Portsmouth v Colchester United Tuesday 21st August 2001 Worthington Cup (First Round) Attendance 7,078
Match #19 of the series, and a day after my birthday. What better way to celebrate a birthday than a trip to Fratton Park on a balmy summer’s evening, my first visit to Portsmouth FC. The Milton Road End was uncovered back in those days, which made generating much of an atmosphere problematic, even though a decent 150-200 (I reckon) had made the long trip from Colchester. For me, it was a simple train journey from Salisbury, straight through to Fratton Station, just down the road from the ground.
Back then, there weren’t many away fan friendly pubs in the general area of Fratton Park, and with a somewhat well-deserved reputation for being a bit ‘tasty’, visiting supporters usually exercised caution and circumspection around Fratton Park. That being said, Pompey fans also enjoy a very well-deserved reputation for the passion of their support, and I certainly had no problems before or after the match, happily wandering around in my U’s shirt. Having sampled a few wet ones on the train over, I opted to visit The Rifle before the match. These days, it’s a swanky nightclub, dubbed “Portsmouth’s leading venue for live music and function hire” (a rather grand claim it has to be said), but back then it was a simple working men’s club who were quite happy to admit non-members for the princely sum of £1 – and as I said, without any hassle or aggravation from home supporters.
Suitably refreshed and ready for the match, I wandered up to the Milton Rd end turnstiles, ready to take my place amongst the faithful. Now, some of you might think this is a bit of a thing, and I honestly can’t remember how this came about, but when I pulled the programme off the shelf and discovered my ticket stub was still in the programme, it would appear I somehow blagged yet another complimentary ticket. Don’t ask me how, maybe I’ve just got that needy impoverished look nailed?
The U’s lined up: 29..Andy Woodman 2….Joe Dunne (Alan White 28’) 3….Joe Keith 6….Simon Clark 8….David Gregory 12..Scott Fitzgerald 15..Thomas Pinault 10..Kem Izzet 20..Micky Stockwell (Bobby Bowry 62’) 21..Kevin Rapley 9….Scott McGleish
The U’s were managed by Steve Whitton, who was doing a pretty decent job of consolidating us as a solid mid-Tier 3 team – something that was much needed after taking over from Wadsworth. Considering the trend these days to ‘rest’ players for unfashionable cup competitions, this was a strong line-up for the U’s – in fact identical to the starting XI in our previous match against Tranmere at Layer Rd (U’s winning 2-1). There were plenty of household and soon-to-be household names in the Pompey squad that season – Dave Beasant in goal, Peter Crouch, Lee Bradbury, Nigel Quashie, Justin Edinburgh, even a young Rowan Vine at no. 32. However, the name on everyone’s lips was the unexpected signing of Robert Prosinečki at the start of the season. The outrageously gifted chain-smoking Croatian was signed (basically) by Pompey owner Milan Mandarić, and although he had made a substitute appearance in Portsmouth’s previous match (a home defeat to Bradford City), this was his full home debut in the starting XI.
I have a reasonable recollection of the game, and an excellent recollection of two key aspects, which I’ll come on to. The U’s started well, more than holding their own against higher league opposition. Not altogether unexpected though, we shouldn’t forget at the time the U’s were a decent Tier 3 side and Pompey were a poor Tier 2 side – they had avoided relegation by the skin of their teeth in the last match of the previous season. An injury to Joe Dunne had forced Whitton into making an early substitution, replacing him with Alan White with less than half an hour on the clock, but the U’s went in at half-time drawing 0-0. This was despite the presence off Prosinečki, who was clearly a world-class player, and head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch – the first of my strong recollections.
Playing towards the U’s faithful in the second half, we went one step further when Micky Stockwell arrived unmarked in the box to power a header past Beasant and give the U’s a not-undeserved 1-0 lead. Pompey, under Prosinečki’s influence came back strongly, with Quashie going close from a Crouch pass. Clearly in an attempt to bolster our defensive capabilities, Whitton replaced our goal-scorer with Sideways Bob ten minutes later. Graham Rix, the Pompey manager, responded almost immediately with a double substitution, bring on Bradbury and Harper, and eventually the pressure told. In the 77th minute, a Crouch flying header from a Pitt cross brought the home side back on level terms.
With Pompey pressing hard for the winner, we come to the second and most memorable moment of the game. In the 83rd minute of the game, and during a rare foray forward for the U’s, Portsmouth captain Darren Moore went down injured under a fair challenge on the edge of his own penalty area. The Portsmouth players were expecting the ball to be put out of play by the U’s, the crowd were expecting the ball to be put out of play by the U’s – so Kemi duly obliged by rounding Beasant and burying it in the back of the net. Despite the howls of outrage and protestations, the goal quite rightly stood – it wasn’t a head injury, it hadn’t been a foul, and most importantly, the ref was happy for play to continue – if ever the adage play to the whistle rang true, it was at Fratton Park that night.
Despite their best efforts, it was too late in the game for Pompey to rescue the situation, and the U’s progressed to the next round of the Worthington Cup.
To their credit, and despite the somewhat controversial circumstances surrounding our winner, Pompey fans in the Rifle after the match were just as accommodating, and quite happy to discuss football over a friendly pint or two. The Rifle even sold me a cheeky take-out for the train journey home.
In the news recently, after taking over as manager of Brightlingsea Regent, Kemi was never a prolific scorer of goals for the U’s during his long and distinguished career with us, so being present to see one of them was a bit of a collector’s item for me. I can’t say with any honesty it is the only time I’ve seen one, but it’s certainly the only that I can remember.
Prosinečki would complete the season with Portsmouth, and is largely credited with again saving them from relegation. To this day he is still considered one of the all-time greats to have ever pulled on a Pompey shirt, and a hero amongst the Fratton Park faithful.
It is fitting therefore that I have managed to find a photo online of two great players contesting with each other on the pitch that night!
Preston North End v Colchester United Saturday 6th August 2011 NPower Football League 1 (Tier 3) Attendance 11,451
Match #18 of the series, and we are at Deepdale for the first league match of the 2011/12 season against Preston North End. Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I always try and do first and last game each season, so I wasn’t exactly grateful for the fixture computer landing me with a 450-mile round trip. Still, stout heart and all that, and a ridiculously early train departure saw me on my way for the 5-hour journey to the frozen north. Not quite the furthest I’ve travelled following the U’s, but certainly the furthest I’ve attempted relying on our railway network – a perilous reliance at the best of times. At one point I had the idea of popping in to the National Football Museum at Deepdale, but it turned out lack of funding had closed it a year earlier, and it wasn’t to reopen (in Manchester) until a year later.
The U’s lined up: 12..Mark Cousins 3….Michael Rose 4….Magnus Okuonghae 6….Matt Heath 20..Brian Wilson 8….John-Joe O’Toole 10..Kem Izzet (c) 22..Anthony Wordsworth (John White 83’) 7….Ashley Vincent (Lloyd James 73’) 15..Kayode Odejayi 16..Ian Henderson
Preston North End were managed by Phil “perma-tan” Brown, who had arrived in January that year, though too late to steer PNE away from Championship relegation. Nevertheless, PNE were (and are) a big club, and one of the top tips for an immediate return to the Championship in 2011/12. There are few player connections between the two sides, but there was one significant name starting for PNE that day, the return of Graham Alexander after a four-year stint at rivals Burnley – and to a tumultuous welcome too. For the U’s, this was also Michael Rose’s debut. I think this was the first match between the U’s and Preston since they hammered us 7-0 in the FA Cup 3rd round back in January 2010, so we really did have something to prove – and prove it we did.
Preston started brightly, roared on by a decent crowd, and Cousins was kept on his toes, fumbling and then recovering a Coutts 25-yarder, and then keeping out a shot from Alexander. However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic, and a decent free-kick from Rose was only just saved by Turner in the PNE goal. Two minutes later, Turner wasn’t as fortunate, as JJ heading into the path of Wordsworth who drove a ferocious shot into the net to send the travelling faithful delirious. Even though Preston continued to press, the score stayed 1-0 up to the U's at half-time, and for Brown, ominous cracks were beginning to show in his PNE defence.
These cracks were exploited excellently virtually straight from kick-off in the second half, when a delightful flick-on by Wordsworth saw Henderson running through clear, rounding Turner to roll the ball into the empty net – and we were in dreamland! However, the pressure was mounting, and not long after Cousins again had to struggle to keep out another decent free-kick, PNE pulled one back. On the hour, and with the crowd baying for Alexander to let fly from 30 yards out, he instead rolled a perfect pass through to Mellor in the box, who turned and shot past Cousins. However, the U’s were made of sterner stuff on that day, and instead of parking the bus and trying to hold on, went for the defensive jugular. A long ball forward leaving the Preston defence flat-footed put Odejayi and Turner in a one-on-one foot race, which Odejayi won, flicking the ball sideways into the path of Henderson, who calmly drove home to restore our two goal lead.
However, Preston were far from beaten, and a fantastic solo goal from Coutts, weaving past several U’s players, and finishing with a stunning shot past Cousins, brought them back into it in the 70th minute. By now, still not content to try and hold on, the match became a gripping end-to-end contest, with both sides going close, until Odejayi settled it. A good effort from Heath at point-blank range was brilliantly kept out by Turner, but there was Odejayi to stab home the rebound, and score a fourth for the U’s.
Forget Dreamland, we had now arrived in Utterly Mentalville…
Rarely have I witnessed such a complete performance by the U’s away from home, and against such illustrious opponents as well – perhaps only matched by our 3-0 victory at Hillsborough? Preston did what they could damage-limitation wise, but to now avail, and the match finished 4-2 to the U’s. I’m not certain, but there must have been about 300 U’s fans there that day, and the celebrations at the final whistle were truly something to behold!
Preston North End 2 (Mellor 60’, Coutts 70’) Colchester United 4 (Wordsworth 12’, Henderson 49’ 65’, Odejayi 76’)
After the match, Ward commented “We've beaten a very good team. I don't think very many will score four or win here. A major problem last year was scoring goals away from home. The finishing was a lot better, we've worked very hard at it.”
Phil Brown did turn things around for a while, going on a winning streak to lift Preston to second in the table, but injuries to key players started to take their toll. In December, having slipped back to 10th place, Preston dispensed with Brown’s services, and he remained clubless until signed by our dear friends Southend in 2013 (his first match losing the Football League Trophy final at Wembley 2-0 to Crewe, after Paul Sturrock had done all the hard work getting them there).
As for the U’s, our opening day victory propelled us to 3rd in the league, but we quickly settled back to a fairly consistent upper mid-table slot, finishing the 2011/12 season in 10th place, five places and five points ahead of Preston North End. This was John Ward’s second season in charge, and his second consecutive 10th place finish, which honestly was no mean achievement. He wasn’t so fortunate in 2012/13, and after starting nine games without a win was sacked in September of that season.
As it is of the era, I will leave you with the August image from my Xmas present calendar that year…
Colchester United v Southend United Tuesday 10th February 2004 LDV Vans Trophy (Southern Area Final First Leg) Attendance 5,401
Match #17, and we return to a competition that we’ve already visited in the Matches of Yesteryear series, our LDV Vans Trophy exploits of 2003/04. The previous match featured was our glorious exploits courtesy of a Scott McGleish hat-trick at Sixfields in the semi-final. This one in the Area Final 1st leg however is somewhat less glorious. The U’s were managed by Phil Parkinson at the time, in his first full season in control, and mid-table in Nationwide Division 2 – Southend were struggling slightly in Nationwide Division 3.
I’m not sure if the order of the legs for the Southern Area Final was preordained in advance, or drawn from a hat, but the U’s certainly had the least favourable outcome, playing at home first. It is also worth bearing in mind that we were also still in the FA Cup, after beating Coventry 3-1 in the 4th round replay at Layer Rd a week earlier, and facing a trip to Bramall Lane in the 5th round just five days after this match.
The U’s lined up: 1….Simon Brown 25..Sam Stockley 19..Alan White 18..Liam Chilvers 26..Paul Tierney (Wayne Andrews 66’) 7….Karl Duguid 6….Thomas Pinault 10..Kem Izzet 3….Joe Keith 16..Rowan Vine 9….Scott McGleish
On the bench for the U’s was a young Greg Halford, somewhat recovered after Martin Smith had torn him another won at Sixfields in the previous round, whilst Southend had Carl Emberson (their usual no. 1) on the bench. The U’s also listed, at no. 92 on the squad sheet, a certain Bob Hamilton. I’m sure I also remember there was a mix-up over shirts for this match, the referee wouldn’t allow Southend’s kit, and they ended up playing in our clash/away kit – or something like that, maybe the other way around? With T1 and T2 at the Layer Rd end filled out with those from South Essex, I found myself on T3 for this match – not a first by any stretch of the imagination, but not a terrace I usually frequented, and hence a slightly odd perspective from which to watch the game. Though it wasn’t quite a sell-out, Layer Rd was still pretty rammed full, with 5,401 turning up.
I was on a bit of a roll as far as attending U’s games were concerned, and this was going to be my fifth attendance since the beginning of the new year, and I was going to be at two more before the end of February. Until relatively recently, my company had been excavating the Balkerne Heights site at the former St Mary’s Hospital, but that had just finished, so I drove over for this one and stayed at my Mum’s overnight. I had also made plans to meet up with another former visitor to the U’sual back in the day (Centurion, aka Rob), the plan being for me to get a first chance to sample an ale or two in the Corner Bar. Unfortunately, though Rob and I did eventually meet up, not in time for anything in the Corner Bar. Though I didn’t know it at the time, this was therefore the closest I ever got to visiting that hallowed place.
My memory banks are slightly hazy about the specifics of the match, but I do certainly remember Thomas Pinault blasting in a peach of an opening goal on just 7 minutes, to give us the best possible start. Had we held on to it for a bit longer, who knows how things might have turned out, but as is often the case, this wasn’t to be. On 17 minutes, Leon Constantine levelled the scores, after a nice through ball from Tes Bramble (Titus’s brother). Having failed to keep the lead for very long, and coming under increasing pressure from Southend, the next objective was to try and at least hold on to half-time. Unfortunately, this was not to be, with Broughton headed Southend into a 2-1 lead just a few minutes before half-time to give the travelling support much to cheer about.
Although away goals only counted after extra-time, it was imperative that the U’s got at least one back second half, for fear of being too far adrift going into the second leg. As a result, we came out all guns blazing, and were putting Southend under significant pressure…when the unthinkable happened. On 68 minutes, a goalkeeping howler from Simon Brown allowed Tes Bramble’s average shot on goal to squirm through his hands and bobble over the line to give the Shrimpers an undeserved 3-1 lead. From this point on, even more so than before, it was all U’s as we battered them from every angle. Eventually, the pressure told, and in the 75th minute Wayne Andrews (ironically brought on to replace Paul Tierney just before Southend’s third) headed one back for the U’s to send the home fans ballistic. Barely a minute later, with the pressure telling, Drewe Broughton committed his second yellow card foul, and was rightly sent off (though to cheers from the Shrimper support). A flurry of substitutions from Steve Tilson followed, to shore up his defence and of course waste as much time as possible, and Southend just about held on to finish the first leg in front, and with three away goals to their credit.
I went to the second leg match as well, so won’t say too much about that, just in case it crops up on the random match generator. Suffice to say our cup exploits this season probably took their toll on our league form, drawing two and losing six of nine league games played from Christmas through to the end of February. Mind you, the estimated £230-300k revenue from our cup exploits wasn’t to be sniffed at either, particularly given the tortuously restrictive covenants we were tied up in at Layer Rd.
This turned out to be Thomas Pinault’s last goal for the U’s, and he was released at the end of the season. After a trial at Dundee United, and turning down an offer from Northampton Town, Pinault signed a one year contract with Grimsby Town. After falling out with then manager Russell Slade, Pinault left at the end of 2004/05, and a year or so later, reflecting on his time there, had this to say.
Grimsby was a really bad place to live. The town was really old and there wasn't much to do there. It was full of fishermen and it smelled of fish all the time.
This was voted one of the BBC Sport’s Quotes of the Year in 2006, but I think Thomas is still waiting for the good burghers of Grimsby to erect his statue…
Crewe Alexandra v Colchester United Saturday 17th February 2018 Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4) Attendance 3,548
Match #16 of the series, and we return to Gresty Rd, and this one only two seasons ago. I’ve been following the U’s for getting close to 50 years now, and for most of that time since I left for Bradford University in 1981, as an exile. As a result, and like most long-suffering exiles, I’ve learned to travel more in hope than expectation, and take whatever positives I can out of each match, because chances are (probability-wise) what I’m not going to see is a victory. However, occasionally the U’s do win, and what days they are – whether it’s a thoroughly deserved crushing of our opponents, or “one off the arse” in the 92nd minute steals. Sometimes, it’s a battling hard-earned backs-to-the-walls performance to grind out a satisfactory point. More often, it is defeat, but still nevertheless a hard-working, disciplined performance, or we simply have to accept we were beaten by the better team.
The obvious name of note in the Crewe squad would have been Chris Porter, who had joined Crewe from the U’s at the end of the previous season. However, he wasn’t even on the team sheet – I’m not 100% certain, but I think he was injured and missed out the later stages of that season? Also missing was Sammie Szmodics, apparently out with a back injury. At the time, the U’s were still in the hunt for a play-off spot, but our form since Christmas had been very patchy, with only two victories, albeit one was the Tuesday before this match at home to Coventry City, and we had slipped out of the play-offs to 10th place. Crewe, on the other hand, were in terrible form, losing five and drawing one of their previous six matches, and were perilously close to slipping into the relegation dog-fight.
Me and Alfie drove up for this game, and parked up in the stadium car park. Apologies if I’m mixing this one up with another trip to Gresty Rd, but I’m fairly sure there had been a torrential cloud burst before kick-off, leaving everyone milling about outside whilst the referee carried out a pitch inspection – sadly, it passed the inspection. Fellow U’sual regulars Noah and Durham were also at the match, though this was one where we all spectacularly failed to meet up with each other.
As for the game, there are plenty of reports from different agencies still widely available on the internet, but I will summarise as best I can from my own recollections. The U’s certainly started brightly, passing the ball around reasonably well, and testing their ‘keeper on a few occasions. A Diaz Wright shot from outside the box, after good work by Junior, was turned around the post (reasonably comfortably) by Ben Garrett. Two more long-range efforts by Stevenson were also comfortably dealt with by Garrett. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though, and as the half went on, Crewe were beginning to get back into the game, with Walker being called on to keep the U’s in it on a couple of occasions. What was most telling, however, was that despite all of our fancy triangles in midfield, we were making precious little real penetration in the final third, with only long-range efforts having any real threat (and really that threat wasn’t much). In particular, Jackson and Wright on the wings were really not working. Clearly expecting a more positive outcome, I filmed one of our free-kicks – this was about as exciting as things were to get I’m afraid.
Still, 0-0 at half-time, and with plenty of possession in our favour, we were all hopeful of better things to come second half. Sadly we were to be disappointed – if our final third threat was minimal in the first half, it became non-existent in the second half. Jackson (who didn’t look fit from the first minute) and Wright had achieved little on their respective flanks first half, so were swapped over for the second half, but nothing came of that. What we needed was a kick up the arse, and Crewe duly obliged in the 60th minute. A free-kick barely a yard outside our penalty area was blasted into the wall, and there was Miller to stab home at close range as the ball spun off. At half-time that wouldn’t have been deserved, but 15 minutes into the second half, it definitely was. McGreal immediately swapped Senior for Dickenson and Junior for Mandeville, but still our failure to find the final ball dogged us, still trying nothing but long-range speculative efforts – Dickenson even had a go from what must have been 40 yards out! To be honest, Walker was becoming our man of the match as far as I was concerned, even if he for some reason decided to play the second half with a low sun in his eyes and no cap!
By full-time, we had been beaten by a team who looked as poor as their recent form suggested, who had shamelessly wasted time as often as possible (even before they were 1-0 up), and whilst we were definitely not helped by some very poor and weak officials, if you have to rely on competent officials in League 2, you’re already doomed. Despite our apparent statistical dominance in attack (14 attempts on goal, five on target), this was about as lacklustre as you could get – we deserved nothing from this game, and we received it in abundance. Me and Alfie left on the final whistle – there was nothing to applaud the team for, so we were off.
Crewe 1 (Miller 60’) Colchester United 0
Though it pains me to remind you all, we finished the season in a very disappointing 13th place, only just top half of the table. This result kick-started Crewe a bit, and they went on to win six and draw two of their remaining 12 matches, to finish just two places behind the U’s. If this particular black cloud of a match did have a silver lining, take another look at mine and Alfie’s tickets. Yep, a second occasion where I just happened to be in the right place and the right time, as someone thrust a pair of complimentary tickets in my hand as we wandered up to the turnstiles.
Definitely not an earth-moving experience as matches following the U’s go, but it was elsewhere, with a 4.4 magnitude earthquake hitting south Wales and south-west England about 30 minutes before the match. It passed me by unnoticed, but certainly was felt by some in the area.
Barnet v Colchester United Sunday 10th May 1998 Nationwide League 3 (Tier 4) Attendance 3,858
Match #15 of the series, and another first as we visit Barnet at their old Underhill ground for the first leg of the Nationwide Division 3 play-off semi-final in May 1998. As befits the play-offs, we had the slightly odd kick-off arrangement of 1.30pm on a Sunday afternoon. The other semi-final first leg, between Scarborough and Torquay, was kicking off at 3pm that afternoon. Incidentally, Scarborough at the time were managed by none other than Mick “bigger b’stard than Mick Wadsworth” Wadsworth.
As I’m sure you will all remember, we were managed at the time by Steve Wignall, taking over in January 1995 after George Burley’s Christmas defection up the A12. This was our second attempt at the play-offs under Wignall, after losing out to Plymouth in the 1996 semi-finals. Wignall had also taken us to our second Wembley appearance in 1997, losing the AutoWindscreen Trophy final to Carlisle on penalties.
There are two definite names of note in the Barnet line-up that day, not least our very own Scott McGleish, who had already completed a successful loan spell with us back in 1995/96, with 17 appearances in all competitions, scoring five times. Scott signed for Barnet in 1997, and would go on to rejoin the U’s during the 2000/01 season. The other big name, certainly in the lower leagues, was prolific goal-scorer Sean Devine. Devine had joined Barnet in late 1995, and in 1996 he caught the eye of Premiership West Ham United, and probably would have completed the transfer if he hadn’t been struck down with groin/ hernia problems. He would go on to be Barnet’s leading goal-scorer three seasons running, eventually breaking their league goalscoring record.
I travelled up for this one on the train, and as a result allowed myself the pleasure of a few pints amongst lively vociferous company in the big pub right next to the ground (can’t remember its name though?). After which, on what was a bright sunny day, joining what must have been close on a thousand U’s fans jammed into the tiny Underhill ground. This is another match that I still have the ticket for as well – only £10, what a bargain!
I honestly can’t remember too much about the game, not necessarily because of the beer, it was just a long time ago. As is often the case for these sorts of matches, and what I do recall, was that it was very tense, and also quite feisty as well, with yellow cards being handed out like sweets by referee Eddie Wolstenholme. In particular, our loanee Guy Branston was giving Devine a torrid time, and had already been yellow-carded for his troubles. Half time arrived with no goals scored, but within a few minutes of the restart defender Greg Heald put the Bees 1-0 ahead. Thereafter, it’s a bit of a blank, other than Barnet couldn’t increase their lead, nor could the U’s reduce it. Tony Lock came on in the 75th minute, but I don’t know who he replaced – probably Buckle or Sale I reckon?
Then, in the 82nd minute, the seminal game-changing moment arrived.
As mentioned, Guy Branston had been tormenting and goading Devine all match, to the point at which Devine finally snapped, and a bout of strenuous fisticuffs ensued. Wolstenholme had no choice, and both players were shown a straight red for violent conduct. For Devine, this meant an immediate three-match ban and therefore not being eligible for the mid-week second leg at Layer Rd. For Branston, it meant nothing at all – his loan spell came to an end at the end of this match, and he was returning to his parent club Leicester City – the three-match ban was their problem, not ours. It is widely believed by many (including me) that this was an entirely premeditated action, Branston literally taking one for the team knowing full well it would keep Devine out of the frame for the second leg. In researching this match, I found posts on various Barnet unofficial forums to this day still maintaining this to be the case.
Despite the double red card, this didn’t offer any opportunities for either side to alter the score. So, Barnet travelled to Layer Rd on Wednesday 13th May 1998 for the second leg with a slender 1-0 lead, but without star striker Sean Devine.
Barnet 1 (Heald 48’) Colchester United 0
The U’s would go on to overcome their one goal deficit at Layer Rd, eventually winning 3-1 after extra time (and another red card for Barnet, this time Lee Howarth), progressing to Wembley to face Torquay – and the rest, as they say, is history. This was very much a parting of the ways for the U’s and Barnet – though we were to meet on a couple of occasions in the FA Cup and Johnstone’s Paint Trophy, it would be another 18 years before we played again in the league, by which time they had moved out of Underhill to the Hive.
If Eddie Wolstenholme thought this match, and particularly Branston and Devine’s punch-up, was a bit feisty, it was nothing compared to four years later when he refereed Sheffield United v West Bromwich Albion, a match known as the Battle of Bramall Lane. This was discussed on the forum quite recently, a match during which Sheffield United had three players sent off (two of them, Santos and Suffo, substitutes who had only just come on). With Michael Brown taken off injured in the 79th minute, and then Robert Ullathorne in the 82nd minute, Wolstenholme had no choice but to abandon a game that WBA were winning 3-0. Santos and Suffo never played for Sheffield United again.
Post-match, WBA’s manager Gary Megson stated “There will be no replay. If we are called back to Bramall Lane we shall kick-off and then walk off the pitch. I've been in professional football since 16 and I'm 42 now. I've never ever witnessed anything as disgraceful as that. There is no place for that in any game of football, let alone professional football”. Fortunately, the Football League saw sense, and decided to award WBA the 3-0 victory, rather than see the match replayed. The ‘highlights’ (lowlights surely – Ed.) are worth a watch for those that haven’t seen them.
I'm pleased to see neither club wants to try and cash in on the fixture, agreeing to stick to Crawley's pricing policy throughout this competition. I can't see too many U11s being taken to a midweek game on a school night, but it's a nice gesture nonetheless.
AFC Bournemouth v Colchester United Saturday 3rd April 2004 Nationwide League 2 (Tier 3) Attendance 6,896
Match #14 of the series, and for the first time we visit a ground for the second time…if you get what I mean? Well sort of anyway, as we’re back at AFC Bournemouth, though this time at the Fitness First Stadium (as it was then known) that had replaced the original Dean Court (see Matches of Yesteryear – Bournemouth v U's 3/2/01). As mentioned in that previous blog, the first game played at the Fitness First Stadium was in November 2001, and at the time of this game in 2004 it was still a 3-sided set-up. As part of a finance restructuring package, the ground was sold just over a year later in a sale-and-leaseback arrangement.
This was the first full season with Parky in charge, and although we hadn’t had the best of starts, results had picked up sufficiently that by the time of this match in early April, we’d already passed the regulation ‘50pts is safety’ mark. Leading up to Christmas, we’d even been challenging for promotion, but with cup success in both the FA Trophy and the FA Cup, fixture congestion started to take its toll – we went on to play a remarkable 15 cup matches in all competitions that season! Bournemouth, on the other hand, were eight points ahead, and one place and one point outside the play-offs with a game in hand, so a tough match was expected.
This was the weekend at the start of the school Easter Holiday, so my eldest boy was absolutely delighted (😊) to continue to endure Dad’s passion for Colchester United and accompany him on the relatively short trip from Salisbury down to Bournemouth (well, technically it’s considered Boscombe, not Bournemouth). It was a bright dry day, and having parked up in the stadium car park, Sam and I decided on this occasion to resist the temptation for a swift one in the Queens Park Hotel and went straight in to the ground.
The U’s lined up: 1….Simon Brown 22..Greg Halford 18..Liam Chilvers 19..Alan White 25..Sam Stockley 3….Joe Keith 4….Gavin Johnson 10..Kem Izzet 17..Bobby Bowry 8….Wayne Andrews (Thomas Pinault 75’) 12..Craig Fagan
Bournemouth had a few familiar names in their line-up that day. I’ve previously mentioned Carl Fletcher, scorer of their late equaliser in the first Match of Yesteryear against Bournemouth. They also had gnarly warhorse Steve Fletcher (no relation), a consistent if not prolific goalscorer, averaging 5-10 each season, and always a real handful for defences. However, the man of the moment without doubt was James Hayter. Hayter progressed through the youth ranks at the Cherries, and after a brief loan spell at Salisbury City, had established himself as a key part of the Bournemouth strike force by 2000. However, barely six weeks before this match against the U’s, he achieved national acclaim, scoring the fastest hat-trick in Football League history. AFC Bournemouth were already beating Wrexham 3-0 on the evening of Tuesday 24th February 2004 when Hayter came on as an 84th minute substitute. He went on to score three more in a remarkable 2 minutes and 22 seconds, unfortunately all missed by his parents who were at the game, but had to leave early to catch the last ferry back to the Isle of Wight.
Promotion candidates Bournemouth certainly started the brighter of the two, with Feeney quickly testing Simon Brown with a rasping shot that was saved well. Steve Fletcher (as anticipated) was also making a big nuisance of himself, heading just wide from a Hayter corner, followed by a 25-yard thunderbolt from Purches that just missed. When Fletcher again only just headed wide, and then forced Brown to save well from another header, it seemed to me inevitable that Bournemouth would soon take the lead.
However, Greg Halford hadn’t read the script, and in the 34th minute headed home a peach of a corner from Gavin Johnson to put the U’s 1-0 up. Against the run of play, certainly, but did the U’s faithful care! That gave the U’s considerable momentum, and for the remaining 10 minutes of the first half we had the Cherries on the back foot. Halford could have scored with a second header, which went agonisingly over the bar, and right on half-time the Cherries ‘keeper Moss did well to save a great shot from Fagan, and so half-time came with the U’s 1-0 up and in the ascendancy.
We started the second half in the same vein, again with Halford tormenting the defence, including a great strike from the right side of the box which Moss did well to stop. However, it wasn’t all one-way traffic, and Claus Jorgensen reminded us of the threat that Bournemouth posed when, approaching the hour mark, he smashed a 20 yard pile-driver against the woodwork with Brown stranded. Inevitably, the U’s started to sit deeper, looking to hold on to the slender lead, and mostly restricting Bournemouth to long range efforts, all well-executed, but not really troubling Brown. However, the pressure was building, and whilst we hoped we might just hold on, eventually the pressure told. A decent cross from Purches in the 86th minute, and there was that man Hayter in the box to fire home the equaliser for Bournemouth.
It was too late in the match for the U’s to respond, and with all three of his substitutes already used, too late for Cherries manager Sean O’Driscoll to bring on fresh legs to try and snatch the victory, and that’s how the match ended.
AFC Bournemouth 1 (Hayter 86’) Colchester United 1 (Halford 35’)
The Cherries supporters and local press were naturally disappointed to not win a game they felt they deserved to (and really needed to), but I suppose with my blue-tinted spectacles I saw it differently. I saw a bedraggled exhausted U’s (that was our 55th game of the season!) fight tooth and nail with promotion contenders, keep them at arms length for much of the game, and put them under real pressure at times – to me, it was a well-earned and well-deserved point, and with a bit more fortune could have been all 3 points. We went on to win four of our last six games, and finish in 11th place. Bournemouth’s momentum faltered, and they only finished 9th, just two places and two points ahead of the U’s.
Almost exactly a year later, much better things were to come for the U’s on our next trip to Dean Court.
Whilst we all prepare for the big match tomorrow night against Spurs at the Community Stadium, and for a bit of fun, I will leave you with the matchday programme quiz from this game – see how many answers you can get…
Yesterday was Alfie’s 15th birthday, so I was delighted that the random match generator has selected a game that is an important part of our life together following the U’s. I therefore make no apologies about the focus I will place on this game – I hope it brings you as much pleasure as it did me.
Yesterday was Alfie’s 15th birthday, so I was delighted that the random match generator has selected a game that is an important part of our life together following the U’s. I therefore make no apologies about the focus I will place on this game – I hope it brings you as much pleasure as it did me.
Crewe Alexandra v Colchester United Saturday 21st April 2014 Nationwide League 2 (Tier 3) Attendance 4,603
Match 13 of the series, and we are visiting Gresty Road, home of Crewe Alexandra. I have visited Gresty Rd on many occasions, and regardless of results, these have always been pleasant trips. This was my first trip with my youngest, so I decided this would be a road trip – here’s Alfie ready for the off on a bright and sunny Saturday morning.
I don’t have a programme for this match, but have retained Alfie’s ticket stub.
A string of poor results over the previous month (5 defeats out of six) had left the U’s uncomfortably close to the relegation zone, along with Crewe Alexandra – this really was one of those relegation 6-pointers, and with only two matches left after this one to do anything about it if things went badly. The U’s were managed by Joe Dunne, and much of the talk at the time was about his continued apparent reluctance to put Dominic Vose in the starting line-up. We arrived in good time for the match, so much so that we had time to grab a drink at the Royal Hotel Corner Bar – cheers Alfie!
…followed by something to soak the beer up from the excellent Benny’s Gresty Road chippy.
The U’s lined up at Gresty Road: 44..Sam Walker 20..Brian Wilson 4….Magnus Okuonghae (Ryan Dickson 84’) 18..Tom Eastman 16..Alex Wynter 15..Marcus Bean 22..Alex Gilbey 21..Gavin Massey 11..Freddie Sears (Tosin Olufemi 90+1’) 7….Sanchez Watt (Drey Wright 82’) 17..Jabo Ibehre
None of the Crewe line-up that day, managed by Steve Davis, ring any bells with me. Steve Davis had of course taken over from Dario Gradi a few years earlier, when Dario moved into the Director of Football role at the club. Chris Porter, who had made his debut for the U’s in January 2014, would go on to sign for Crewe in 2017 after turning down a fresh contract with us. Considering we were approaching squeaky-bum time at the wrong end of the league, there was a decent following that day for the U’s – must have been near on 300 I reckon. I was particularly delighted that amongst them were Paul and Martin from the Swedish Branch, always a pleasure to catch up with them, and on this occasion a first-time introduction to Alfie as well!
The U’s started the nervier of the two, but did gradually grow into the game, and on balance it was a good performance, in the first half particularly. Even in the second half, when Crewe got back into the game we played well, with purpose, conviction and a whole heap of effort. Jabo particularly was absolutely everywhere, and Sears' near constant running to close down their back four was great to see (plus he hit the post – twice!). Sanchez, who had been somewhat off-form recently, seemed to have re-found his edge too, and put in a great shift running the channels with some very deft touches, and Jabo was full of tricks too. Gavin Massey, who was excellent all game, was rightly awarded the Man of the Match award. Magnus was injured right near the end, and replaced by Dickson – who frankly wasn’t very good at all based on the 5 minutes of review time available.
However, overall it was the right team, an excellent effort, and just a shame we didn't get the break and score. If I were to be more critical, Joe Dunne left the substitutions too late to have a meaningful impact, and we were also guilty of wanting too many touches in attack – not quite direct enough. That being said, we had gone from a somewhat shot-shy outfit in recent weeks, to peppering them in from every angle for this game – I can’t remember the stats, but I’m pretty sure we were already in double figures for efforts on goal by half-time. However, Crewe missing a free header right at the end saved us a hard-earned point.
Crewe Alexandra 0 Colchester United 0
Though only 1 point hadn’t quite ensured our survival, fortunately many other results around us went our way that Saturday, with Stevenage, Shrewsbury and Carlisle all losing, Tranmere (and of course Crewe) drawing, and only Notts County picking up 3 points. Stevenage’s defeat relegated them, and Shrewsbury’s made their relegation almost inevitable.
However, we needn’t have worried. In the final two games of the season, we smashed already promoted Brentford 4-1 at the Community Stadium, and then beat Walsall 1-0 at the Bescot (Doogie’s final match for the U’s), to finish relatively comfortably in 16th place, six points clear of relegation. Tranmere, Carlisle, Shrewsbury and Stevenage weren’t so lucky, with Wolves, Brentford and Rotherham via the play-offs going in the opposite direction.
For me and the boy, it had been a cracking day out really. Lovely weather, trouble-free journeys there and back, good food and drink, a half-decent game to watch (even if we couldn’t quite get the winner), and a chance to catch up with good friends.
Alfie certainly seemed to enjoy it – Happy Birthday Alfie!...