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When Saturday Comes #16
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 28th Nov 2021 14:29

When Saturday Comes, and this time instead of an international break we played yesterday evening, and now have the luxury of sitting back and seeing what’s going to happen around us in the league table. A gritty display last night saw the U’s fight back from a being a goal down, with Freddy netting his 8th of the season, helped in no small measure by an inch-perfect through ball from Alan Judge. Whisper it, but with (at least) 30 competitive matches to go to the end of the season, Freddy’s average of 0.4 goals per game would actually see him reach that mythical ’20 goals per season’ figure – not bad for an Ipswich reject 😊.

[b]Happy Birthday Freddie![/b]

Others have said, and it can’t be denied, we were second-best to a very good Exiles side last night. Some might even say our performance was actually better against Stevenage, but that is largely down to the quality of the opposition. The big difference though was the determination to fight for something from the game, that never say die attitude, and most importantly (like Exeter) clinical finishing when those few opportunities came our way. We moved two places up the table with the point, a move I fully expect us to relinquish as the results start coming in this afternoon. But that’s not too important right now, it’s the improvement in performances throughout the team that really matters.

Storm Arwen, the first named storm of the 2021/22 season, has been battering the UK overnight, with yours truly wakening this morning to a veritable blizzard howling outside. Fortunately it was short-lived, and what did manage to settle now rapidly melting outside. Others have been less fortunate, with two men sadly killed by falling trees in Northern Ireland and Cumbria, power cuts across the UK, significant structural damage to some houses, and blocked roads and rail tracks disrupting journeys for thousands. The rarely used ‘danger to life’ red warning from the Met office has now passed, but much of the UK is still under amber and yellow warnings, and likely to be for most of the weekend.

A YouGov poll has found that fewer than one in five people in Great Britain now think Brexit has been a success, and 52% actually believing things are worse because of it (compared to 40% at the start of the year). Whether you voted remain or leave, no one can deny that it has been a very difficult year, and one that doesn’t seem to be getting that much better – food and goods shortages on our shelves, the fuel crisis because we don’t have enough HGV drivers, the increasing isolation of Great Britain on the international stage, particularly with our fellow Europeans – all makes grim reading to me.

On the brighter side, we do have car-crash Boris stumbling and mumbling through his speech to the Confederation of British Industry. A truly shambolic incoherent performance by any measure in which he devoted three whole minutes to his family trip to Peppa Pig World. At one point he even compared himself to some form of biblical prophet descending from Mount Sinai to deliver his Net Zero framework to civil servants. As one shrewd commentator has observed, if Boris thinks he’s Moses he should keep taking the tablets.

[b]Closer to home[/b]
Not too much to report on in U’s World today that hasn’t already been covered. Black Friday turned out to have a silver lining when Freddie lifted the ball over advancing ‘keeper Joe Day last night. It was good to see Junior Tchamadeu fit enough to be on the bench, and just as good to see Alan Judge alongside him. Even better to see Judge come off the bench to play his vital role in our equaliser. That is what we know he is capable of, so more like that and I reckon we’ll all be in a much happier place by the New Year.

Tuesday night I will be taking the short drive to the County Ground to see if we can progress any further in the Pizza Slice Trophy. I’m not expecting us too, as I suspect Swindon will be itching to exact some revenge after the first team’s smash and grab point in the league, and our U18s denying them a home game against Arsenal in the FA Youth Cup. Still, stranger things have happened, and I’m sure Hayden will want to keep his side in a positive frame of mind for the games that count. That being said, with so few teams in this competition, the prospect of Wembley does get alarmingly close very quickly – fingers-crossed eh.

[b]Stat attack[/b]
Not really much point in a stat attack today, our next league opponent won’t be until Wed 8th December when we face a long (and difficult) trip to my former stamping ground Bradford City at Valley Parade.

However, following the U’s bringing Exeter’s 20-match unbeaten run to an end, I have looked a bit more into our own unbeaten run sequences. I’ve already mentioned some of these, but in terms of managers, Ted Fenton was the first to put together a decent run, going unbeaten in 14 matches back in 1947/48. Just under ten years later Benny Fenton set our record with a 20-match unbeaten run in 1956/57.

Roy McDonough managed two significant runs under his command, the first was 18 matches leading up to Xmas in 1991, and he went one better later the same season, a 19-match unbeaten run that finished post-promotion in Division Four in 1992. Steve Wignall equalled that 19-match run in 1997, the 19th and final match of that run our Layer Road victory over Northampton Town in the Auto Windscreens Shield en route to Wembley.

[b]“[i]Northampton came to town, we brushed them aside, but admittedly…they gave us a fright[/i]”[/b]

Most of our managers down through the years have taken us on 10+ match unbeaten runs, certainly those who have been around long enough to have the opportunity to do so. Hayden is yet to join that group, but after only 34 matches in charge (including as interim last season), perhaps its unreasonable to have expected him to do so already – tell you what, don’t answer that one. Special mention must of course go to Parky, who not only managed an 11-match run in 2004/05, but went one better with two such runs (10 and 12 matches) in the one season 2005/06. Annoyingly, those two runs were separated by just one match – our Boxing Day visit to the County Ground.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Swindon Town v Colchester United
26th December 2005
Coca-Cola Football League One (Tier 3)
Attendance 5,531[/i][/b]

With one eye on Tuesday’s game in the EFL Trophy, and with more than a nod to unbeaten runs, [i]Match of the Day[/i] for WSC16 is a special – and a most rare of beasts, a match I wasn’t actually at. Hence no programme photo, and a complete reliance on whatever I can glean from online sources, not least our excellent Wikipedia presence, Graeson’s ColUData website and the Evening Gazette archives.

I know exactly where I was at the time, and why I wasn’t at the County Ground – Em’s family had decided for this year only rather than have all the hassle and hard work of a Christmas at home, they decided we’d all spend it at a swanky hotel. Not just any swanky hotel either, the one near Southampton that Em’s brother was managing at the time – another good reason to go there, as he couldn’t get off work to spend Christmas with the family, so the family came to him.

At the time of the match, Parky had taken the U’s on a 12 match unbeaten run which had propelled us from 16th up to 4th place – that run including victories in the 1st and 2nd rounds of the FA Cup and the 2nd round and quarter-final of the EFL Trophy (the LDV Vans Trophy as it was then). As a result, hopes were high going into this match, particularly as Swindon were struggling at the foot of the table. More commonplace these days, those of an older generation may also recall that Swindon Town (a classless act at the best of times) also refused to allow Jamie Cureton (then a Swindon Town player on loan to and on fire at the U’s) to take part in the match.

Garcia got the nod alongside Big Chris in place of Cureton, so the U’s lined up:
1….Aidan Davison
2….Greg Halford
5….Wayne Brown
17..John White
18..Liam Chilvers
25..Sam Stockley
4….Neil Danns (10 Kemi Izzet 79’)
6….Kevin Watson
14..Mark Yeates
11..Chris Iwelumo
28..Richard Garcia

There’s remarkably little I can glean from the internet about this game, which in the context is slightly surprising. It was a chilly bright December afternoon across most of the south of England – certainly in Southampton and definitely in Swindon from match reports. By all accounts it wasn’t a bad performance from the U’s, just not a particularly good one either – certainly compared to what U’s fans had grown used to over the previous couple of months.

Perhaps too much turkey and trimmings the day before, but the U’s struggled to impose themselves on a poor Swindon Town team. The U’s were still the better side first half though, with a handful of half-decent chances to take a deserved lead, but for once we’d left our shooting boots at home, or just couldn’t find the killer pass for a goal. As half-time approached, Swindon were gradually getting back into the game, helped in no small part by an impressive debut from striker Ashan Holgate.

The Robins continued this pressure into the second half, during most of which the U’s were starting to look like a team happy to hold on to a point, rather than one pressing for automatic promotion. It wasn’t all one-way traffic mind, and a blistering free-kick from (I think?) Danns or Chilvers had to be expertly finger-tipped around the post by Swindon ‘keeper Rhys Evans.

Swindon Town manager Iffy Onuora was the first to mix things up a bit, replacing Neale McDermott with academy graduate and local lad Michael Pook in midfield. Iffy’s faith in Pook is to his credit, because he had to drop him almost as soon as he was appointed manager after the young lad was convicted of drink-driving, banned for nineteen months and fined £300. The substitution tightened Swindon’s grip on the midfield, a grip that the U’s couldn’t loosen even with tigerish Kemi coming on to replace fancy dan Danns with barely 20 minutes to go.

Still it looked like the U’s might just hold on, and keep the unbeaten run going for one more match, However, deep into injury-time Hameur Bouazza, who’d been brought on to replace the tiring Ashan Holgate, tore down the U’s right wing, fired in a low peach of a cross into the six yard box, and there was Rory Fallon diving headlong to power a header past a helpless Aidan Davison. The County Ground erupted like they’d won the cup, and there was nothing the U’s could do about it.

[b]Swindon Town 1 (Rory Fallon 90+4’) Colchester United 0[/b]

Post-match, the Gazette had this to say “[i]Sickening and agonising but in no way unexpected. That is the only way you can sum up the end of Colchester United's superb unbeaten run. It is a rare thing for a team to go without defeat, it has to come. When it does, though, you always hope that it was because your team was beaten by a stronger opponent and that despite giving their all they were beaten and did not simply just allow defeat to happen. Sadly, that was not the case at Swindon Town, the team that are bottom of the Coca-Cola League One, on Boxing Day[/i]”.

Harsh words indeed, but Parky was more supportive when reflecting on what overall had been a disappointing performance, stating “[i] We're still performing well. I don't think one defeat in 13 games is a bad run, it's a good one[/i]”. To prove his point, the U’s metaphorically got straight back on the horse and proceeded to embark on another 10-match run, not just unbeaten either, ten straight victories including FA Cup wins over Sheffield United and Derby County (my first meeting with [b]Mr Happy[/b]) and an EFL Trophy Southern Section semi-final victory at Cheltenham.

After the Wiltshire club refused to consider either a transfer or another loan period, Cureton returned to Swindon Town in January. To his credit, despite showing they clearly had no concern for Jamie’s development, just their own survival, Cureton stuck to his task and did his level best to save Swindon from relegation. To no avail, so taking his chance when he saw it, Cureton activated a relegation clause in his contract and returned to the U’s on a free transfer – and we all know how that worked out.

[b]A match made in heaven 😊[/b]

Although the quality is exceptionally poor, the highlights of our wheels momentarily coming off at the County Ground is still available on YouTube – if you care to watch that is.

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