|When Saturday Comes #2|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 22nd Aug 2021 13:18
Two games into the season, and although still goalless, it has been a reasonably promising start for the U’s. A tough opening day fixture away at Carlisle, and in front of a bumper crowd which delayed kick-off by 15 minutes, the U’s were largely resolute in defence, whilst still creating enough chances to have won the game if our finishing had been sharper. To be fair though, were it not for prodigal son Shamal George making his return to Brunton Park, we could just have easily lost – a performance which rightly earned him the Man of the Match award. Midweek at Championship club Birmingham City in the Carabao Cup was an even more spirited performance, and one which really should have seen the U’s victorious, but if you don’t take your chances you will get punished, and we did in the 75th minute. Much has been said about the opposition being a second (third?) string side, and with players taking the field with squad numbers in the 50s, that can’t be disputed. But, when you’re facing a team that actually has squad numbers in the 50s, you realise just how big a club our opposition was.
The sham audit by the “Cyber Ninjas” (now there’s a name which screams non-partisan forensic auditing) rumbles on, refusing to allow their ‘data’ to be verified, whilst they struggle to work out how they can ‘evidence’ proof of non-existent election fraud. Make no mistake, they will state they have found widespread election fraud in Maricopa County – they won’t of course be able to evidence it, but they’ll say it nevertheless, and the ramifications of that amongst the heavily armed alt-right just doesn’t bear thinking about.
Michael J Lindell, aka the Pillow Guy) continues to foam at the mouth, last week hosting his much vaunted “Cyber Symposium” where he would provide the proof that the election was stolen by Deep State goons and Chinese hackers. The symposium was an unmitigated disaster right from the outset, that crashed and burned in a wholly predictable fashion. Lindell failed to provide the evidence he promised (of course, how on earth could he have done), leaving even his own “Cyber Guy” Josh Merritt to go off-script and admit to the Washington Post after the event “[i]…so our team said, we’re not going to say that this is legitimate if we don’t have confidence in the information…[/i]” and went on to admit that the data, in the form that it was provided, could not prove that a cyberattack had occurred.
[b]Closer to home[/b]
The seat design proposal on Club United rumbles on, with the first milestone of £1k now in sight, but as always, all donations are gratefully received 😊. A shameless plug I know, I will stop though, promise.
You will no doubt already know that our referee for the opening home fixture of 2021/22 is none other than Trevor Kettle, an announcement that normally brings groans of despair from football supporters across the land. And not without good reason, he is, after all, the referee at Accrington Stanley that blew for half-time as the ball was in the air heading for goal.
It is surprisingly hard to find useable stats to analyse Kettle’s appearance as referee in relation to the U’s, even Graseon’s coludata website doesn’t have that functionality, so I have to resort to websites like soccerbase to reconstruct data. Kettle has ref’d once so far this season, a 0-0 draw between Cambridge and Swindon (Cambridge won 3-1 on penalties) and Kettle handed out a modest 3 yellow cards in what looks like a fairly bland non-controversial performance. Last season he refereed 33 games, showing 95 yellows and 5 reds (unremarkable to be honest, though he did dish out seven yellows and a red in a game between Sunderland and Oxford, and seven yellows in todays opponent Northampton Town’s 1-0 victory over Fleetwood).
He ref’d the U’s twice last season, and who can forget that did include a 6-1 mauling at Exeter City back in November – though to be fair, I don’t think we can lay any blame for that performance on the referee. However, his most recent appearance in a U’s game was at home to Carlisle United in March, ironically the reverse of last Saturday’s match, and it is this game I will focus on for [i]Match of the Day[/i].
[b]Match of the Day
[b][i]Programme cover (thanks to www.coludata.co.uk)[/b][/i]
Apologies for reminding everyone, but last season the U’s had been gradually sliding down the league towards the dreaded trapdoor into non-league. Our previous victory had been back in December, winning 1-0 at Scunthorpe to keep us in the play-offs. By early March we were 21st, just two places outside the relegation zone. Confidence was shot, Steve Ball had been removed and replaced by Wayne Brown as interim Head Coach on 24th February. It hadn’t started well for him either, comprehensively beaten 3-0 at FGR on the Saturday, and now facing a Carlisle side challenging for the play-offs in his first game at the JobServe.
The U’s lined:
Wayne Brown rolled the dice for this match, bringing in former-fox Shamal George to replace Dean Gerken in goal, as well as Omar Sowumni in the heart of defence and Aramide Oteh up front alongside big Frank.
Before we delve into the match and Mr Kettle, it should be pointed out that he wasn’t originally scheduled to be the match referee, it should have been Brett Huxtable (aka Brett Fuxtable, once dubbed the only referee close to being as sh’te as Trevor Kettle). I don’t recall precisely why Kettle had to take over, whether it was an injury or perhaps Covid-related? It’s also worth pointing out that much of the game was played out in dense fog which surely came close to causing the game to be abandoned. As any driver will tell you, visibility (certainly on the iFollow stream) wasn’t helped by having the floodlights on, and the East Stand side of the pitch was a virtual white-out at times.
However, and the commentary team mentioned this on a number of occasions, visibility was actually considerably better down at pitch level, and Trevor Kettle was happy for the game to proceed.
As our relative league positions would suggest, Carlisle started considerably the stronger, exploiting our 3-5-2 formation to good effect. Brennan Dickenson was baing a particular nuisance, and before too long whipped in a wicked cross that Aaron Hayden should have done better with. Shortly after, Kettle had his first of four penalty shouts to consider, as Carlisle players claimed somewhat half-heartedly that Eastman had handled in the box, though it was a weak shout and immediately dismissed by the referee.
However, the pressure on the U’s continued to grow, with Shamal at full stretch to expertly palm away Dickenson’s 25 yard free-kick. In the 29th minute the pressure finally broke, with the U’s failing to clear a Dickenson corner, leaving Jon Mellish to sweep home into the corner, with George stranded. It was, to be honest, no more than they deserved, and I for one was struck with that horrible ‘here we go again’ feeling. Carlisle had other chances too, with both Furman and that man Dickenson going close, and we were fortunate to go in at half-time only 1-0 down.
Ten minutes into the second half, and it looked like the Curse of Trevor Kettle was to strike us again, with his second penalty call of the match. This was a much closer decision, with Sowunmi sliding in perfectly to take the ball off the toes of Josh Kayode, only for Kettle to point to the spot. The proests from the U’s, clearly insisting he spoke to his linesman (who hadn’t flagged), persuaded him to do so, and eventually overturned his own decision to give (correctly) a corner to Carlisle instead. Mind you, the danger wasn’t over, and from the corner George made an excellent save to deny Mellish a second, which would have surely finished the U’s.
The turning point came halfway through the second half, with Frank Nouble holding the ball up well inside the bottom right corner of the box, with his back to goal, and eventually inevitably drawing the foul. Penalty decision number three for Kettle, and he had no hesitation in correctly pointing to the spot – a decision that wasn’t seriously contested by the Carlisle defence. Callum Harriott stepped up to blast in off the inside of the post, giving goalkeeper George Tanner no chance. In some respects it could be argued that it was a brilliantly placed penalty, and it certainly was, but seeing it cannon off the post and virtually along the goal line in the foggy gloom certainly gave me some conniptions I can tell you.
A resurgent U’s weren’t done there either, particularly with Wayne Brown showing his attacking intent making an immediate double substitution to bring on Miles Welch Hayes and Jevani Brown. Tommy Smith should have done better with a virtual free header shortly after, but glanced his effort over the bar, but five minutes later the U’s were in front. Good work down the right between Frank and Jevani saw the ball run across the edge of the penalty area for Smith to lay off, and there was Harriott steaming in to drive an absolute thunderbolt through the congested box and past the despairing (and fruitless) dive of Tanner.
Time for Carlisle manager Chris Beech to make his own double substitution with just over ten minutes to go, but the U’s were just as resolute in defence to snuff out most serious attempts on goal, and with George in excellent form to mop up the rest. With virtually no time left on the clock, Kettle had his fourth and final penalty decision to make, this time pointing to the spot when Jevani Brown appeared to be fouled by Farman in the area. It was the turn of the Carlisle player to remonstrate with the referee, and again encourage him to consult with the linesman – which again remarkably Trevor Kettle did, and again reversed his decision to (correctly) give a goal kick instead.
It was academic however, as the U’s saw out the remainder of the game to earn a much needed 3 points in our bid to avoid relegation.
[b]Colchester United 2 (Callum Harriott 67’p, 74’) v Carlisle United 1 (Jon Mellish 29’)[/b]
Any hope that this was the dawn of a resurgent U’s were brought crashing down to earth thereafter, with a succession of draws and feats bringing about Wayne’s early departure before the end of March. Hayden Mullins, assisted by Paul Tisdale in a mentoring role, took over and with three victories and a draw in our last five matches steered us away from relegation – at the expense of Grimsby Town and our dear friends Southend United – terrible shame.
For those of you who were living in a cave somewhere in March and missed this, the foggy highlights are on YouTube.
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Blogs by wessex_exile
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When Saturday Comes #11 by wessex_exile
This blog is a little earlier than usual, to give me and Alfie time to load up the car and sally forth for our first awayday of the season together, on the road to Vale Park – “[i]He who would valiant be, 'gainst all disaster, let him in constancy follow the Master[/i]”. Not quite sure who the master is in that analogy, but let’s hope it’s Hayden Mullins on Saturday. All being well, I’m looking forward to catching up with fellow U’sual boarders ([b]Noah[/b], [b]Durham[/b] maybe?, anyone else) when I get there. I won’t be meeting up with Clampin (Covid) or Judge (calf injury) who will miss out on making the trip, nor of course Tchamadeu (see below).
When Saturday Comes #10 by wessex_exile
So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
When Saturday Comes #9 by wessex_exile
After the complete horror-show that was U’s v Salford last Saturday, we find ourselves desperately clinging on to our away form like a drowning man to a lifebuoy…and I have no doubt Tranmere will be seriously stamping on our fingers in that regard. As a Friday night kick-off, I can look forward to the live match stream, which I was fortunately spared for the Salford game (it sounded bad enough). Swings and roundabouts though, if this hadn’t been rearranged to a Friday night, I may well have joined my Tranmere mate Chris and his family for the weekend – Prenton Park is always a good visit for an awayday, so safe travelling and good luck to [b]Durham[/b] and the rest of the U’s faithful who make the trip.
When Saturday Comes #8 by wessex_exile
I’ve gone back through my archive, and the last football match I attended before last Saturday at the County Ground was U’s at Cheltenham on 29th February 2020 (and covered in LfW11) – In other words a 574 day wait. Others have mentioned about finding other things to do, losing their love for live football, things like that, and certainly my bank balance has appreciated the break from costly awaydays for the best (worst) part of 18 months. If I’m honest, I was slightly worried that I would go the same way, that the attraction would fade after so long, but I needn’t have been. As a result, it’ll be a slightly different format to this [i]When Saturday Comes[/i] blog.
When Saturday Comes #7 by wessex_exile
Well that didn’t go as planned at all – after a stirring battling performance full of grit, character and togetherness with the small band of travelling supporters at Barrow, the U’s then finally returned back to the JobServe and completely failed to turn up against bogey side Crawley. They weren’t the only ones either, Hayden Mullins was absent as well, and we have since learned he has Covid-19 and will also miss tomorrow’s game at Swindon too – I know we all wish Hayden a speedy recovery. Fortunately, I won’t be missing the match, with tickets arriving last weekend – first live game for best part of 18 months, and I can’t bloody wait!