|When Saturday Comes #13|
Written by wessex_exile on Saturday, 6th Nov 2021 16:16
When Saturday Comes…will we still be in the FA Cup? I heard somewhere during the week that the U’s have been eliminated from the FA Cup by non-league opposition more times than any other league club! Remarkable really when you consider that many non-U’s associate Colchester United with the greatest FA Cup giant-killing of all time. Following tonight, we travel to Portman Road on Tuesday night to see if we can stay in the Pizza Slice Trophy. Regardless that it is a much-maligned competition these days, surely that’s motivation enough for our tractor boy contingent?
[b]Closer to home[/b]
Armando is on a season-long loan, so for Ipswich to refuse permission for him to take part would seem somewhat churlish – and certainly counter-productive given the purpose of the loan would be for him to gain matchday experience. Ipswich Town may well of course not want him appearing against them on Tuesday night (and Regulation 54.8 backs them up on this) but that’s another matter altogether, and one I’m considerably less concerned about.
As for Sylvester, his half-season loan expires in January, and whilst I hope we can renew it at that point (are clubs allowed to do that?), it’s possible he’ll return to Fulham. Although clearly not a first-team choice back at Craven Cottage at this stage in his career, it’s still debatable whether Fulham will want him cup-tied or not, given they may well consider a run-out in the FA Cup a perfectly good opportunity to see how well he’s advanced during his time with the U’s?
The positive rumours on social media ahead of the line-up being announced is that both should be eligible for selection, which is great news considering the contributions they have made recently to our (slightly) improved form and greatly improved performances.
[b]Blast from the Past[/b]
I’ve mentioned Nicky and his U’s career in the past but had overlooked that following his transfer to Northampton and subsequent release by the Cobblers, Nicky went on to make (according to Wikipedia) 154 appearances for Sudbury Town. And it was Nicky Smith with a pivotal role in their last FA Cup triumph, over Brighton back in 1996, scoring the final penalty shoot-out kick at the Goldstone Ground replay to set up a 2nd round match against Brentford (played at Layer Road to accommodate the demand for tickets), a match they lost 3-1.
Nicky moved on from Sudbury Town to Braintree Town (via Cambridge City) in 1997, and in 1999 Sudbury Town and Sudbury Wanderers were merged to form AFC Sudbury (playing at Wanderers’ Brundon Lane ground), with Sudbury Town in dire financial circumstances at the time. Whilst I have no local knowledge to add to the discussion, I have read that the merger was far from harmonious, leaving a particularly bad taste in the mouth of some Town supporters who felt it was less of a merger and more of an assimilation of their club’s identity.
Sudbury Town’s Priory Stadium ground was located right on the bank of the River Stour and as a result was prone to flooding. It was eventually sold to a housing developer in 2007 to build the Catesby Meadow estate, with money from the sale apparently used to pay off loans and build a new clubhouse and changing rooms at Brundon Lane. After a very successful spell at Braintree Town, Nicky Smith returned to AFC Sudbury in 2006 for another five years, the last three of which was as manager (presumably player-manager officially?). Nicky has also captained, coached and managed the England National Police Team, but we’ll always remember him as a key member of our Conference Double winning team under mercurial Big Roy.
I have to say, when you look at it as a cold hard statistic, being knocked out by non-league opposition nearly 16% of the time is a pretty poor figure. Fingers-crossed tonight isn’t unlucky number 13.
But there’s no reason why it should be – approach the game with the right attitude, be both professional, and respectful of our opponents, and simply set about showing why they are four levels lower in the football pyramid. I sincerely hope everyone associated with AFC Sudbury has a fantastic evening, one that they can cherish for years to come, but their FA Cup journey must end here.
[b]Match of the Day
[i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC13 is a kind of a special, just to demonstrate we don’t always crash and burn against lower league opposition, and that sometimes we do actually show up and put in a thoroughly professional performance that befits our higher league status. I have slightly influenced the random match selector, by filtering for just FA Cup games in my memorabilia collection, but after that Madame Chance has come good for [b]Durham[/b] yet again. Nestled between “swimming”, “Willow Class Assembly” and Remembrance Sunday, my only record of this match is an entry on the calendar to mark just such an occasion, our FA Cup First Round game at Crewe in 2011.
At the time the U’s were doing okay in League 1 under manager John Ward, bouncing around in upper mid-table – never quite seriously challenging to get in the play-offs, but with little threat of slipping into the bottom half of the table. Crewe were in League 2, and after a disastrous run of four defeats to start the season, were slowly recovering and inching they way back up the table under Dario Gradi. Well, I say Dario Gradi, but as it turned out on the Thursday before this match Gradi announced he was stepping down as manager to return to his position as Director of Football. Our visit in the FA Cup on Saturday was therefore former assistant Steve Davis’ first game in charge of the Railwaymen.
Even without a programme, I know thanks to Graeson’s website (www.coludata.co.uk) the U’s lined up:
I’m not certain what Casey Thomas’s squad number was, he’d only arrived on loan from Swansea City a week earlier (according to our Wikipedia page for that season), and this match was to be his debut. On the subject of debuts, this would also be my first visit to Gresty Road, and given it is located right next to Crewe train station, took one of my easiest awayday train journeys in the football calendar. Gresty Road is somewhat incongruous in layout, a modest north stand housing the away support, almost non-league stands at either end, and everything simply dwarfed by the enormous South Stand – which on its own provides nearly 70% of the capacity at Gresty Road.
Taking my place alongside about 200 other U’s supporters, we were in good voice considering it was a chilly afternoon. Despite the difference in level, it was Crewe who started the brighter, with no doubt some out there at least eager to make a good first impression for new manager Steve Davis. With the U’s struggling to get into any sort of rhythm within 20 minutes we were behind. Ben Williams did well to keep out his first attempt, but he could do nothing to prevent Byron Moore following up to tap in the rebound.
Probably no more than Crewe deserved at the time, even if there had been glimpses that the U’s were starting to get back into the game. Crewe may have pushed on from there given the chance, but two minutes later they were undone by a reckless challenge on Ben Coker which saw Ashley Westwood shown a straight red by referee David Coote. Down to ten men gave the U’s the opportunity to really start to take a grip and apply pressure of their own, and despite failing to score by half-time we were comfortably in control – just with nothing so far to show for it.
Into the second half, and it was more of the same from Colchester United. I can’t remember whether it was tactical or injury-related, but barely ten minutes into the second half debut player Thomas was subbed for tigerish Kem Izzet in midfield, and four minutes later thanks to Lloyd James we were level – rifling in a stunning thirty-yarder off the underside of the crossbar – not a bad way to open your goal-scoring account for Colchester United if I’m honest.
Now we were coasting, completely dominant, and after a succession of corners and some penalty area ping pong former Crewe player Andy Bond hooked the ball home from close range to put the U’s 2-1 in front, and the away stand erupted – a moment I fortuitously managed to capture on video.
And we weren’t done either – ten minutes later Andy Bond, also with his first goal for the U’s, made it 3-1 with an angled drive which ‘keeper Steve Phillips might have done better with, and as if that wasn’t enough in the fourth minute of injury-time James got his second to round off a comprehensive second half demolition of our lower league opponents, and put the U’s into the hat for the Second Round draw.
[b]Crewe Alexandra 1 (Byron Moore 19’) Colchester United 4 (Lloyd James 60’, 90’+4; Andy Bond 77’; Ben Coker 87’)[/b]
And our reward for getting through to the Second Round? A home tie against Swindon Town, another League 2 side doing rather better than Crewe, who made no mistake knocking the U’s out of the FA Cup 1-0 at the JobServe. To show they were no slouches, they went on to beat then Premier League side Wigan Athletic 2-1, before finally bowing out 2-0 to Leicester City in the 4th Round. They were also promoted to League 1 as champions, and after their poor start Crewe did well to join them via the play-offs.
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When Saturday Comes #22 by wessex_exile
It’s the 15th of January, and still the U’s are attempting to play their first home match of 2022. Weather looks good (check), players have returned from injury (check), no on-day Covid testing to get in the way (check), so barring fire famine or flood, I reckon we must have at least a 50:50 chance of a game at the JobServe this afternoon. Whether it’ll be three much-needed points or not, and if you’ll pardon the pun, I at least did see green shoots at the New Lawn on Tuesday. We still lost, and the table doesn’t lie, but definitely signs to encourage me that whilst it’s not going to be a comfortable journey, we’ll be alright by May.
When Saturday Comes #21 by wessex_exile
Here we are then, what should have been the first home game of 2022, and I discover seconds before posting this that the game is called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Having gone to the trouble of writing this, even though we’re not playing I’m going to post it anyway – it’s not like you’ve got anything else to do this afternoon.
When Saturday Comes #20 by wessex_exile
Finally, When Saturday Comes…and the U’s (for now at least) have a match to play. Mind you, I’m writing this on Friday afternoon, so there’s still time yet for yet another Covid/ injury postponement, I guess. I certainly hope not, as I’m planning on heading over to Crawley for this one. Mind you, now that the EFL have decreed there will be no on the day testing to eliminate the possibility of last-minute cancellations, I think I’ll defer buying a train ticket until this evening. Needless to say, a repeat of our last visit to Broadfield (The People’s Pension Stadium under the terms of a sponsorship deal) would do very nicely indeed.
When Saturday Comes #19 by wessex_exile
When Saturday Comes…and the U’s find themselves fixtureless again, following Hartlepool’s request to postpone the game because of positive Covid tests amongst their squad. To heap further fixture congestion problems on the U’s, in short order Forest Green Rovers did likewise for our already rearranged match at the New Lawn on Tuesday night, and for the same reason. They’re not on their own either, with in all (so far) four Premier League and 19 EFL matches postponed today – all for positive Covid tests in their squads.
When Saturday Comes #18 by wessex_exile
A little later than usual today I’m afraid – ‘tis the season to be jolly and all that, so I have just been out for the obligatory Xmas tree – bah humbug. Mind you, I was treated to the sight of literally hundreds of Santas (and the occasional elf) on a charity fun run through Calne on the way, which for want of a better expression was certainly surreal. Officially entitled [i]Santa’s Scamper[/i], the entry fee for participants goes to charitable causes, and to date the organisers have raised nearly £8k for charities such as Wiltshire Air Ambulance, Dorothy House, Hope for Tomorrow, Barnardos and of course their main charity every year, Hannah’s Trees – well done Santas!