearance from another Colchester attack cannoned off the back of defender Jerel Ifil and rebounded perfectly into path of Kayode Odejayi. Kayode, former Bristol City striker, didn’t need a second invitation and gleefully slotted the ball into virtually an open goal.

Albeit perhaps harsh on Bristol Rovers given how it came about, it certainly wasn’t undeserved for the U’s, and we continued to dominate throughout the remainder of the first half, with Rovers barely registering a serious attempt on goal throughout. Indeed, it took another goal-line clearance from Kalala to prevent the U’s increasing their lead. Time for a half-time burger for the boy, and a Bovril to warm up Dad.

Into the second half, and with the U’s playing towards our end, the 150 or so U’s fans were hopeful that we’d be seeing more goals to come. It didn’t look like we were going to be disappointed either, with James again testing Logan barely 3 minutes into the second half. Wave upon wave of U’s attacks followed, with a succession of corners and free kicks raining down in the Gas penalty area, and all desperately scrambled away by their beleaguered defence. On ten minutes or so, two decent efforts in rapid succession by Kayode were beaten away by Logan.

But, if you don’t take your chances when presented, eventually you run the risk of paying for that profligacy. About 15 minutes into the second half finally Bristol Rovers started to get some semblance of a foothold in the game, and whilst the U’s backline was still strong, they were now the busier defence. On 67 minutes, sensing they might get back into the game, Bristol Rovers manager Dave Penney replaced Rene Howe with Scott Davies.

Bristol Rovers continued to press, with Ben Williams kept busy dealing with a combination or corners, direct and indirect free kicks over the next five minutes or so. Eventually Ward decided he needed to change things too, to try and get back into a game we were previously comfortably controlling, swapping the hard-working Kayode Odejayi with silky Steven Gillespie. Still though the Gas pressed, with Ben Williams by far the busier ‘keeper.

It was the welcome introduction of John-Joe O’Toole, his first appearance after a 10-month absence through injury, which finally turned the tide again in the U’s favour. Ward admitted after the game that he hadn’t even intended using O’Toole, just bought him along to get back into being part of the squad, but he apparently trained so well ahead of the match that Ward decided if the opportunity presented itself, he was going to give him a run-out.

From there to the end of the match it was all U’s as effort after effort was blocked, beaten away, or narrowly missed, including a delightful Gillespie glanced header from a Lloyd James corner which flashed across the face of goal and narrowly wide. Rolling the dice one more time, manager Penney threw on Elliot Richard with five minutes to go, but to no avail, and with the U’s back in control and winding down the clock, including a last-minute substitution bringing on Ashley Vincent, comfortably held on for a much needed and deserved 1-0 victory.

[b]Bristol Rovers 0 Colchester United 1 (Kayode Odejayi 22’)[/b]

The journey home was more problematic than it should have been, as we waited at a crowded bus stop for a bus back down the hill to Bristol city centre. After nearly 20 minutes, one had steamed straight past without stopping because it was already full, and we didn’t manage to squeeze onto the next even though it did thankfully actually stop. By now we were reaching that critical point, start walking now or risk not even making the last train home if we don’t get on the next bus. We decided to start the long trek back to the training station, and with an emergency wee break for the lad needed en route, we only just made it too, just minutes to spare – phew!

In truth, this could have been, and probably should have been a 3-0 victory for the U’s. However, with results elsewhere favourable that night, the U’s moved up to 7th and just one place outside the play-offs (albeit there was still a 4pt gap to MK Dons in that last play-off spot). What I hadn’t realised at the time, and only learned later, was that this was our first (and currently only) away victory over Bristol Rovers in what was 14 attempts at the time.

Unfortunately, four straight defeats after this finally put an end to any genuine play-offs hopes, with the U’s eventually finishing in a reasonably credible 10th place, nine points outside the play-offs. Bristol Rovers failed to dodge the relegation bullet and went down with their aforementioned West Country rivals Plymouth Argyle and Swindon Town (plus Dagenham & Redbridge).

Up the U’s!




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