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FGR are not happy…
at 09:52 12 May 2022

…well, of course they are, they’ve just been promoted as champions. But definitely miffed that behind the scenes their manager Rob Edwards was already in negotiations with Watford. The official statement reads:

FGR confirms the departure of Head Coach Rob Edwards and Assistant Head Coach Kyle Richie. Rob & Richie were a key part of the team that gained promotion to League One this season. We’re disappointed that our support, loyalty and honesty towards Rob has been repaid in this way - with negotiations taking place behind our backs.
We had no contact from Watford, from whom we might expect less
[ed. think they mean more, or do they?] but in any event this kind of behaviour gives football a bad name.
We thank Rob for all his work at FGR - forgive him the manner of his departure and wish him well.
On this day...
at 16:33 10 May 2022

...anniversaries seem to be coming thick and fast these days - 30 years ago today :-)

When Monday Comes #37
at 14:17 8 May 2022

When Saturday Comes and we reach the end of a topsy-turvy season, much of which hasn’t been that much fun if I’m honest, though latterly considerably improved under Wayne Brown. If I can, I always like to do the first and last game of the season, but sadly a trip to Hartlepool just wasn’t on the cards, not if I actually wanted to get home again tonight, so I had to console myself with a pretty enjoyable trip to the JobServe last weekend – not quite the victory the U’s deserved over Walsall, but a great day out anyway. I know it’ll be too late for the Player of the Year awards, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a Freddie Sears hat-trick this afternoon to round off the season.
When Saturday Comes #37
at 14:16 7 May 2022

When Saturday Comes and we reach the end of a topsy-turvy season, much of which hasn’t been that much fun if I’m honest, though latterly considerably improved under Wayne Brown. If I can, I always like to do the first and last game of the season, but sadly a trip to Hartlepool just wasn’t on the cards, not if I actually wanted to get home again tonight, so I had to console myself with a pretty enjoyable trip to the JobServe last weekend – not quite the victory the U’s deserved over Walsall, but a great day out anyway. I know it’ll be too late for the Player of the Year awards, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a Freddie Sears hat-trick this afternoon to round off the season.

20 up Freddie?

This of course means this will be my last blog of the season too. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing these for the last three years, and I’m sure I’m going to be doing something similar, certainly whilst the inspiration takes me, next season. I don’t quite know in what format yet, or how regular they’ll be – I certainly don’t want something I enjoy becoming a chore – but I will reflect over the summer, and any suggestions are most welcome.

The war in Ukraine grinds on into its third month, with the death toll on both sides, civilian and military, continuing to escalate. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has stated that any peace deal with Moscow would have to include Russian forces pulling out of Ukraine to specifically “the situation as of 23rd February”, and that he was the president “of Ukraine, not a mini-Ukraine”. Analysts consider his words carefully spoken, leaving out mention of the repatriation of Crimea, which might, if Putin chose to agree, be the face-saving exercise he needs to pull out with some sort of pyrrhic victory? Somehow, I doubt Putin will go for it though, surely his ego simply wouldn’t allow it.

After the battering Boris received over the various Partygate charges, it’s now the time for Keir Starmer to sweat on a police investigation into his own alleged breaches of Covid lockdown rules. The incident occurred on 30th April last year, during a visit to a local MP in Durham, where it is alleged beer was drunk in the MP’s office. The police had already investigated the incident and decided no offence had occurred, but they have re-opened their investigation after they had received “significant new information”. Starmer is “confident that no rules were broken” – of course he is.

It was local elections during the week for 200 councils across the UK, and as is often the case, the sitting government took a bit of a battering in the polls, losing nearly 500 seats and the control of 11 councils so far. Although Labour did well in London, outside the capital it was not quite the battering they would have preferred. Were these results replicated at the next General Election, it would likely only result in a hung parliament. No doubt many of you are already aware, but Paul Dundas, Conservative leader on Colchester Borough Council, lost his seat, and although officially a hung council, Labour and the Lib Dems now have enough seats to run jointly if they so choose.

The more significant result appears to be happening in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, to elect 90 members to the Assembly, brought about following the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive due to the protest resignation of First Minister Paul Givan (Democratic Unionist Party) over the Brexit-driven Northern Ireland Protocol. In the first round of counting, Sinn Féin polled over 250k first preference votes, with the DUP first preference vote crashing to just over 180k, a massive drop of 41k votes. As things stand, Sinn Féin look set to be the majority party in the Assembly for the first time in their history, a moment described by Prof Jon Tonge (a Liverpool University politics professor) as “an incremental step on the long road to Irish unity”.

U’s World
It has been a relatively quiet week at the JobServe, as the dust settles on the various Player of the Year awards (kindly summarised by Durham in his match preview ahead of today’s game). Once today’s game is out of the way, I have no doubt the focus will then shift to who are we retaining for next season, who are we letting go, and suitable candidates to replace them – in fact I’m certain that work has probably already started.

To demonstrate, 19-year old striker Tom Stagg has confirmed this week via his twitter account that he will be one of those departures. Tom has been at the club since joining the academy at U8 level, and in a clearly emotional announcement during the week he announced “the time has come to confirm that with a heavy heart, I have left Colchester United”. Football can be a tough business at times, particularly for young lads who devote themselves to it only to discover they’re not going to make the cut, and sadly Tom’s disappointment is going to be echoed by many overs up and down the country this summer.

Good luck and best wishes Tom – joined as a young boy, leaving as a man!

Wayne Brown has finally broken cover on the “will he, won’t he?” debate, confirming that he will sit down with Robbie Cowling to discuss his future once the U’s have finished their season at Hartlepool today. Although most expect his interim status, and presumably those of Joe Dunne and Dave Huzzey, will be made permanent, there are more than a few reasonably high-profile managers currently available, and no doubt quite a few more once summer arrives, so we wait to see.

Until then, Wayne’s focus is on three more points at Hartlepool, so don’t expect too many cameo appearances from the nippers this afternoon. A win at Victoria Park (these days the Suit Direct Stadium due to a sponsorship arrangement), and a series of not entirely implausible results elsewhere, and the U’s could leap to 15th in the league and finish officially ‘mid-table’ (including leap-frogging Hartlepool who are only 2pts above the U’s).

Carlisle have a tricky visit to Bradford City to negotiate, whilst Harrogate Town and Walsall are both at home to play-off chasing Sutton United and Swindon Town respectively. Swindon actually have an outside chance of automatic promotion, which has certainly piqued local interest in the game around these parts (even my heating engineer yesterday was talking about it, and he doesn’t really follow football), but I suspect they’ll have to make do with the play-offs at best.

Stat attack
If any one football club has had more of an identity crisis than the monkey-hangers, I’d like to know who. Founded in 1908 as Hartlepools United Football Athletic Company, they subsequently incorporated the assets of West Hartepool Football Club after the former FA Amateur Cup winners were dissolved in 1910. Elected to the Third Division (North) in 1921, they then joined the newly formed Fourth Division in 1958. With the new borough of Hartlepool formed from the merger of West Hartlepool, Hartlepool town and the village of Hart in 1968, the club decided to drop the “s United” bit, to become just Hartlepool. That didn’t stick, and in 1977 they tacked the United back on, and thankfully have stuck with it since then.

Never playing higher than the third tier, Hartlepool United remained continuously in the Football League until 2017. Going into the final day of that season it was either Hartlepool United or Newport County who’d be relegated alongside Layton Orient. Hartlepool United needed to beat Doncaster Rovers, and hope that Newport didn’t do likewise against Notts County. Although going 1-0 down in the first half, Hartlepool United substitute Devante Rodney scored twice in just over ten second half minutes. With Newport County drawing 1-1 with Notts County, they looked safe, only for Mark O’Brien to pop up in the 89th minute to win the game for the Exiles, and Hartlepool United were relegated to non-league.

If ever anyone wanted a reality-check about the fate that awaits those that slip into the National League, take Hartlepool as a sobering example. Three seasons of mid-table struggling followed, until finally on their fourth attempt, and only via the play-offs, they eventually returned to the Football League for the start of this season.

Over the years, since our first encounter against then Hartlepools United, our record against the men from the North East is pretty good – winning 26, drawing 15 and losing 20. We started off the relationship with a bang in September 1961, with Benny Fenton’s U’s demolishing them 6-1 at Layer Road. Bobby Roberts went close to equalling that result in October 1976, beating ‘united-free’ Hartlepool 6-2, again at Layer Road. Cyril Lea would complete the six-goal triumvirate, beating newly named Hartlepool United 6-0 at Layer Road in December 1983.

Hartlepool successes are somewhat more modest by comparison, with a 4-1 Victoria Park victory over Cyril Lea’s U’s in December 1985, and more recently a 4-2 victory at the same ground over Geraint Williams’ U’s at the start of the 2008 season.

Hartlepool do however hold one unenviable record – on the penultimate day of the 1982/83 season, our match at Victoria Park was played in front of just 804 spectators, and I expect a significant proportion of those were U’s supporters. Other than the Covid-19 lockdown matches played behind closed doors, that remains the lowest attendance home or away for a U’s league fixture.

The U’s smashed Hartlepool United 4-1 in that game, with goals from Allinson, a brace from Coleman, and the fourth from Groves, and we would go on to win our final match over Torquay too. However, the U’s could still only finish two places and two points outside the promotion zone. Hartlepool United finished 22nd in the then relegation zone, but alongside Blackpool, Crewe Alexandra and Hereford United, were all comfortably re-elected.

Match of the Day
Yeovil Town v Colchester United
Saturday 6th May 2006
Coca-Cola League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 8,785

Match of the Day for this blog and given this is the last game of the season, plus my social media feeds have been flooded with cherished memories of the last game of the season almost exactly 16 years ago, it would be wrong if I didn’t make this one a special to finish on a high note. For that reason, we go back to May 6th, and the U’s final match of the 2005/06 season at Yeovil Town. For reasons that will become apparent, I didn’t manage to get a programme for this game, so the above is with thanks to Swedish Martin, who posted the cover photo this morning – thanks chap!

I do however have my somewhat prophetic calendar entry 😊

For the build-up to this game we have to go right back to approximately 4-5 weeks before the game. Now, I’m not going to say I knew this was going to happen, but I knew the final game of the season might be significant, and as a local trip for me, I was determined to make sure I got a ticket smartish just in case. As a result, as soon as Yeovil Town put them on sale, I was straight on the phone for two tickets (one for former U’sual regular Steve, now down in Australia). Yeovil Town ticket office were happy to take the order, and I could relax.

However, when Colchester United discovered Yeovil Town were already selling tickets, they had to put a stop to it immediately – they knew there might be a lot at stake and thus significant interest, and potentially they might have to impose restrictions on which groups could get tickets first. When this was announced a few days later, my heart sank, as my ticket hadn’t yet arrived, and probably now wouldn’t. However, after the club checked sales with Yeovil Town, it was discovered my tickets were two of just (I think) eleven sold before the embargo, and the club announced they would honour those purchases! Woohoo – Huish Park here we come!

On the day, I was living in Salisbury at the time and Steve was coming from Basingstoke way as I recall, which also required a change at Salisbury, so we arranged to meet there (I still had his ticket with me). It should have been a smooth change, but the god’s it seemed were against us, with a delayed departure from another platform potentially preventing Steve’s train from getting in to make the connection. I was trying to explain the situation to station staff, at one point literally standing with one foot on the platform and one in the train – and I wasn’t the only one either. Fortunately, sense prevailed, and they held the Yeovil train for a few minutes to allow the Basingstoke connection to pull in, and eventually me, Steve and the two tickets were reunited and off to join the remaining 1,600 of the faithful in Somerset.

Arriving in Yeovil, we jumped into a taxi and headed straight for a Bell Inn packed out with U’s support, and a decent number of Yeovil supporters too. There were familiar faces from many U’s awaydays, including more than a few former visitors to this board (Pikes, his wife, JAS, his dad etc.), not to mention the limo full of U’s ladies which pulled up at one point! Credit to the Yeovil supporters, they took the invasion in a very good natured and friendly manner and seemed genuinely pleased that a little club like Col U might actually get to the Championship.

Pikes’ wife didn’t actually have a ticket, but she’d been happy to drive all the way there and back from Essex for him. Our new Yeovil friends were happy to make a spare they had available for no charge if she wanted to sit with them, but she was equally adamant she wouldn’t. Not out of rudeness mind, bizarrely it turned out her record watching U’s games with hubby wasn’t particularly good, and she really didn’t want to jinx such an important occasion for Pikes, so she was just as happy sitting in the car park for the match listening on the radio! She was kind enough to also give the four of us a lift to Huish Park more or less just in time for kick-off (hence no programme).

Phil Parkinson’s U’s lined up that afternoon:
13..Dean Gerken
17..John White
18..Liam Chilvers
20..Scott Vernon (26. Tony Thorpe 81’)
7….Karl Duguid
2….Greg Halford
4….Neil Danns
6….Kevin Watson
12..Pat Baldwin
11..Chris Iwelumo
24..Jamal Campbell-Ryce (10. Kem Izzet 76’)

Although the U’s had been in at least the play-off zone since December, an excellent run of recent form, winning four and drawing one had propelled the U’s into second place behind leaders Southend United. All we had to do was avoid defeat to ensure automatic promotion. If we wanted to dream of a higher goal, if Southend United were to lose at home to Bristol City and the U’s were to win, we could go up as champions. On the flipside, if we were to lose and Brentford win away at Bournemouth, we’d slip back into the play-offs. Talk about squeaky bum time.

With all that in mind, we jammed ourselves into a spot on the open terrace, about halfway back and to the left of the goal looking out on to the pitch. Even with the open terrace sucking what volume it could from the faithful, we were still in excellent voice – most it seemed thanks to plenty of pre-match refreshment, as the U’s kicked off in one of the most important matches in our history.

I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a game I particularly enjoyed – it was probably the most nervous I’ve been at a football game, and it seemed the nerves were also being transmitted to the U’s. We had chances, with Scott Vernon heading narrowly wide from a Halford long throw early on, but the game soon settled into a tense nervy encounter, with if anything Yeovil the better side. The pacy pairing of Phil Jevons and Arron Davies up front for the Glovers in particular were creating plenty of problems, both drawing good saves from Gerken.

Our nerves weren’t eased either when the news filtered through about 20 minutes in that Brentford had taken a 1-0 lead at Dean Court, even if Southend were still to score at Roots Hall. For the remainder of the first half we huffed and puffed without creating much, although our nerves were slightly eased on hearing Bournemouth had equalised on half-time against Brentford.

Into the second half, and I spent most of it looking at my watch and trying to will the time away. The U’s did raise their game somewhat, and probably just as well, as so had Yeovil. Neil Danns nearly scored with a close-range header, and Yeovil ‘keeper Collis did well to parry away a Greg Halford shot. But it was Yeovil who so nearly won it when David Poole glanced his shot off the outside of the post when through on goal, and Dean Gerken did well to keep out Phil Jevons’s low drive.

To keep the pressure on, halfway through the second half we learned that Brentford had retaken the lead at Dean Court, although it was still 0-0 at Roots Hall. One slip up for the U’s and it could be curtains, one moment of brilliance and we could be going up as champions. Kevin Watson had a half-hearted penalty appeal waived away, and Chris Iwelumo shot narrowly wide after being put in by Halford, but try as we might, we couldn’t find the goal needed to ease our nerves.

But then again, neither could Yeovil, and as the referee blew the whistle for full-time, the away terrace erupted in euphoric celebration – we’d done it, Phil Parkinson’s U’s were promoted to the Championship for the first time in our history!

Yeovil Town 0 Colchester United 0

I’ll leave you with the closing seconds of commentary from Neil Kelly, commentary that Steve Lamacq opened his next BBC radio show with.

…and we are seconds away from automatic promotion, and the ball is deep inside Yeovil’s half of the pitch. So, Bournemouth 2 Brentford 2, Yeovil 0 Colchester 0 – AND IT’S PROMOTION FOR COLCHESTER UNITED! They’ve made it into the Championship for the first time in 69 years! They’ve done it, they’re in the Championship! Check out your road maps, check out your atlases, find out Sunderland, Leeds, Birmingham, Norwich, Ipswich – because those are the places that Phil Parkinson’s men are going to be visiting next season! It was nervous, it was cagey, but they’ve done it - they’ve been brave, they’ve got promotion alongside champions Southend – it’s all over here, it’s a magnificent afternoon for everyone associated with Colchester United – it’s Yeovil Town 0 Colchester United 0 – and it’s never sounded better, a goalless draw!”.

Up the U’s!
U'sual Champions League 2022 - Final
at 15:37 5 May 2022

Here goes for the U'sual Champions League 2022 final, between burnsieespana and RSCOSWORTH, and 3rd place play-off between wessex_exile and gerry_us.

The Champions League Final
28/05/2022: Liverpool v Real Madrid (kick-off 8pm)

There are nine categories to predict, so please either post here or PM me your predictions, and I will reveal when I have them all. For categories C-H, as usual there will be 2pts if spot-on, and one point for whoever is closest (or 1pt each if equidistant). Deadline for all predictions is kick-off at 8pm on Saturday.

(A) Result - 3pts spot-on, 1pt for the outcome; 
(B) Goal scorer - pick one, get 1pt for each goal they score (including own goals); 
(C) Attempts on target - 2pts for spot-on, 1pt if closest;
(D) Attempts off target - ditto; 
(E) Corners - ditto; 
(F) Fouls - ditto; 
(G) Yellow cards - ditto (a straight red is not two yellows); and 
(H) Red cards - ditto (two yellows will count as two yellows and one red). 
(TB) The tie-break is the minute for the first substitution, closest (either side) wins. In the unlikely event that there are no substitutions, this will be counted as 0 (zero) minutes. Substitutions in injury-time will be counted as 45' or 90'.

The small print
Note that for the final alone, a spot-on result will not count towards the tie-break, it's just the total points scored. 

All predictions will be for the normal time match, extra-time or penalties will not count. The only questions you can't match exactly on are (A), (B) and (TB), so whilst there is no other advantage to predicting first, predicting last may mean having to change one or more of those predictions. 

All stats will be taken from the BBC Sport website, just in case there are discrepancies elsewhere.

Good luck everyone!

edit: I should have added, a half-time substitution will be counted as 46 minutes.
[Post edited 5 May 22:13]
When Saturday Comes #36
at 21:26 30 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes tomorrow, and I will be on a train heading over to God’s own county for my last U’s game of the season. That should have been last Friday’s trip to the Principality, but as posted elsewhere I was more than happy to be pre-booked to dog-sit Emma’s collie Reggie that night and had to be content with one of Nadine’s ‘downstreams’ on iFollow. Given both the performance and the result, whilst I was sorry to miss it in person, I was more than happy with how Friday night turned out in the end. Tomorrow will be a gathering of the clans for us, with at the last count at least 8, possibly more, of the family gathering for the match. Ironically, I’ll see them all again on Bank Holiday Monday for a family birthday, but I’ll be driving over for that one.
When Saturday Comes #36
at 21:25 29 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes tomorrow, and I will be on a train heading over to God’s own county for my last U’s game of the season. That should have been last Friday’s trip to the Principality, but as posted elsewhere I was more than happy to be pre-booked to dog-sit Emma’s collie Reggie that night and had to be content with one of Nadine’s ‘downstreams’ on iFollow. Given both the performance and the result, whilst I was sorry to miss it in person, I was more than happy with how Friday night turned out in the end. Tomorrow will be a gathering of the clans for us, with at the last count at least 8, possibly more, of the family gathering for the match. Ironically, I’ll see them all again on Bank Holiday Monday for a family birthday, but I’ll be driving over for that one.

Until Putin gets the f’ck out of Ukraine, it will sadly continue to dominate world affairs. This week, Russian attention appears to have returned to focus on the capital Kyiv, with cruise missiles reportedly fired at the capital, perhaps not coincidentally whilst being visited by UN Secretary General António Guterres. Putin had always planned to sweep into Kyiv in the early days of the invasion to remove the democratically elected government as soon as possible. Clearly underestimating the courage and determined resolve of the Ukrainian forces (and people), that plan faltered, stagnated and eventually appeared to be abandoned a month ago. It is unclear whether these attacks signal a new Kyiv offensive, or simply a cheap shot aimed at the UN Secretary General, remains to be seen.

…and whilst we focus elsewhere, and despite the progress reported last week in the control of Covid, China has reintroduced lockdown measures in Beijing and Shanghai this week. Often considered to be the country of origin for the disease, China has always followed a zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19. Shanghai is facing an estimated 10,000 new cases daily and has ordered its 25 million residents to stay in their homes or immediate neighbourhoods for the foreseeable. In Beijing, schools have been closed, targeted lockdowns imposed on some residential buildings, and a mass testing exercise has been rolled out.

© Art Sputnik Rat

Sleaze allegations and the Conservative party seem to be going hand in hand these days – no pun intended! In what has been described as a “highly charged” meeting of Conservative backbenchers on Tuesday night, female Tory MPs shared accounts of alleged sexism and harassment by their male colleagues. These allegations include one claim (from two separate sources) that a male Tory MP repeatedly watched pornography on his mobile phone whilst in the House of Commons. The Chief Whip Chris Heaton-Harris has urged witnesses to refer any allegations to the Independent Complaints and Grievance Scheme. The Mirror’s political editor Pippa Crerar reports that at present 56 MPs are facing various allegations of sexual misconduct.

U’s World
Voting has now closed for the various Colchester United player of the season awards. In a nice throwback to days of yore, the winners to be announced when the team returns to the pitch after the Walsall game has finished tomorrow. I am dependant on a lift back to North Station post-match however, so how much of that I get to see, who knows.

Up for grabs are the following:
Hospital Radio Player of the Year
CUSA Away Player of the Year
CUSA Player of the Year
Goal of the Season
(my vote Tchamadeu)
Young Player of the Year (my vote Chilvers)
Players’ Player of the Year
Official Player of the Year
(my vote Skuse)

I’m sure everyone will have their own view on preferred candidates, so I guess if nothing else it is to be celebrated that in a season that has at times been so poor, we still have multiple credible contenders in every category. More so when you consider, for instance, the improvement that Coxe has made as the season has progressed, particularly since Wayne Brown took over. Never likely to be one of the award winners tomorrow, unless they hastily include a “Most Improved” category, having Coxe and players like him is still a massive positive as we head towards summer and the preparation for 2022/23.

Speaking of which, dates have been announced for the new season, which will include a winter break for the Premier League and Championship to accommodate the Qatar World Cup in November and December, as follows:
June 16th 2022 - Premier League fixture lists released;
June 23rd 2022 – EFL fixture lists released;
July 30th 2022 – EFL seasons start;
August 6th 2022 – Premier League season starts;
w/c August 8th 2022 – Carabao Cup competition starts;
w/c August 29th 2022 – EFL Trophy competition starts;
November 14th 2022 – Start of World Cup break for Premier League and Championship;
December 10th 2022 – Championship season recommences after World Cup Group Stages;
December 26th 2022 – Premier League season recommences after World Cup final;
February 26th 2023 – Carabao Cup final;
March 19th 2023 – EFL Trophy final;
May 6th 2023 – EFL seasons finish;
May 28th 2023 – Premier League finishes; and
May 27th – 29th 2023 – EFL Play-Off finals.

And finally, it is fantastic to report that Junior Tchamadeu was rightly awarded the EFL League Two Apprentice of the Year award at the Grosvenor Hotel awards ceremony during the week. Junior has made so much progress since his debut as a 16-year-old against Grimsby in 2020, with to date over 30 appearances for the U’s first team this season already, not to mention his stunning injury-time winner for the U’s against Tranmere, his first of what I’m sure will be many in a U’s shirt. He clearly is an extremely talented young man, and I only hope we can hold on to him for a few more years to watch him continue to develop.

Well done Junior!

Stat attack
Walsall have been around in one form or another for a long time. Originally founded in 1888 as Walsall Town Swifts, an amalgamation of Walsall Town and Walsall Swifts, they were admitted to the new Second Division as a founding member in 1892. They dropped out of the league in 1895, and in a896 changed their name to just Walsall Football Club. For the next 20+ years they yo-yoed between the Second Division and the Midland League, before eventually joining the newly formed Third Division North in 1921, again as a founding member.

They have remained in the Football league ever since, with four relatively brief returns to the second tier in that time, the most recent coming to an end with relegation back to League One in 2004, at the time managed by Paul Merson following the April dismissal of Colin Lee. I believe I’m right in saying that their 19th place finish with 53pts last season, one place ahead of the U’s, was their lowest league placing of their history.

Our league record against the Saddlers is about as even as you can get it, played 70 matches, won 25, lost 25, drawn 20. They did of course comprehensively win the Bescot fixture 3-0 earlier this season against a very poor Hayden Mullins side, so the U’s will be keen to avoid them repeating the 2008/09 double they achieved, their most recent since way back in 1974/75.

Back in 1956, when Benny Fenton took his U’s to play at their former ground Fellows Park, the match was watched by a whopping 15,179, and our home game the very next season saw 12,770 jammed into Layer Road. These days, crowds in the order of 3-4k are far more likely, both home and away, and though I think we might struggle to reach 3k tomorrow, we’ll be well ahead of the lowest attendance to date of 1,979 at Layer Road back in 1980.

Our record victory over the Saddlers is a toss-up between Jimmy Allen’s 6-1 victory at Layer Road in 1953, or Phil Parkinson’s 5-0 demolition in 2005. That’s a moot point – 5-0 always feels better to me because you haven’t conceded, but league rules would place 6-1 higher on goals scored. Walsall can claim one 4-0 victory, although this was at Layer Road back in 1961, and a 5-2 at Fellows Park against Jim Smith’s U’s.

For games of note, Tony Humes’ 4-4 draw at the Community Stadium in 2015 will take some beating. Walsall took a first half 2-0 lead through goals from Romaine Sawyers and Milan Lalkovič. George Moncur and Marvin Sordell levelled the scores in less that ten minutes of the second half. Walsall regained the lead just before the hour mark with a goal from George Evans, with Owen Garvan equalising actually on the hour mark. Darren Ambrose then looked to have snatched the winner with only 10 minutes to go, only for James O’Connor to level for the Saddlers in injury-time. Eight goals, eight different goal-scorers, and if you were the defensive coach for either side, an absolute shocker.

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Salford City
Saturday 7th December 2019
Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 3,713

Match of the Day for this blog, and the random match selector comes virtually right up to date with our December home game against Salford City in the 2019/20 season, our first match against the Class of ’92 new kids on the block. I have to say, with the much-awaited U’s trip to Old Trafford less than two weeks away, and particularly because I’d been out on a works Xmas do the night before, I really was doing well to be off to this one as well, though my bank manager might not agree.

John McGreal’s U’s were at the time pressing for at the very least the play-offs, and even automatic promotion wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility. We hadn’t lost since October and were currently sitting just outside the play-off zone, and only 5pts from automatic promotion. Salford were having a decent first season too, their first in the Football League since their National League promotion via the play-offs and were mid-table just a few places below the U’s. They’d actually already been in 3rd place this season, though that was on the first day after beating Stevenage 2-0 – definitely a case of peaking too soon as it would turn out.

John McGreal’s U’s lined up that afternoon:
1….Dean Gerken
2….Ryan Jackson (4. Tom Lapslie 65’)
3….Cohen Bramall
18..Tom Eastman
5….Luke Prosser (captain)
14..Brandon Comley
8….Harry Pell
49..Kwame Poku (26. Luke Gambin 70’)
7….Courtney Senior
45..Frank Nouble
9….Luke Norris (13. Theo Robinson 81’)

There were a few changes following the EFL Trophy 2-1 defeat at home to Stevenage, with Deano coming in for Ethan Ross in goal, but the biggest surprise was not even seeing Callum Harriott’s name on the bench after starting in that Stevenage game. The rumour was maybe he’d picked up a knock, but McGreal revealed post-match it was simply down to squad rotation (and giving Callum a rest), and his place was taken by Chuck Norris.

Taking my seat up the back of S3, I was delighted to see I was in the company of none other than Noah and his entourage, so we settled back in a standing repose to enjoy what we hoped would be a reasonably comfortable victory over the new boys. Not so it would turn out – with Salford effectively playing a 5 across the bank, it was clear their primary intention was to stifle the U’s attack, and for large parts of the game they managed it.

In the opening 20 minutes or so, decent chances were almost non-existent. A deep cross from Bramall had the visiting goalkeeper Chris Neal scrambling to hold on to it with Norris lurking. More or less on the 10-minute mark they registered their first effort on goal, a long-range punt which whistled well wide of Gerken’s goal. The U’s returned the compliment a few minutes later, with Senior latching onto to a good head down from Prosser, but he too blazed wide of the post. As the half wore on, Courtney Senior was starting to create real problems for the Ammie’s defence, but it was Gerken who had to be on his toes to drop on a long range deflected shot on the half hour mark.

A few minutes later, a surging run from Senior, twisting and turning through a lethargic Salford midfield, saw him unceremoniously dumped to the ground on the edge of the penalty area for the first yellow card of the match. Bramall lifted his free kick over the wall, but also just over the bar as well. As the U’s continued to press, Nouble turned his marker inside and out, and from the left byline cut back for Poku, but Poku’s curling effort lacked pace and was straight at the ‘keeper. Again Nouble created problems down the left wing, this time pulling it back to Brandon Comley, and his rasping daisy-cutter forced Neal into an inelegant but effective diving block, with the ball ballooning up and away from danger.

And so, Salford City managed to hang on at 0-0 to half time. The U’s really should have been ahead at the break, but a lack of any real penetration up front to get through a determined Salford defence meant we still had a lot to do in the second half. But, playing towards a noisy South Stand, we had to hope the U’s would find a way through. Being the U’s though, we very nearly handed the lead to Salford early in the second half, when a wayward pass across the edge of our own penalty area ran straight to Towell, but he dragged his weak effort wide of the goal.

Still though, a wake-up call for the U’s, and if we needed another one it came just after the hour mark. A speculative long range shot from Towell was blocked by Gerken, and Armstrong tapped in the rebound from close range – how relieved were we to see the linesman’s flag go up for offside. It was impossible to tell from the South Stand, and still not particularly clear on the highlights, but we’d gladly take that decision. To be fair, Armstrong didn’t object too much to the decision, usually a good sign it was the right call.

Finally, the U’s woke from their torpor, and after Norris had flashed a shot from a narrow angle wide, when it was probably a more sensible move to square it into the box, Senior again had the ‘keeper scrambling, but again his effort drifted wide of the post. With Lapslie and Gambin already replacing Jackson and Poku, with ten minutes to go McGreal’s final roll of the dice was to bring on Theo Robinson for Norris.

With a minute to go, chaos in the Salford City penalty area saw a veritable game of ping-pong, but no one in a blue shirt could get their toe on it to poke home. Lapslie particularly was being his usual nuisance self, and deep into injury time fired in a cross that was clearly blocked by the outstretched arms of a Salford City defender. It really should have been the penalty the South Stand were baying for, but the referee inexplicably saw fit to only give the corner. However, from that corner an exquisite back heel flick from Nouble at the near post was met by Harry Pell diving in to head home, and the ground erupted in celebration.

The scenes were chaotic, as supporters and players celebrated a memorable goal to keep our play-off ambitions very much alive. This, THIS is why you should never leave a game early. The momentary gain of getting home a few minutes earlier is wiped from the ledger by missing moments like these when they arrive.

Colchester United 1 (Harry Pell 90+3’) Salford City 0

The 3pts moved the U’s to within one place and one point of the play-offs, and a point at Scunthorpe and back-to-back wins against Carlisle (h) and Leyton Orient (a) propelled us into those play-offs. Although our form was erratic to say the least from then on, when Covid brought an untimely end to the season we were still, just, in those play-offs.

There is a longer highlights video from Salford City, but bizarrely that doesn’t include Harry Pell’s injury time winner – perhaps Salford City just couldn’t bring themselves to show it. So enjoy the U’s highlight reel, and particularly the emotion shown following Harry’s last ditch goal.

Up the U’s!
When Saturday Comes #35
at 15:31 24 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes and the U’s have already given us a fantastic start to the weekend, with a stirring and well-deserved 2-1 victory at promotion-chasing Newport County. Yes, the Exiles had lost the previous three at home and are looking like they are going to bottle their chance for the play-offs, and yes with the U’s now safe technically we had little to play for, but don’t take anything away from this performance. If Wayne Brown is still being ‘interviewed’ for the full-time role as Colchester United manager, then last night was the equivalent of having an excellent incisive question of your own lined up for the interview panel.
When Saturday Comes #35
at 15:30 23 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes and the U’s have already given us a fantastic start to the weekend, with a stirring and well-deserved 2-1 victory at promotion-chasing Newport County. Yes, the Exiles had lost the previous three at home and are looking like they are going to bottle their chance for the play-offs, and yes with the U’s now safe technically we had little to play for, but don’t take anything away from this performance. If Wayne Brown is still being ‘interviewed’ for the full-time role as Colchester United manager, then last night was the equivalent of having an excellent incisive question of your own lined up for the interview panel.

© Huw Evans Picture Agency

With his 8th of the season, Noah Chilvers is rapidly becoming hot property for the U’s, and I have no doubt will be the subject of considerable interest during the summer. Likewise for Shamal George I’m sure, though fortunately we can activate a one-year contract extension clause to ensure if anyone else wants him, they’re going to have to pay. I’m also delighted for Big John Akinde, finally off the mark with a deft backheel flick to divert Freddie’s effort into the net, and then picking out Chilvers with a defence-unlocking slide rule assist for the second.

The 3pts moves the U’s for now up to the heady heights of 15th – if you’re wondering, the last time we were here or higher in the league was 10th September after our 3-2 victory at Barrow. No doubt results this afternoon will whittle away that position, so enjoy it while you can. The 3pts also finally took the U’s past that magical 50-point mark, though I stand by my previous assertion, I reckon 40 points is going to be the safety mark this season. This afternoon, if Oldham are beaten at Boundary Park by play-off chasing Salford City, and both Barrow and Stevenage win their home matches, the Latics will be relegated alongside lowly Scunthorpe. At the top, although FGR are clearly already promoted given their significant goal difference advantage over leading play-off contender Northampton – who have three games left and are 9pts behind – they will be confirmed as promoted with just a point at Bristol Rovers.

Ukrainian forces continue to defend the shattered remains of Sea of Azov port Mariupol against almost overwhelming odds. Certainly, eventually the city must be taken, but at what cost for the Russian aggressors? A humanitarian corridor to evacuate those civilians who haven’t already got out, or been killed in the fighting, is planned to be established today. Previous efforts have failed, often with Russian military action claimed as the reason. Of minimal significance to the embattled people of Ukraine, the UK is facing a cooking oil shortage due to a disruption in Ukrainian exports. Some supermarket chains are already rationing sales to just two or three items per customer – like that’s not going to encourage panic-buying at all.

Kate and Gerry McCann have welcomed the news that a German man has been formally identified by Portuguese authorities as a suspect in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, citing the man as an “arguido” – a Portuguese legal term usually translated as “named suspect”, “formal suspect” or “person of interest”. Although the authorities did not name the man, it is known he is Christian Brueckner, a 44-year old convicted rapist. Portugal’s statute of limitations for crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more imprisonment is 15 years, and the 15th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance is the 3rd of May this year. This may be a factor in why the Portuguese authorities have made this move now.

After the massive spike in Covid infection rates through January and February, with a secondary spike in March, finally the infection rates are falling back towards where they were during the second lockdown. We’re not out of this yet, and the death toll is still around 250 people per day, but surely, hopefully, now an end to this is in sight? Mind you, we’ve all said that a few times before, so fingers firmly crossed for now.

U’s World
Apart from the excellent result last night for the U’s, the club are also running their annual End of Season Player awards. Fans can vote for Official Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Goal of the Season here: Without wishing to influence anyone’s voting intentions, I’ve gone for Skuse, Chilvers and Tchamadeu, but in fairness there’s a lot of excellent competition in all three categories.

It's also fantastic news that Junior Tchamadeu has been nominated and shortlisted for the EFL League Two Apprentice of the Year award. He is alongside Stevenage’s Alex Aitken and Rochdale’s Ethan Brierley, and even if he doesn’t win, it’s still a fantastic achievement to be one of the three short-listed. The EFL awards ceremony can be watched live and for free on the Sky Sports app, streaming live from the Grosvenor House Hotel in London from 7pm onwards tomorrow night.

And finally…as has already been discussed on the messageboard, following a three-year partnership, Texo’s sponsorship deal of the U’s home shirts will conclude at the end of this season. It has been announced that the Workhorse Group, already sponsors of our away shirts, will now pick up sponsorship of the home shirts as well. With Robbie having already confirmed that we return to blue and white stripes next season, this has led to speculation that with the same sponsor for home and away shirts, the U’s might revert to default blue and white stripes for all matches, only relying on the away shirt as a clash kit. That remains to be seen, but I doubt there’d be many (any?) objections if they do.

Stat attack
The weekend stat attack seems a tad pointless, given we’ve already played our weekend fixture last night, so how about this. It’s always good to have a goal in life, so why not this season, wouldn’t it be good if at the very least we could improve on last season’s performance, finishing 20th on 51 points and with a -17 goal difference? So right now we’re in 15th place, on the same 51 points, and with a -14 goal difference.

Of the four teams below the U’s playing this afternoon, I expect Bradford City to easily overcome relegated Scunthorpe to overtake the U’s, no matter how poor the Bantams were at the JobServe. However, I can’t see Rochdale getting anything at Exeter City, and Walsall face a tough game at home against automatic promotion contenders Port Vale. Carlisle have a tricky visit to Harrogate to negotiate, and with goal difference against them, they’ll have to win to overtake the U’s. I’ll predict we’ll be in 16th place by 5pm this afternoon, which will mean just one more point from either Walsall at home or Hartlepool away will ensure we have at least improved on last season’s performance. Hardly anything to crow about I grant you, but given where we were at one point, I’ll take that.

The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays” Terry Pratchett, Witches Abroad

Incidentally – on the subject of Friday night football. We all remember Friday nights at Layer Road, so often seemingly the perfect start to any weekend, so here are those stats. Overall, we’ve played 351 matches in all competitions on a Friday night throughout our history (obviously not counting Good Friday matches), winning 164 times (nearly half!), drawing 94 and losing 93. It gets even better at home, with the U’s winning 136 games and drawing 55 out of 238 matches, losing just 47 games. Home and away, Stockport County are our most frequent opponent, playing them 20 times on a Friday night, followed by Tranmere Rovers (19) and dear friends Southend United (15).

Our best Friday night result is 5-0, something we’ve achieved twice, in 1953 against QPR and in 1974 against Grimsby Town. The latter is particularly pertinent, because as a tender youth of just 12 years age, I was Barside for the Grimsby game with my sister and brother-in-law. John Froggatt scored one of his few (only?) hat-tricks for the U’s that night, supported by a brace from Bobby Svarc, the final one a magnificent diving header from the very edge of the penalty area. Mind you, Notts County went one better in 1963, thrashing Benny Fenton’s U’s 6-0 in what was the last game that season.

Overall, Crewe Alexandra have to be our most preferred Friday night opponent, with the U’s winning nine and drawing one of the 12 Friday night games we’ve had. Although we’ve only played Peterborough United four times on a Friday night, the U’s have won every one of them. Grimsby, Plymouth Argyle and Port Vale aren’t much better, each losing the three Friday night games we’ve played against them. On the flipside, near neighbours Cambridge United are pretty close to being our bogey side, beating the U’s eight times and drawing two of our 12 Friday night matches. Barring games against sides we’ve only played once or twice on a Friday night, Cardiff City arguably has the most consistent Friday night record against the U’s, winning four out of five attempts.

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Ipswich Town
Friday 29th September 2006
Coca-Cola Championship (Tier 2)
Attendance 6,065


Match of the Day for this blog, and it seemed fitting after yesterday evening that this one is a Friday night special – and no, I don’t mean the (ahem) ‘free-love’ parties preferred by New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and his wife, nor indeed the act of defecating in a work toilet late on a Friday and leaving it to stew over the weekend for colleagues to discover on Monday morning. I don’t have too many Friday night games in my memorabilia collection (for obvious reasons), but I do have our 2006 game against Ipswich Town.

Well, it’s in my memorabilia collection because it’s on my calendar (hence with thanks the programme photo is from Graeson’s website), but it’s only on my calendar because that was the evening me and a bunch of mates went to a local Salisbury pub to watch the Sky TV televised game. There was no way unfortunately I could be at the game in person, nor was it likely I could have got a ticket even if I could get there, so opted for the second-best option, and managed to persuade a slightly bemused landlord to screen the game in his back room. This was mainly on the promise that we would be drinking plenty of alcohol throughout the night – we definitely made good on that pledge.

In context, this was of course our first season in the Championship, and thus our first opportunity for a competitive fixture against the auld enemy since Dick Graham’s U’s were drawn away at Portman Road in the 2nd round of the 1969/70 League Cup (we lost 4-0). In the league, our paths hadn’t crossed since 1957, fifty seasons earlier. We’d had a slightly ropey start to our first season at this level, losing the first four on the bounce. But Geraint Williams had since steadied the ship, winning three and drawing two of the next five games, meaning the U’s were 15th going into the match. Ipswich had had a similarly patchy start to the campaign and were only 3pts ahead of the U’s at the time.

Geraint Williams U’s lined up that evening:
1….Aidan Davison
2….Greg Halford
12..Pat Baldwin
5….Wayne Brown
18..Chris Barker
14..Richard Garcia
6….Kevin Watson
10..Kem Izzet
7….Karl Duguid
11..Chris Iwelumo
8….Jamie Cureton

Savour the atmosphere as the U’s run out

The U’s started brightly, and at pace, but it was Ipswich who nearly opened the scoring when Sylvain Legwinski wastefully drilled a pass from Jon Macken wide when he should at least have tested Aidan Davison. They were made to pay in the very next U’s attack in the ninth minute. A drilled shot by Cureton from the edge of the box threaded its way through a forest of legs, leaving ‘keeper Lewis Price somewhat unsighted until the last moment. All he could do was palm away the effort, straight into the path of the master of shithousery Karl Duguid. Doogie kept his cool, managing to keep his foot over the awkwardly bouncing ball, and side foot home beyond the despairing (second) dive of Price.

Layer Road erupted, the back room of the Ale and Cider Press Salisbury erupted, I’d imagine rooms in pubs, clubs and houses all over the world erupted as the U’s took an early lead in the game. Buoyed by this early success and roared on under the floodlights by the Faithful, the U’s continued to harry and press Ipswich for the remainder of the first half, and on balance were unlucky not to have grabbed a second before half-time that their dominance deserved. Mind you, it wasn’t all plain sailing, with a glancing header from Alan Lee flashing across the face of the goal and wide in the closing seconds of the first half.

Into the second half, Ipswich finally seemed to come to terms with the battle they had on their hands, and the bear pit of a cauldron it was being staged in. As Ipswich grew in confidence, the U’s backline, marshalled expertly by Wayne Brown, stepped up and resolutely kept Ipswich at bay through fair means or foul. Jim Macken looked like he’d equalised for Ipswich early in the second half, but it was somewhat controversially ruled out by referee Lee Probert for a foul on Aidan Davison. It took me a moment to realise it had been disallowed, prompting more celebrations as if we’d just won the World Cup. Post-match, George commented “ I couldn't see why the goal was ruled out. Of course, I'm glad it wasn't given, but if I had been Jim Magilton, I would have been disappointed”.

Again, the U’s nearly managed to make Ipswich pay for their profligacy, but Price pulled off a superb save to deny Iwelumo a minute or so after the disallowed goal. Just after the hour Macken was subbed by manager Jim Magilton, replacing him with former Colchester United loanee Billy Clarke. Clarke had a short loan spell with the U’s at the tail end of the previous promotion season, with two starts and four from the bench. Although Ipswich continued to press, still they couldn’t unlock the U’s defence, even after the 86th minute introduction of attacking midfielder Dean Bowditch, and the U’s held on for a historic victory.

Colchester United 1 (Karl Duguid 9’) Ipswich Town 0

The result propelled the U’s ahead of Ipswich Town and into 9th place, and with our home form particularly strong (it would be mid-February before the U’s lost another game at Layer Road), it was the springboard for a sustained and genuine challenge for the Premier League play-offs. Obviously, history shows we didn’t quite make it, but knowing it was still a very real possibility going into the penultimate match of the season at Stoke City was one hell of an achievement.

The U’s finished in 10th place, seven points ahead of Ipswich Town, 12 points ahead of Norwich City, and a whopping 27 points ahead of Southend United, who were relegated immediately back to League One.

Relax, pour yourself a cold one, and enjoy again this vintage moment 😊

Up the U’s!
When Saturday Comes #34
at 16:55 17 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes and our Easter Bank Holiday programme is already underway, following a dismal 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park yesterday. It’s not so much the result that galls, in truth deep down I suspect we all thought it was going to be a difficult trip to get anything out of, it was the manner of that defeat. To say the U’s were lacklustre is a massive understatement – and it wasn’t as if it was down to Exeter City simply outplaying us, I didn’t think they were all that to be honest. I can cope with defeat, heaven knows the U’s have given me enough practice in recent years, but to go down without a whimper, relying on Man of the Match Sham to keep it from becoming a cricket score against an average Exeter City, was just dreadful.
When Saturday Comes #34
at 16:54 16 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes and our Easter Bank Holiday programme is already underway, following a dismal 2-0 defeat at St James’ Park yesterday. It’s not so much the result that galls, in truth deep down I suspect we all thought it was going to be a difficult trip to get anything out of, it was the manner of that defeat. To say the U’s were lacklustre is a massive understatement – and it wasn’t as if it was down to Exeter City simply outplaying us, I didn’t think they were all that to be honest. I can cope with defeat, heaven knows the U’s have given me enough practice in recent years, but to go down without a whimper, relying on Man of the Match Sham to keep it from becoming a cricket score against an average Exeter City, was just dreadful.

On route to Exeter – Taunton, the Jewel in the South West’s Passage

Heyho, we go again on Easter Monday at home to Bradford City, still looking for the points to mathematically ensure survival. If there’s any positive to take from yesterday, it was despite good wins for both Barrow, smashing table-topping FGR 4-0, and Stevanage narrowly beating Rochdale 1-0, Oldham had at least read the script, beaten 2-0 at home by promotion-chasing Northampton. That result preserved the 8pt (plus goal difference) safety cushion we have from relegation, and with only four games to go, Oldham must win three of those four to have any chance of overtaking the U’s (or win 2 and draw 2 and take their chances with goal difference). Barrow and Stevenage aren’t out of the woods yet though, so Oldham’s immediate priority will be closing the 3pt gap and reining in at least one of those two first.

First up for the Latics is a trip to the New Lawn on Monday, to take on an FGR side who will be smarting and keen to avenge that Good Friday capitulation against Barrow. If the U’s beat Bradford City and Oldham fail to win, that’s it, we’re finally officially safe. Then the post-season inquest can begin, to make sure we don’t find ourselves in this situation for a third season running.

In a troubling development in the Ukraine crisis, the Kremlin has warned the West of “unpredictable consequences” if the US and allies continue to supply arms to Ukrainian forces. President Zelensky went one step further, openly expressing concerns that the world should be prepared for the possibility that Russia will launch a nuclear strike against Ukraine. However, Kremlin’s warning has also been seen as tacit admission that the supply of arms is actually proving effective, particularly coming on the back of the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva. Although not admitted by the Russian defence ministry, who claim it was down to a fire on board causing an ammunition magazine to explode, NATO and US officials agree with Ukrainian claims they hit the vessel with two of their Neptune missiles. Badly damaged in the attack, the Moskva sank whilst being towed back to port – that at least has been admitted by Russia – I mean it’s not like they could otherwise explain why a 12,490-tonne warship appears to have gone missing.

Russian warship – go to hell!

On the domestic front, yet another difficult week for beleaguered Boris. Earlier in the week it was announced that following the Met Police “partygate” investigation, he, his wife Carrie Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak will all receive fixed-penalty notices for breaking his own Covid rules during lockdown – specifically his surprise birthday celebration in June 2019. FPNs are an administrative alternative to prosecution, meaning Boris will avoid having a criminal record (unless of course he’s stupid enough not to pay the fine – Downing Street have already confirmed he will pay it). However, political commentators agree he is the first known Prime Minister to have broken the law whilst in office, and certainly the first to receive an FPN. Whilst Prime Minister, Tony Blair was questioned by police (not under caution) over the cash-for-honours allegations, ultimately the CPS decided there was insufficient evidence against anyone to secure a conviction.

More fines may follow, as he is still being investigated about other Downing Street gatherings that broke the Covid rules in place at the time. A YouGov poll for The Times has revealed that nearly two thirds of Britons believe he should resign if he is issued with more FPN fines. It would appear his own party is already embarking on a damage-limitation exercise of their own following the scandal, airbrushing any mention of the PM from some of the Conservative Party campaign literature for next month’s local elections, particularly the Welsh and Scottish manifestos.

U’s World
The big news for everyone in the Colchester United bubble, and of little interest to anyone outside it, is the departure of Director of Performance Jon De Souza from the club. Leaked by U’sual supersleuth TheOldOakTree, when he spotted De Souza’s removal from the club’s Companies House listing early yesterday morning, ironically this was prior to that dreadful performance at Exeter City. De Souza was head of the department tasked with improving performances of the U’s teams, players and staff, so surely if he hadn’t gone already, Good Friday would have been the nail in the coffin?

Southend United are holding a testimonial for defender John White on 22nd May at Roots Hall, which obviously Colchester United are delighted to support, along with near rivals Leyton Orient. The day will start with an 1130 kick-off game between a Southend XI and Leyton Orient XI. The big match will of course be when a U’s legends side takes to the field against a Southend side, and it is reported that already signed up for this are Sammie Szmodics, Tom Eastman, Freddy Sears, Matt Heath and Anthony Wordsworth. There will be plenty of other activities for families too, music pitch-side etc., and tickets can be purchased here:

U’s legend

Stat attack
I was quite surprised that there have only been 37 matches in our past against Monday’s opponents Bradford City, I thought it would have been much more than that. The main reason for this was that between January 1978, when Bobby Robert’s U’s won 2-1 at Valley Parade, and November 2004 when Phil Parkinson gained a 2-2 draw at Layer Road, our paths only crossed once in 1981/82.

Overall our record against the Bantams is pretty good, winning 13, drawing 14 and losing just nine league fixtures, though we haven’t beaten them since doing the double in 2015/16. We did also beat Bradford City 4-3 in the first round of the FA Cup back in November 2010, and our visit to Valley Parade in 2019/20 was one of those matches lost due to the Covid curtailment of the season.

Of course any consideration of stats where Bradford City is concerned would have to include the events of Saturday 30th December 1961, with the U’s winning 9-1 to record their greatest ever league victory, matched only by the FA Cup first round game against Leamington Spa in November 2005. Thanks to the sterling research of pwrightsknees, I have already covered this game in Matches of Yesteryear #38 here:

Many of you know that during my time studying at Bradford University and living in the city throughout most of the 1980s, Bradford kind of became my adopted side when I couldn’t get to U’s matches (which was often being a poor student and/or a non-driver at the time). I won’t deny it, standing on the original massive Kop terrace was quite an experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time doing so.

I was also immensely proud at how the entire Bradford community I was part of, regardless of race, creed or religion, rallied to support those whose lives were irreparably damaged by that dreadful event on 11th May 1985. In a match against Lincoln City which should have been a celebration of promotion, fifty-six supporters (including two of Lincoln City’s) died and at least 265 were injured when the main stand was engulfed in flames.

Through adversity comes strength, and the Bradford Disaster Appeal set up within 48 hours of the disaster eventually raised over £3.5m (which would be £10.8m today) to support the families affected. This fund particularly supported the work of the now internationally renowned Burns Unit which was jointly established by Bradford University and Bradford Royal Infirmary to deal with the hundreds of victims. Burns victims throughout the world have since benefitted from the pioneering work of the Bradford Burns Unit.

Overall, 28 police officers and 22 supporters, all of whom were documented as saving at least one life, received either police commendations or bravery awards. Alongside countless undocumented supporters and officers, they collectively managed to rescue all but one of the supporters who made it to the front of the stand. Player/coach Terry Yorath was injured when forced to jump from a window to escape the flames, having already evacuated supporters from a bar area to save them.

In July 1985 a multi-denominational memorial service was held on the pitch in front of the burnt-out stand and a giant cross made up of two large charred wooden members from the stand. Part of the service was held in Urdu and Punjabi for the local Asian community in Manningham, who had opened their homes to Bradford City supporters that afternoon to aid in the immediate aftermath of the disaster.

Match of the Day
Manchester United v Aston Villa
Saturday 26th October 2002
Premier League (Tier 1)
Attendance 67,619

Match of the Day for this blog, and yep, you’ve read that correctly, the random match selector has picked one of my very few non-U’s bits of memorabilia in my collection, Manchester United’s Premier League home game against Aston Villa. How so I’m sure you’re wondering? Well, back in the day before all of this bribery and corruption nonsense, companies keen to either drum up more business, or just keep hold of commercial relationships they already have, weren’t averse to sweetening the deal at times. Bottles of scotch at Christmas, free tickets for events, that sort of stuff.

This match was one of them. A firm we were doing a lot of business with at the time, who dealt in digital survey equipment, got in touch to see if we’d like to come along as their guests to an all-expenses paid afternoon at Old Trafford. I was the primary contact with them at the time, being actively involved in the roll-out of digital survey as a means of capturing preliminary site plans for our investigations. Also, as there were no others involved with quite the emotional commitment I had with football, our Senior Management Team were more than happy to give me the green light.

Our host for the afternoon, a gentleman I’ve done a lot of business with over the years, was also our driver for the day, collecting me and two others (from other companies) on the way north. He was particularly proud of his new-fangled GPS, which he’d paid several thousand for apparently, and which had to be hard-wired into his electrical system in a Heath Robinson ‘bolt-on’ sort of way. For the time, it was very impressive, immediately picking up on a need for route deviation as soon as we drifted onto a service station slip road on the way there.

The day wasn’t just a ticket and a programme either, and we not only had time in the Manchester United shop (not that I wanted anything), but he threw in a 3-course dinner with wine in the Red Café too, and needless to say the seats were the executive padded variety they had there at the time – a far cry from the cramped knee crushers we had to endure in the Carabao Cup. Although in truth my interest in the Premier League was, and still is, minimal, I did have one particular vested interest in this game. After six years at Charlton Athletic, at the beginning of this season Mark Kinsella had signed for Aston Villa. Even though my mantra is generally anyone but Manchester United, that was more than enough reason to be a ‘discreet’ Villan that day. Apparently, and we were warned about this, rival club colours would not be tolerated in the Red Café, and overtly displayed partisanship may well result in ejection from the executive area, so I had to behave.

The two sides were managed by Sir Alex Ferguson and Graham Taylor, Graham Poll was the referee, and the line-ups were as follows:

At the beginning of the season Manchester United had broken the English transfer record, signing Rio Ferdinand from Leeds United for £29.1m, so I was looking to see what that got you for your money. I was also expecting to see Ryan Giggs as well, and I briefly did pre-match, but he felt a twinge during the warm-up and to be safe was withdrawn as a result. Being nearly 20 years ago, and watching teams I was particularly unfamiliar with, I will have to rely for the most part on match reports and stats I can glean from the internet. Fortunately, unlike for instance U’s games from 20 years ago, there are still plenty of records from this Premier League clash available.

Aston Villa headed into this match still seeking their first away win of the season, and already starting to struggle at the wrong end of the table in 15th place. It hadn’t exactly been a rosy start to the season for Manchester United either and following back-to-back defeats against Bolton Wanderers and Leeds in September, they’d slipped to 10th position. Things had improved since then and going into this game they had climbed back to 4th place, which would mean qualification for the 3rd qualifying round of the Champions League if they held on to it. But this was Manchester United, anything less than automatic qualification, preferably as Premier League champions, would be viewed as an abject failure.

However, far from overawed by their illustrious opponents, and following Graham Taylor’s very almost gung-ho attack-minded approach to the game, it was Aston Villa who took the game to their hosts straight from the start. Indeed, if youngster Stefan Moore had brought his shooting boots, Villa could have easily been 2-0 up inside the first 15-20 minutes, shooting wide when he really should have tested Barthez, and a second effort that Barthez did well to save.

Apart from the usual class from Beckham in midfield, who was getting into some entertaining tussles with Kinsella, Manchester United just looked lethargic, not really helped by a massive crowd who rarely seemed to wake up and get behind their team. On 35 minutes Aston Villa got exactly what they deserved. Laurent Blanc tried to be clever, running the ball out along his own goal line, but only managed to poke it out for a corner. Up stepped our man Mark, to float the corner over and straight on to the head of onrushing Mellberg (who Blanc failed to pick up), powering home a header that Barthez could do nothing about. The packed-out away section went ballistic, silencing the already subdued Old Trafford crowd, and I celebrated with some muted mini fist pumps.

Finally though, this was the wake-up call that Sir Alex’s side needed, with Scholes fizzing a blistering strike just wide, and then Beckham crashing his effort against the crossbar, but it stayed at 1-0 to half-time. Somewhat revitalised by that late rally, and no doubt with Ferguson’s half-time team talk still ringing in their ears, Manchester United came out with the same level of endeavour for the second half.

Now it was very much whether Aston Villa could hold on to their slender lead, rather than doing anything too foolhardy trying to add to it. I didn’t look like they would either, with wave after wave of attacks from Manchester United crashing against their beleaguered defence. Eventually, inevitably, that defence was breached with misfiring Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan rising highest to head home Mikael Silvestre’s cross and level the scores. There were nearly 68,000 in Old Trafford that day, it’s the largest domestic fixture crowd I’ve been part of, and the roar wasn’t just deafening, it hit you in the chest like a wall of sound you more felt than heard – quite amazing really.

Manchester United weren’t done either, and with their tails up Ole Gunner Solskjaer looked to have seized all three points for the hosts, but for goalkeeper Peter Enckelman to pull off a miraculous one-handed save late on, which certainly drew the loudest cheer from the visiting supporters in the second half. And that’s how it finished, a 1-1 draw that Aston Villa certainly deserved based on most of the first half, but only just managed to hold on to during the second half – but I was happy, particularly as I’d seen Kinsella get the assist.

Manchester United 1 (Diego Forlan 77’) Aston Villa 1 (Olof Mellberg 35’)

My day was improved no end to discover as we were leaving the ground that the U’s had gained a very credible 1-1 draw at Huddersfield as well, particularly as we were starting to slip down the league table. Not that I knew it at the time, but this was the beginning of the end for Steve Whitton as manager, with Phil Parkinson destined to take over in February.

Although they would only lose three more games that season, it would take until mid-April for Manchester United to get to the top of the Premier League. However, once there no one was budging them, and they eventually finished five points clear of second place Arsenal to win their eighth title in eleven seasons.

Aston Villa had just enough about them to avoid relegation, but only by 3pts. Although Mark had a good first half to the season at Villa Park, he rarely made an appearance in the second half, not helped by a couple of injuries. After only two appearances in 2003/04, he was released mid-season and joined Championship West Bromwich Albion on a short-term contract to the end of the season – and a very successful one it was too, with WBA winning promotion back to the Premier League.

Up the U’s!
[Post edited 16 Apr 19:11]
Exeter v U's on Good Friday
at 20:38 12 Apr 2022

In case anyone has missed it, this game is now all ticket. The Grecians have sold out all of their home stands, and have an eye on the spare space that might be available on the away terrace. Last chance to get tickets is 2pm tomorrow, presumably to be collected from the either the JobServe or at St James' Park on the day - there will be no sales on matchday.
When Saturday Comes #33
at 14:32 10 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes 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.
When Saturday Comes #33
at 14:14 9 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes 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.

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 Convention on Cluster Munitions 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 “political hit job”, a coordinated attack timed to coincide with his rise in National Insurance contributions – even if Private 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.

U’s World
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.

Congratulations Gene and Brad

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.

Never tire of watching this

Stat attack
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.

Good luck Luke, just not today…

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

No programme for this one, just my calendar entry

Match of the Day 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.

Bristol Rovers 0 Colchester United 1 (Kayode Odejayi 22’)

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!
[Post edited 9 Apr 14:43]
FAO: RS, BFG, Tropical and TheFatGooner
at 15:35 5 Apr 2022

You have either UCL quarter-final predictions or amendments to make - first matches kick off 8pm this evening.
U'sual Champions League 2022 - Quarter-finals
at 19:39 3 Apr 2022

The quarter-finals of the Champions League commence at 8pm on Tuesday evening, so here are the fixtures to predict:
05/04/2022 Benfica v Liverpool
05/04/2022 Manchester City v Atletico Madrid
06/04/2022 Chelsea v Real Madrid
06/04/2022 Villarreal v Bayern Munich
12/04/2022 Bayern Munich v Villarreal
12/04/2022 Real Madrid v Chelsea
13/04/2022 Atletico Madrid v Manchester City
13/04/2022 Liverpool v Benfica

TheFatGooner got through the Group D U's attendance tie-break prediction, by virtue of a no-show from Lewis_1, albeit his 2,478 prediction was 3,662 off the actual recorded attendance of 6,140. The two groups are therefore:

Not so sure about 'Group of Death', but blueeagle must be wondering what he's done to deserve to be thrown into the Group 1 lions den.

Rules as before, 3pts for a win, 1pt for an outcome, you can only exact match one prediction with each of your group opponents, and top two in each group go into the hat for the semi-finals. If a tie-break is needed, it will be to predict the attendance for Exeter City v U's on Good Friday (note, this is a 1pm kick-off).

Good luck everyone!
When Saturday Comes #32
at 14:25 3 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes and the U’s face the longish trip to Harrogate Town for only the second time in our history – let’s hope the journey is more fruitful than our 3-0 defeat on our first visit last March. On the back of our stirring 1-0 victory over promotion chasing Tranmere Rovers, not least Junior Tchamadeu’s blistering injury time winner, we can be at least hopeful for a better return this time. Moreso considering our two previous 1-0 defeats were also against promotion contenders Bristol Rovers and league leaders FGR, with the U’s unlucky not to have got points in both of them.
When Saturday Comes #32
at 14:25 2 Apr 2022

When Saturday Comes and the U’s face the longish trip to Harrogate Town for only the second time in our history – let’s hope the journey is more fruitful than our 3-0 defeat on our first visit last March. On the back of our stirring 1-0 victory over promotion chasing Tranmere Rovers, not least Junior Tchamadeu’s blistering injury time winner, we can be at least hopeful for a better return this time. Moreso considering our two previous 1-0 defeats were also against promotion contenders Bristol Rovers and league leaders FGR, with the U’s unlucky not to have got points in both of them.

Take a moment to appreciate Junior’s technical brilliance one more time

With sanctions continuing to bite into the Russian economy, there is hope that an end to their war on Ukraine may be coming, albeit no doubt at the price of an unsavoury compromise deal for Ukraine with their Soviet aggressors – and who says crime doesn’t pay. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has confirmed that although slow, Russian forces do appear to be withdrawing from the north of his country, allegedly sowing the ground behind them with mines in the process. Their focus still remains in the south, looking to gain a land bridge with Crimea which they occupied in 2014.

The Duke of York appears incapable of staying out of the media spotlight right now, only this time dragging his daughters into the mess too. Newspapers report that a spokesman for the Duke claim a £750,000 payment into his bank account by alleged Turkish conman Selman Turk was nothing more than a “wedding gift” for Princess Beatrice, though no explanation offered (that I can read anywhere) for another £25,000 paid to Princess Eugenie. Turk is a former Goldman Sachs banker, and accused of stealing £40m from Turkish millionairess Nebahat Evyap Isbilen.

Of course, the really big news of the week was ‘that slap’. On a night when he should have been celebrating his achievements as a black actor in a white-dominated film industry, Will Smith instead chose to bring yet more male aggression to the table in a world thoroughly sick of it, reacting to a pretty lame joke by Chris Rock about his wife’s hair – a lame joke he initially laughed in response to. Will Smith has since resigned from Hollywood’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it remains to be seen what action the Academy might take.

”Alexa, show me fragile masculinity…”

U’s World
Although a relatively quiet week as far as Colchester United is concerned, as the YouTube link above shows, the U’s have launched their March goal of the month award. Quite why they just don’t give it to Junior is beyond me, but credit to Owura Edwards and Noah Chilvers (x2) for making a competition of it. Alan Judge should get Assist of the Season btw.

On Tuesday night the U’s hosted another England U20 match, when the Young Lions faced bitter rivals Germany at the JobServe. With over 8,000 turning up for the match, albeit at just £5 per ticket, it was great to see another big crowd in the stadium. They were treated to a dominant display by England, taking a half-time 1-0 lead thanks to a 10th minute opener from Sam Greenwood. James McAtee doubled the lead on 50 minutes via a deflection, and substitute Tyrhys Dolan made it safe just after the hour mark with a third. Samardzic did pull a late goal back for Germany, but it was nothing more than a consolation.

Stat attack
There are no stats to speak of against Harrogate Town – promoted to the Football League last season, this will be just the fourth game we have played against the Sulphurites – so named for the hot springs the Town is famous for…that and Betty’s Tea Room of course. We have won both matches at the JobServe, but as mentioned above, lost on our first visit to Wetherby Road 3-0 last March. Time to put that right then.

Another fascinating record however, and one worthy of sharing, was achieved by Port Vale last Saturday. After defeating Sutton United 2-0 at Vale Park, Port Vale became the first Football League side to have played and beaten every other of the 91 Football League sides in the league. Considering they have never played in the topflight, that is some achievement, and indeed testimony to the fact that even the upper reaches of the Premier League have spent time lower down the football pyramid on occasion.

Although Oldham’s midweek victory over also struggling Leyton Orient has narrowed the gap for the U’s above the relegation trapdoor, with superior goal difference and an 8pt lead above free-falling Stevenage and Oldham, I can’t see both of them overtaking the U’s. Even then, Barrow would have to do likewise, and they’re 5pts behind the U’s. Obviously, I’d rather not take any chances and continue to accrue as many points as possible to be absolutely certain of safety – but, I suspect on 42 points we’re already safe if truth be told.

Today, Barrow host automatic promotion chasing Port Vale, and Stevenage entertain fellow strugglers Oldham (and they can’t both win). Forget Scunthorpe, they’re toast already, so seeing them get gubbed at the New Lawn against FGR, whilst amusing, will really mean nothing to the U’s. We can’t drop down the league today, but if Rochdale fail to beat play-off hopefuls Swindon Town, and the U’s win at Harrogate Town we will overtake them and move into 19th place.

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Exeter City
18th June 2020
Sky Bet League Two Play-Offs (Tier 4; First Leg)
Attendance 0

Match of the Day for this blog, and the random match selector has chosen a match from our recent past, the play-off First Leg game against Exeter City. Now, obviously I wasn’t there, no one was, unless of course you count the Faithful cardboard cut-outs in attendance for the game, mine included. I do, however, have a programme for the match, so this one definitely counts as part of my memorabilia collection. For the record, the match was screened live on Sky Sports, so like most/ all of you, I did of course watch the game as well as being there in spirit. Also for the record, this was our first ever competitive fixture behind closed doors – plenty more were to follow sadly.

With no pre-match high jinks to report on, let’s cut to the chase and recollect quite why we were in the play-offs. Covid-19 had bought a premature halt to the football season in March 2020, a season which became very clear very quickly wasn’t going to restart any day soon. After some deliberation, the football authorities decided that final league would be determined on points per game – not a decision clubs were universally happy with, particularly those who missed out on a promotion chance, or were relegated as a result, but certainly probably the fairest metric to use.

Fortunately for the U’s, although our promotion challenge had hit a bit of a slump, losing four of our previous six games, the 3-0 victory at Carlisle gave us – just – one of the four play-off places, and by a margin of just 0.03 points per game over 8th place Port Vale. This meant playing at home for the first leg, traditionally considered a disadvantage, against Exeter City. The Grecians were particularly aggrieved about the PPG ruling, feeling they still had enough about them to gain automatic promotion. That one of the three promoted automatically was bitter rivals Plymouth Argyle really couldn’t have helped their feelings of injustice.

After over three months of not playing competitive football, John McGreal’s U’s lined up for the first leg as follows:

1….Dean Gerken
2….Ryan Jackson
3….Cohen Bramall
18..Tom Eastman
5….Luke Prosser
24..Ben Stevenson (4. Tom Lapslie 78’)
8….Harry Pell
49..Kwame Poku (11. Paris Cowan-Hall 89’)
7….Courtney Senior (26. Luke Gambin 68’)
45..Frank Nouble
9….Luke Norris (13. Theo Robinson 77’)

In recognition of the impact on players fitness as a result of the football season Covid curtailment, clubs in the play-offs were allowed to name a 9-man bench, with up to five substitutes allowed during any three intervals in the match. The allowance would stay in effect for the following 2020/21 season, eventually being scrapped at the start of this season.

With the premature end to the football season, and the likelihood that most/ all of the following season being played behind closed doors, tough financial decisions were already being made at clubs up and down the country. Not least at Colchester United, where it had already been announced that contracts for Luke Prosser, Frank Nouble and Ryan Jackson, all starters for this match, wouldn’t be renewed, nor Brandon Comley who didn’t feature that day.

In a match that kicked off at the quirky time of 5.15pm on a Thursday early evening, in truth it was a poor game for the most part. Perhaps understandably in many ways, the stadium was just an echo chamber for shouts from the bench, players were lacking match fitness, and play-off first legs are traditionally nervy tense encounters at the best of times. Add to that three of the team knew however well they did in the play-offs, they weren’t going to be about to enjoy the potential benefits next season, and this was never likely to be a stellar performance.

Exeter City weren’t much better, although did have the edge of the U’s in the opening exchanges. Aaron Martin's headed effort from an Exeter City corner looped safely over the bar early on, but it would take until the mid-point of the first half for the U’s to register a serious attempt on target. Following a foul on Chuck Norris, and with a glimpse of things to come, Cohen Bramall curled a 25 yard free kick over the wall. To be honest, it looked like it was going over the bar too, but ‘keeper Lewis Ward wasn’t taking any chances, and palmed it over to be certain.

Although I was hopeful this would be the prelude of better things to come, sadly it didn’t prove to be the case, not helped particularly by a water break more or less straight after Cohen’s effort, which kind of took any momentum out of the U’s. On the half hour mark Courtney Senior did steal in at the back post to try and head a cross back towards Luke Norris in space, but he couldn’t get enough purchase on the header. In fact, the break seemed to give Exeter more renewed impetus, and shortly after Harry Pell did well to block Nicky Law’s goal-bound shot. On 38 minutes Lee Martin was taken off injured for the Grecians, to be replaced by Matt Jay, but the first half fizzled out at 0-0 with very little additional action to speak of.

The problem was we simply weren’t creating opportunities to get Senior and Poku more into the game, but McGreal persevered into the second half without any changes (to either the line-up or the tactics so it seemed). However, we were certainly less flat than the first half, and a powerful effort from Senior flashed inches past the near post early on. As a warning shot across their bows, it worked for Exeter City, who came back to skim the side-netting from Matt Jay’s 20-yard free-kick on the hour mark.

Exeter City manager Matt Taylor was the first to roll the tactical dice, bringing on Archie Collins for Nicky Law at the next water break on 67 minutes. This was followed immediately by McGreal, with Luke Gambin replacing what had been our only serious goal threat in the match, Courtney Senior – wtf! However, as incredulous as I was about the change, it seemed to have worked, with Gambin adding more bite to our midfield, freeing up strikers Norris and Nouble to better go about their business.

Breaking from the back, on 75 minutes the U’s surged forward, in a move which culminated with a powerful Nouble shot from a very tight angle being blocked at the near post by Ward. Shortly after, cutting a path across the edge of the penalty area, Nouble unleashed another piledriver, to be blocked for a corner by the Exeter City defence.

In response, Matt Taylor made a double substitution, bringing on old friend Brennan Dickenson and Tom Parkes for Jack Sparkes and Dean Moxey respectively. McGreal countered, swapping Luke Norris for leading goal scorer Theo Robinson, and then tigerish Tom Lapslie for Ben Stevenson in midfield.

On 81 minutes the U’s finally got the lead that to be honest they barely deserved. A free-kick was awarded out on the far right hand side of the Exeter City penalty area, and up stepped Cohen Bramall. Exeter City ‘keeper Ward really should have been better prepared for what was to come, after Bramall’s first half effort, but Bramall’s whipped shot into his near post side caught him out, and all he could do was palm the shot into the net for a goal to the U’s, and a slender 1-0 home leg advantage in the play-off semi-final.

Colchester United 1 (Cohen Bramall 81’) Exeter City 0

I’ll be honest, despite the victory, I was never certain we’d get through to the play-off final, and the second leg at St James’ Park four days later confirmed my fears. After Exeter took a 2-0 lead, Courtney Senior grabbed the U’s a lifeline on 78 minutes to take the game to extra time 2-2 on aggregate, but that man Bowman again broke U’s hearts grabbing the winner on six minutes into the second half of extra time.

Exeter progressed to the final, to face Northampton Town, who had finished 4th in the play-off slots. However, league form wasn’t reflected in this match, with Exeter City comprehensively taken apart by the Cobblers, who won promotion with a 4-0 victory.

Incidentally, perennial relegation botherers Stevenage escaped a thoroughly deserved demotion back to non-league due to the financial plight of Bury Town, after they went bust and were expelled from the Football league. Maybe finally this season that’s going to catch up with Stevenage?

The highlights video is still on YouTube, for those who can bring themselves to watch it

Up the U’s!
[Post edited 2 Apr 18:06]
When Saturday Comes #31
at 18:03 26 Mar 2022

After the excitement of our televised game against FGR on Monday night, and all the positive attention we’ve received as a result of Robbie making it our “Game for Ukraine” fundraiser, When Saturday Comes comes back down to earth with a bump against promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers. Despite the disappointing 1-0 defeat on Monday night, I guess we can at least take a small positive that if FGR are currently the best team in our league, we for the most part matched them on the pitch. Again we’re left cursing our luck, particularly when Junior’s late effort struck the base of the post rather than squeezing in to give us the point I felt we deserved – but I’ve said before, when you’re at the wrong end of the table, luck has a tendency to go walkies.
When Saturday Comes #31
at 18:02 25 Mar 2022

After the excitement of our televised game against FGR on Monday night, and all the positive attention we’ve received as a result of Robbie making it our “Game for Ukraine” fundraiser, When Saturday Comes comes back down to earth with a bump against promotion-chasing Tranmere Rovers. Despite the disappointing 1-0 defeat on Monday night, I guess we can at least take a small positive that if FGR are currently the best team in our league, we for the most part matched them on the pitch. Again we’re left cursing our luck, particularly when Junior’s late effort struck the base of the post rather than squeezing in to give us the point I felt we deserved – but I’ve said before, when you’re at the wrong end of the table, luck has a tendency to go walkies.

However, off the pitch the 6,140 tickets sold mean £61,400 goes towards the British Red Cross humanitarian work helping refugees from the Russian invasion of Ukraine, plus (at the last count) another £5,752 on the JustGiving page, plus however much was raised in the collection tins and buckets on the night (well done bwildered!), plus of course the shirt auction to come. I fully expect when the final count is in, we’ll be around the £70k mark, which is a fantastic effort – and one that hopefully other clubs get involved with.

I’m heading over to Bristol for a family lunch tomorrow, hopefully back in time for the Tranmere kick-off, so posting this blog earlier than usual as I won’t have time tomorrow.
Dig deep folks, every penny counts

With the world holding its breath as Russia continues to shell, bomb and shoot civilians in an effort to overthrow the democratically elected government of Ukraine, Kim Jong Un has demonstrated his timing is about as good as his dress sense by testing a new intercontinental ballistic missile, described as a “monster missile”. As if the world hasn’t had enough of tiny-dick dictators, here’s come another one overcompensating. CNN reports that this potentially heralds a new era of regional confrontation between North Korea and its weary neighbours.

Talking of tiny-dick dictators, 2020 election loser and all-round narcissistic misogynistic racist Donald Trump has surprised no one by launching legal action against Hillary Clinton. This is Trump’s go-to modus operandi, frivolous lawsuits designed to whip his rabid support into even greater frenzies of faux injustice. This one, laughably, accuses Clinton of “racketeering” and “conspiracy to commit injurious falsehood” trying to rig the 2016 election against him.

Yep, you can’t really make this sort of stuff up – from the man actually responsible for trying to rig the result of the 2020 election and inciting riotous insurrection in the process. The Washington Post describes the lawsuit as a “predictable mess … littered with false claims, errors and dubious inferences … a veritable smorgasbord of debunked and conspiratorial assertions”. In truth, it’s not a lawsuit he stands a cat in hell’s chance of winning, it’s just an advance press release from the Trump 2024 election campaign, and sadly his supporters will lap it up and love him all the more for it.

P&O’s decision to summarily lay-off 800 employees was a truly shameful, awful and callous thing to do, and it was delivered in the most cowardly of fashions, via a pre-recorded video announcement to the crews. Worse still, appearing before a Commons hearing, another nominee for “C’nt of the 2020s” award P&O CEO Peter Hebblethwaite brazenly admitted he knew full well he should have consulted with the union in advance. He chose not to because, in his own words “it was our assessment that the change was of such a magnitude that no union would possibly accept our proposal” – no shit Sherlock! P&O are replacing the sacked staff with cheaper agency workers.

U’s World
Other than the fantastic fund-raising efforts around the Game for Ukraine, it is also a pleasure to see Alan Judge’s spectacular 35-yard volley against Rochdale win Sky TV’s February Goal of the Month award. In announcing the result, Sky Sports pundit Don Goodman said “Alan Judge’s ability from distance is well known to most Brentford and Ipswich fans, but this goal has to be close to the top of his personal list of screamers”.

Great vlog, goal starts at 2’56”

Ironically, Judge was up against the goal by Mansfield’s Rhys Oates, the one who just ran and ran whilst numerous U’s players failed to take the opportunity to chop him down at the knees. Still, great news to see Alan Judge receive the award.

Well done Judgey!

The club continue to make preparations to welcome the England U20 Young Lions to the JobServe next Tuesday, for their international fixture against Germany. Ticket sales seem to be going well, and at just £5 for adults and £2.50 for kids, I certainly won’t be surprised if it isn’t close to a sell-out. Certainly the club have advised that very few hospitality package Executive Boxes are left. Not that I’m in a position to take up what’s on offer, but £250 for ten attendees, plus three parking bays and access to the bar menu does seem quite a good deal.

After starting on the bench for the previous World Cup qualifier, Tommy Smith started for yesterday’s New Zealand World Cup qualifier against New Caledonian. New Zealand comprehensively won the game 7-1. Tommy was one of a quadruple 71st minute set of substitutions, with the All Whites comfortably in control at 3-1 at the time, and they now top their qualification group with three wins out of three. The first match for the Albanian U21s is tonight against the Czech Republic, with England their opponents next Tuesday – it remains to be seen whether Armando gets any game time, but I certainly hope so. Overlooked in the last blog, U’s loanee Tyreik Wright is also away on international duty, after being called up for the Republic of Ireland U21 squad by manager Jim Crawford. The Irish youth play Sweden U21s at the Borås Stadium next Tuesday, kick-off 5pm.

With three ‘technically’ first teamers away on international duties, I suppose the club could have asked for the U’s game against Tranmere to be postponed. But, time is running out between now and May, and with enough fixture congestion already, doing so would have only made matters worse. When you consider Dobra is probably a long way off even the bench at the moment, there’s plenty of cover for Smith in the defensive line, and even the mercurial talent of Wright is more often as an impact sub than a regular starter, going ahead with the Tranmere game makes perfect sense.

Stat attack
The history between ourselves and Tranmere Rovers if one of intermittent flirtations in the late 50s, 60s and 70s, going more or less steady in the 80s, an irrevocable and messy divorce in the 90s, and more or less back on regular speaking terms in the 3rd millennium (though they did have that affair with the National League a few years ago).

Traditionally, although they’ve never played in the top flight, Tranmere have generally been a 3rd/4th tier football club, with the emphasis on 3rd. Like the U’s, they have dabbled in the 2nd tier, throughout most of the 90s mentioned above. Also like the U’s they have slipped into non-league, although they took three seasons to return in 2018, rather than the two we did. In 2019 they achieved back-to-back promotions to League 1 via the play-offs, and probably count themselves unlucky to be immediately relegated on the points per game metric when Covid curtailed the 2019/20 season.

In all that time, we’ve played 61 league matches so far, with the Superwhites winning 23, the U’s winning 17 and 21 games drawn. We’ve also played just one cup game against each other, in the 3rd Round of the League Cup under Bobby Roberts back in November 1981, a game we lost 1-0. Tranmere will be aiming to do the double over the U’s tomorrow, something they’ve achieved on five separate occasions. If you think that doesn’t sound many, the U’s have only achieved it once back in 1978/79, also under Bobby Roberts.

In fact, Bobby Roberts had a half-decent league record against Tranmere Rovers (W3 D1 L2), one match of that 1978/79 double was a whopping 5-1 victory at Prenton Park, and in 1981 he won a thriller 4-0 at Layer Road. Notable in the list of defeats is Benny Fenton’s capitulation back in March 1961, when his U’s were battered 7-2 at Prenton Park, and again 5-2 the following season. More recently John Ward’s U’s lost 4-0 at Prenton Park in September 2012, but probably the most ignominious defeat was the return fixture in February 2013, when the U’s were smashed 5-1 at the JobServe under Ward’s replacement (and current Assistant Manager) Joe Dunne.

Match of the Day
Colchester United v Macclesfield Town
17th August 1991
GM Vauxhall Conference (Tier 5)
Attendance 2,233

Match of the Day for this blog, and the random match selector goes all the way back to game #3 in my memorabilia collection, and just as the U’s were embarking on their second season in non-league with a home game against Macclesfield Town in August 1991. Although the U’s had a decent 1990/91 first campaign in the GM Vauxhall Conference, no one could deny that finishing second behind Barnet to miss out on an immediate return to the Football league had been a major disappointment.

With player-manager Ian Atkins leaving in the close season for a coaching role at Birmingham City, Chairman James Bowdidge decided on the appointment of untried Roy McDonough as another player-manager to take over. Following a very successful first spell at the club from 1981-83 (111 appearances and 26 goals in all competitions), Big Roy had been re-signed by Atkins in September of the previous season (as a player-assistant), scoring a decent nine goals in 29 appearances. No one was really certain quite how this would work out – Roy’s passion was undeniable, but so was his reputation for indiscipline, would this become something to permeate through the side under his control?

Well, I didn’t have long to find out, as we drove over on the Friday night to stay at my Mum’s on Greenstead for the weekend. After an evening down at the Wivenhoe Greyhound with close friends, myself and brother-in-law Steve headed over to a bright and sunny Layer Road Barside for the opening game of the 1991/92 season (following an obligatory couple or so in the Drury).

Given the U’s had only narrowly missed out on promotion last season, I was faintly surprised there weren’t more than just over 2,000 for this game, including a smattering from the North West, but then again, school holidays and suchlike always do seem to impact on attendances in August. We couldn’t blame the V Festival, it would be another five years before that became a nuisance for the U’s. Still, what we lacked in numbers the acoustics of Layer Road more than made up for in volume, and the U’s were roared out onto the pitch just before kick-off.

Roy McDonough’s first U’s line-up of his managerial reign was as follows:

1….Scott Barrett
2….Warren Donald
3….Martin Grainger
4….Mark Kinsella
5….Tony English
6….Shaun Elliott
7….Eamonn Collins (programme lists Bennett as no. 7)
8….Gary Bennett (programme lists Collins as no. 8)
9….Roy McDonough
10..Steve McGavin (12. Mario Walsh 76’)
11..Nicky Smith

The only pre-season signing that I can determine was defender Simon Gray from nearby Ipswich Town. Players leaving included the sale of Scott Daniels to Exeter City for £50,000 just before the end of last season, Neale Marmon to FC Homburg for an undisclosed fee, and Marcelle Bruce (Baldock Town), Gary Osbourne (Cradley Town), Robbie Devereux (Sudbury Town) and Laurie Ryan (Cambridge City) all released.

Although Roy would go on to make a number of changes to the squad later in August and September, not least signing up apprentice Paul Abrahams onto a contract, this was therefore still most of the side that had just missed out in 1990/91. The bookies fancied Wycombe to win the title and thus promotion back in the one up one down days, with the U’s second favourite.

Given it was over 30 years ago, you’ll forgive me if my memories of the game have somewhat faded with time, and there isn’t too much research material I can find on the internet to help out, other than Graeson’s always excellent ColuData website. I certainly do recall that the U’s started very positively against a side that we’d only first met the previous season – winning 1-0 at Layer Road and losing 1-0 at Moss Rose. Mind you, that defeat was harsh, coming from what today’s programme described as a “wind-assisted corner” ten minutes from time in a game the U’s had dominated throughout.

Within ten minutes diminutive Gary Bennett put the U’s in front, with what I was sure would be the first of a hatful of goals that afternoon. Not so it transpired, with a decent smattering of former league players making up the Macclesfield team more than capable of digging in and stifling the U’s attacking intent, even if they weren’t creating too many chances of their own in the process.

When it looked like they would keep us at bay for the remainder of the first half, up popped Steve McGavin on the stroke of half-time to double the U’s lead. Having finally broken down the resilience of the Silkmen for a second time, hopes at half-time were this would mean the second half floodgates opening. Half-time scores coming in from elsewhere included that Wycombe were drawing 1-1 at home to Gateshead, which drew cheers from the Layer Road crowd.

Although the U’s continued to dominate into the early stage of the second half, Macclesfield manager Peter Wragg had clearly got his half-time team-talk message across, and the Silkmen had rediscovered their first half resilience again. In fact, in a surprise move sensing they might actually manage to get back into the game, Wragg subbed midfielder John Imrie for forward Jason Dawson after just ten minutes of the second half.

Obviously history (and the score line) shows it didn’t actually work in the end, but for the next 15-20 minutes Macclesfield did become much more of an attacking force, and it was time for the U’s to put up the barricades. With just under quarter of an hour to go, McDonough made his first change, making a like for like swap between McGavin and Mario Walsh.

Mario’s fresh legs made the difference, and for the remainder of the game the tide turned and once again the U’s were in the hunt for a third to absolutely kill the game. That it didn’t come was probably down to Wragg tightening up his defence with just over five minutes remaining, bringing on experienced defender Mike Farrelly.

And that was that, although Macclesfield had held on without conceding further, the U’s had still got their second GM Vauxhall Conference campaign off to a flier with a fairly comfortable 2-0 victory.

Colchester United 2 (Gary Bennett 10’; Steve McGavin 45’) Macclesfield Town 0

Results elsewhere meant that the U’s were in 3rd place after this game, not that the league table means much for the first handful of matches. It would actually take until early November to move to the top of the table, with a 2-0 victory at then league-leaders and surprise package Farnborough Town. Having finally got there, we never relinquished first place from then to the end of the season 😊.

In a move which certainly surprised me, the Macclesfield game turned out to be Mario Walsh’s last for the U’s, as he was sold for £15,000 later that very same day to Redbridge Forest of all teams. At the end of the 1991/92 season, Redbridge Forest merged with Dagenham to form current National League side Dagenham and Redbridge.

Up the U’s!
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