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U'sual Champions League 2020 - Round of 16 Week 01
at 23:11 19 Feb 2020

The first week of matches has finished, as follows:
Atletico Madrid 1 Liverpool 0
Dortmund 2 Paris 1
Atalanta 4 Valencia 1
Spurs 0 Leipzig 1

For those that follow these things, not necessarily a bad result for Liverpool in Madrid, nor Paris's one goal deficit at Dortmund (given they've also got an away goal). Definitely a bad night for Valencia, getting hammered 4-1 at Atalanta, and although not by the same scoreline, a terrible night for Spurs losing 0-1 at home to Leipzig.

I've tweaked the presentation of results, thanks to some top tips from mfb, and the MoY series learning curve I'm on. Predictions in bold are first to predict, predictions underlined are second, and no format third. Score highlighted in yellow are permitted exact matches.

Group A

Noah does brilliantly to score 5pts, with the Atletico result spot-on, and the Dortmund and Leipzig victories as outcomes. However, mfb_cufc is right on his tail, also with the Atletico result spot-on, and Atalanta's home win as an outcome. Remarkably, just one point behind mfb, BFG predicts the Dortmund 2-1 home win spot-on, to keep this group very close.

Group B

Sector4 and sevebalo go toe to toe, both getting the Dortmund result spot-on, and the Atalanta home win as an outcome, to be level on 4pts at the top of the group. Lewis keeps in touch, also with the Atalanta home win, and there's plenty of time to improve on that.

Group C

Thrillseeker gets Atletico's 1-0 victory over Liverpool spot-on, to go top on 3pts. Daniel keeps in touch with the Atalanta home win for 1pt, but blueeagle is yet to get off the mark.

Group D

In Group D, basher takes a solid lead, picking the Dortmund result spot-on, with the Atalanta home win as an outcome. Blue4U2 stays in contention with the Dortmund home win, but concordman is yet to score.
Operation Promotion
at 18:32 15 Feb 2020

So, after a disappointing result at Port Vale, our mission is clear, and has three simple objectives:

Objective #1 - stay in the Play-Offs
Pretty straightforward really, with goal difference on our side, we just have to do as well as the best performing team below us. Currently, and realistically, that means Northampton and Bradford City, with Forest Green 6pts adrift at the moment. We've still to play away at both of those two, which makes those games absolutely massive. If it proves necessary, we also have the luxury of FGR at home for the last game of the season.

If we manage that...

Objective #2 - finish 4th or 5th
Much trickier - Plymouth and Cheltenham both have two games in hand, and Plymouth might be too far ahead to be caught already. However, we still have Cheltenham at home to come, win that and we'll be right on their heels. The Play-Offs are a complete lottery, but if I had the choice, I'd rather go into the second leg of a semi-final, knowing what we had to do, at home.

If we manage that...

Objective #3 - pinch 3rd place
Dreamland, obviously - it would need us to win almost all of our remaining fixtures. I thought 80pts might be enough, Durham thought 82pts, and I reckon it'll be somewhere around that mark - certainly not less than 80pts. If we accept that our games at Bradford and Northampton are must-win because of Objective #1, and we win all of our remaining home matches, that's eight victories. Notwithstanding what teams around us do to each other, that leaves us needing a couple of good results at Salford, Carlisle, Newport or Walsall.

Stranger things have happened - I'll be there at Salford to see how the run-in starts.

Up the U's!
Prediction Logged by at 19:40:01
Port Vale v Colchester United prediction logged
Matches of Yesteryear - Northampton v U's 24/4/99
at 18:13 14 Feb 2020

Well, here we are going through the exhilarating highs and despairing lows of what it is to follow the U’s rollercoaster journey this season – one wonders what Saturday will bring, apart from yet another storm (Dennis this time). Vale Park is a tough enough place to go at the best of times, so will howling winds and lashing rain be the great leveller for the U’s? We shall see, but in the meantime, how about we go back to a time when our perennial concentration around this time of the season always seemed to be at the wrong end of the table, maybe put things a little bit into perspective…
Matches of Yesteryear - Northampton v U's 24/4/99
at 18:12 14 Feb 2020

Well, here we are going through the exhilarating highs and despairing lows of what it is to follow the U’s rollercoaster journey this season – one wonders what Saturday will bring, apart from yet another storm (Dennis this time). Vale Park is a tough enough place to go at the best of times, so will howling winds and lashing rain be the great leveller for the U’s? We shall see, but in the meantime, how about we go back to a time when our perennial concentration around this time of the season always seemed to be at the wrong end of the table, maybe put things a little bit into perspective…

Northampton Town v Colchester United
Saturday 24th April 1999
Nationwide Football League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 6,146

Match #44 of the series, and we go way back to 1998/99, and at the tail end of what was our first season back in Nationwide League Division 2 (that’s Division 3 in old money). Steve Wignall had left in January, with Mick Wadsworth taking over, and despite a fairly ropey time in March and early/mid-April we were doing just enough to avoid getting sucked into the relegation dogfight. Northampton Town weren’t quite as fortunate, sitting in the fourth and final relegation slot. They weren’t by any means adrift, and had been on a fairly decent run through April, but desperately needed points from their last four games if they were to escape.

Always a pleasant surprise when I find these things, as this is another match that I discovered I still had my ticket stub for - £10.50, nice! Mind you, I needed one, as the match (certainly for the U’s supporters) was an all-ticket affair – the U’s had been allocated 800 tickets, and over 500 had been sold by the middle of the week before, with most of the rest expected to go by close of sales at 5pm on the Friday.

I travelled over to this match on the train, meeting up in Northampton with my brother-in-law Steve, his parents Joyce and Dennis, and my nephew and niece (Steve had bought my ticket for me). I’m not 100% certain, but I think we met at the Sixfields Pub – I know they don’t normally allow away fans in, but I know I’ve been there once, and pretty sure this was the occasion. Given the significance of the game for both clubs, there was a very decent crowd that day, with the allocated 800 places more or less filled by the noisy faithful from Essex, and all in excellent voice. I know Joyce and Dennis were very rare travellers for away games, so that gives a measure of the level of support for the U’s that day.

The U’s lined up:
1….Tamer Fernandes
2….Fabrice Richard
3….Stephane Pounewatchy
4….Simon Betts
5….David Greene
6….Paul Buckle
7….Richard Wilkins
8….Warren Aspinall
9….Jason Dozzell (Steve Germain 87’)
10..Neil Gregory (David Gregory 60’)
11..Paul Abrahams (Karl Duguid 60’)

Northampton Town were at the time managed by our very own Ian Atkins, who had spent a season at the U’s as player-manager failing to get us out of the Conference at the first attempt. His career thereafter was a largely unsuccessful mismatch of player-manager, player-coach and assistant manager appointments at various clubs, including Birmingham City, Cambridge United and Doncaster Rovers. He eventually arrived at Northampton Town in 1994 – where he finally hung up his playing boots – and had already managed the Cobblers to two Wembley appearances (winning one) and promotion to this league.

That Mick Wadsworth was developing a penchant for Frenchmen is nought but a scurrilous rumour, but having already signed Stephane Pounewatchy, Fabrice Richard and Steve Germain, he had added a young 17-year old Thomas Pinault (from AS Cannes – same club as Steve Germain) to the squad during the week leading up to this game. Pinault had gone straight into a reserves game at Oxford United on the evening of the day he signed, though didn’t make the matchday team for this game. Also not on the team sheet was talismanic and mercurial Lua Lua, who thanks to a moment of madness at Burnley on Easter Monday, was starting a three match ban for the straight red card he’d earned. With points vital to ensure survival, that was not a smart move…

Before we get to the match itself, we encountered a very sorry ‘health and safety gone mad’ moment, whilst queuing to get into the ground. Steve’s elderly and quite frail parents (sadly no longer with us) had a small bottle of water each to take into the ground. Regrettably, the stewards were having none of it, and insisted that they had to be either drunk there and then or tipped out on the floor. All very unnecessary, and quite distressing for Steve’s parents to be honest, but that’s jackboot stewarding for you.

And so to the match. Whilst there was much about the day and matters leading up to the game that I remember very well, there’s hardly a thing about the actual match itself I can recall. If anyone else has any recollections of the game, I’d be delighted to hear them – might even flush out things I’d thought I’d forgotten.

What I do know from the stats is that Paul Buckle got us off to the perfect start, scoring in just the third minute, with Dave Savage equalising in the 18th minute. Then came the Tale of Two Penalties – Carlo Corazzin converted from the spot just before halftime to put the Cobblers 2-1 up in their quest to avoid relegation. Not to be outdone, Warren Aspinall returned the compliment from the spot straight after halftime (in front of the travelling faithful), to bring the U’s back level – and great merriment in the away end.

With an hour gone, Wadsworth was the first to mix things up, making a double substitution – David Gregory for his brother Neil, and Doogie replacing Abrahams. Not sure if that really worked at the time, as Northampton restored their lead a few minutes later when Lee Howey scored their third. However, something must have eventually clicked, because substitute Doogie again levelled the scores in the 71st minute.

It was then Atkins’ turn to try to change things to their favour, making his own double substitution in the 80th minute, bringing Ally Gibb and Duncan Spedding on. However, the U’s held firm, and after sacrificing Jason Dozzell for the young Steve Germain in the 87th minute, we held on for a 3-3 draw – almost there for the U’s, a point really not enough for the Cobblers.

Northampton Town 3 (Dave Savage 18’, Carlo Corrazin 41’p, Lee Howey 63’) Colchester United 3 (Paul Buckle 3’, Warren Aspinall 47’p, Karl Duguid 71’)

This game marked a number of milestones for Colchester United – it was both Paul Abrahams' and Neil Gregory’s last appearances for the U’s, and as it turns out Paul Buckle’s last goal for us as well. The vital point gained left us one point short of the magical 50-point mark. Not quite mathematically safe at the time, that would come the following Tuesday night at home to promotion chasing Bournemouth.

Remarkably, although Northampton Town went unbeaten for all of April and May ’99 – nine matches in a row – there were only three victories in that lot, and they couldn’t garner enough points to avoid relegation. Ian Atkins carried on in charge into the following season, but after a poor start finally left in October 1999.

Wadsworth, after decimating the club (and the team spirit) over the summer, thankfully resigned in August 1999. After a reasonably positive start to his managerial career at Carlisle United and then Scarborough, his time at the U’s would probably be considered by neutrals broadly as a success – certainly compared to the dismal litany of failure that followed. Just goes to show that stats aren’t everything…

Up the U’s
Matches of Yesteryear - Bees v U's 11/3/03 (eventually)
at 20:51 10 Feb 2020

It was noted that Saturday’s stunning defeat of promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle was the first time we had beaten them since our League Cup victory back in 2003. Well our record against tomorrow night’s opponents Grimsby can challenge that – if you’re wondering ‘not another Tuesday night trip to Blundell Park’, the last time we played at Grimsby on a Saturday was also back in 2003…and the last time we won there? Over 40 years ago believe it or not, on 22nd September 1979, winning 2-1 thanks to two goals from Trevor Lee, with the U’s managed by none other than Bobby Roberts on that day.
Matches of Yesteryear - Bees v U's 11/3/03 (eventually)
at 19:37 10 Feb 2020

It was noted that Saturday’s stunning defeat of promotion rivals Plymouth Argyle was the first time we had beaten them since our League Cup victory back in 2003. Well our record against tomorrow night’s opponents Grimsby can challenge that – if you’re wondering ‘not another Tuesday night trip to Blundell Park’, the last time we played at Grimsby on a Saturday was also back in 2003…and the last time we won there? Over 40 years ago believe it or not, on 22nd September 1979, winning 2-1 thanks to two goals from Trevor Lee, with the U’s managed by none other than Bobby Roberts on that day.

Brentford v Colchester United
Wednesday 1st January, Tuesday 18th February and Tuesday 11th March 2003
Nationwide League Division Two (Tier 3)
Attendance 0 (January), I have no idea (February) and 3,990 (March)

Ahead of yet another vital game on Tuesday night we have something of an oddity and a bonus in the Matches of Yesteryear series – three games for the price of one – and as we’re currently being battered by Storm Ciara, quite an appropriate selection as well. Match #43 of the series is actually a trilogy, the U’s taking three attempts to finally complete their much weather-affected league fixture at Griffin Park in the 2002/03 season. What’s even more bizarre was that each attempt was under a different manager for the U’s.

#1: January 1st 2003
The first go was New Year’s Day, the U’s at the time managed by Steve Whitton. Em and I had travelled up to London on New Year’s Eve, joining revellers in various bars around Westminster and Waterloo before gathering at the foot of Big Ben to cheer in the new year. The plan for the next day was twofold, Em was meeting friends for lunch, then doing a bit of sight-seeing and shopping, I was meeting my Brentford supporting mate Nick for a few beers and the game. Em and I had an absolutely brilliant night on the streets of London, something we’d never done before, and enjoyed it immensely!

It had been quite wet in the days leading up to the match, and although relatively dry whilst we’d been out and about in the evening, it then proceeded to pour down throughout the night. We awoke in our Waterloo hotel somewhat bleary-eyed, to a text message from Nick “Match postponed – waterlogged pitch”. Though disappointed that my afternoon of beer and football was up the creek, I was of course absolutely thrilled that it allowed me to share some memorable shopping experiences with Em (yay me). Not surprisingly, I don’t have a programme for this match, and I’d guess most if not all ended up in landfill – but if any survived, they’d probably be quite a collector’s item these days.

#2: February 18th 2003
Attempt no. 2 a month later, and with Whitton since departed, the U’s were being caretaker-managed by Geraint Williams, winning his previous two matches away at Bristol City and home to Mansfield. Determined to give it another go, me and Nick arranged to meet up before the game in the Royal Oak. My company had a major excavation going on at the time, ahead of the development of Heathrow T5, so a bunch of colleagues also turned up to watch the game. Although all neutrals as far as support was concerned, they were quite content to sit in the covered New Road stand with Nick, rather than share the pleasure of the Ealing Road open terrace on a freezing night with me and a hundred or so other hardy souls. I’ve no idea what the attendance was, and I can’t find it published anywhere – Brentford were averaging about 5.5-6k easily at home, but there was no way the crowd that night was anywhere near that.

There had been a pitch inspection late in the afternoon, and although there were concerns about the icy conditions, referee Phil Crossley had decided to let the game go-ahead – much to the delight of Soccer AM’s resident ladette and Torquay celebrity fan Helen Chamberlain. Long-standing Griffin Park stadium announcer Peter Gilham was booked to be away on holiday for the rearranged fixture and needed someone to stand in. Completely by chance, he saw Helen Chamberlain on Soccer AM state she had always wanted to be an announcer at a football ground, so he contacted her to see if she’d stand in, and she jumped at the chance.

For the record, the U’s line-up at kick-off was Brown, Stockley, Fitzgerald, White, Chilvers, Duguid, Pinault, Izzet, Keith, Williams and McGleish, with substitutes Morgan, Bowry, Atangana, Baldwin and McKinney. Amongst others, Rowan Vine was on the pitch for the Bees. The conditions were exceptionally icy underfoot, with players struggling to keep their feet, particularly in the shadow of the main Braemar Road stand on the south side of the ground. In a difficult first half, it was really the U’s who were adapting better to the conditions. Brentford goalkeeper Paul Smith had to be on his toes to save a number of decent efforts from the U’s, and late in the half Scott McGleish hit the post with a good strike. It wasn’t all U’s though, with Simon Brown denying Kevin O’Connor when he was clean through, and O’Connor putting another decent opportunity over the bar.

However, not only was the icy pitch difficult to start with, the temperature was plummeting and the conditions actually deteriorating as the half progressed. With the score 0-0 at halftime, the referee carried out another inspection and decided enough was enough and the game had to be abandoned. Unfortunately for Helen Chamberlain, the announcement came just as she was getting into her stadium announcer opportunity, and despite her entreating us all to stay and listen, we rapidly filed out of a frozen Griffin Park for the welcome warmth of nearby pubs. Brentford club historians reckoned it had been the first match at the ground that was actually abandoned in over 35 years – tough break Helen.

#3: March 11th 2003
And so, finally, on to attempt no. 3 in March, this time under new manager Phil Parkinson. Now I think (because there have numerous visits to Griffin Park over the years) that this was when I first met up with a suited and booted Whalebelly, in the New Inn – our meeting was definitely an evening game at Brentford, and the timing feels about right for this year, but maybe you can remember more Whales? I’m fairly certain my mate Nick wasn’t available for this match, because I think he was back at Lampeter University at the time – but I may have got the two crossed, and I met Whales at no. 2 and Nick at no. 3?

Perhaps understandably, at this stage Brentford had abandoned any effort to produce yet another full matchday programme, and instead printed off what was little more than a team sheet – two pages of double-sided A4, stapled and folded into an A5 programme – they still had the temerity to charge £1 for it though!

The U’s lined up:
31..Richard McKinney
25..Sam Stockley
5….Scott Fitzgerald
19..Alan White
26..Johnnie Jackson
7….Karl Duguid
10..Kem Izzet
17..Bobby Bowry (Thomas Pinault 71’)
3….Joe Keith
11..Dean Morgan (Micky Stockwell 63’)
9….Scott McGleish

All things considered, compared to the weather-related contexts of the previous two attempts, my memory of this game is quite vague, but at least I’m fairly certain that this time it wasn’t raining too heavily, or too cold, or snowing, or blowing a storm or any other metrological event that might challenge a football game. This was Parky’s fourth game in charge, and after winning his first two matches on the back of some decent results from George as caretaker, the U’s were pulling away from the relegation zone. Brentford, under Crazy Gang founder member Wally Downes, were solidly mid-table, a few points and places ahead of the U’s, and with no real likelihood of either the play-offs or relegation. This was Johnnie Jackson’s debut for the U’s, signed by Parky initially on a one-month loan from Spurs, literally that day I think – certainly so recently that he isn’t even listed in the match ‘programme’.

I certainly remember the match was a reasonably even game, perhaps possibly (with my Col U blue-tinted spectacles on) the U’s marginally the better team. However, it was Mark McCammon of Brentford who broke the deadlock with 8 minutes to halftime, thinking literally on his feet to chest the ball past McKinney. The jury’s out on whether it was an inspired cross from Mickael Antoine-Curier, or a wayward shot, but McCammon saw his chance and took it well.

The game livened considerably into the second half, with the U’s pushing hard for an equaliser, and Brentford clearly just as keen to get that two-goal insurance buffer. Doogie very nearly equalised with less than 20 minutes to go, beating the goalkeeper Paul Smith, but his effort was brilliantly cleared off the line by Kevin O’Connor. In the last Matches of Yesteryear blog (Southend v U’s) I reflected on one of the more blatant penalties not given – for this game, it’s probably the other side of that coin. In the 84th minute referee Phil Crossley spotted defender Lee Fieldwick handling the ball in the penalty area – I say spotted, but too be fair there didn’t appear too many others who had spotted it. Brentford players surrounded Crossley protesting the decision (Vine I think was booked for his troubles), whilst Joey Keith calmly prepared himself for the spot-kick. A minute or so later, it was 1-1, we were celebrating like maniacs, and that’s pretty much how, for the third time of asking, the match finally finished.

Brentford 1 (Mark McCammon 37’) Colchester United 1 (Joe Keith 84’p)

You can usually tell from the post-match comments what those involved really thought about game-changing moments, and Parky had this to say “Over the 90 minutes we fully deserved to take something out of the game and whether it was a penalty or not we'll take it". Make of that what you will…

It’s worth reflecting briefly on the remarkable career of Peter Gilham. He has been the Brentford stadium matchday announcer since 11th October 1969, and in over 50 years has only missed two matches – their January 2006 FA Cup third round victory over (then) Premier League Sunderland, and the abandoned match against the U’s. Known as Mr Brentford by supporters, Gilham has no intention of retiring, and will move with the Bees to their new stadium next season.

Jon Varney, Brentford’s Chief Executive, stated “It would have been unthinkable for us to leave Griffin Park and Peter Gilham behind. It will be one of the strangest days of all of our lives when we leave this old place but we are only a mile up the road. We are not tearing up our roots and those roots include Peter Gilham – he is Mr Brentford. It’s just not the Brentford way to contemplate leaving people like Peter behind”.

In a football world awash with TV money, obscene salaries, virtually zero loyalty at all levels, and supporters increasingly feeling alienated by and disconnected from the clubs they grew up supporting, it’s things like this that gives you hope for the future – well done Jon Varney, well done Brentford FC and well done Peter Gilham!

Up the U’s
Prediction Logged by at 22:14:57
Colchester United v Plymouth Argyle prediction logged
Matches of Yesteryear - Southend v U's 17/2/04
at 21:51 7 Feb 2020

…Parky couldn’t quite keep the momentum from September going in the league, and we finished 11th at the end of the season. However, for the entertainment of the faithful, he was just about to embark with the U’s on two successful runs in both the FA Cup and the LDV Vans Trophy, the latter just about to start the following Tuesday (14th October) at Cheltenham”.
Matches of Yesteryear - Southend v U's 17/2/04
at 21:50 7 Feb 2020

…Parky couldn’t quite keep the momentum from September going in the league, and we finished 11th at the end of the season. However, for the entertainment of the faithful, he was just about to embark with the U’s on two successful runs in both the FA Cup and the LDV Vans Trophy, the latter just about to start the following Tuesday (14th October) at Cheltenham”.

Prophetic words it turns out to close Matches of Yesteryear #41…

Southend United v Colchester United
Tuesday 17th February 2004
LDV Vans Trophy (Southern Area Final Second Leg)
Attendance 9,603

Little did I realise that my closing comment on the previous blog would be a signpost to this match, but there you have it – the random match selector seems to have a habit of doing this sort of thing. Match #42 of the series, and we come to the end of our LDV Vans Trophy cup run of 2003/04, away at Roots Hall in the Southern Area Final Second Leg. I have already covered the First Leg (Match #17), and indeed that splendid ‘Silver Goal’ victory at Sixfields (Match #7) in the Southern Region Semi-Final.

For many of us, this match followed straight on from our long trip to Sheffield United on the previous Sunday, to watch our brave U’s go out of the FA Cup in the 5th Round, losing 1-0 to Colin’s Blades in a game they really deserved more from. For me, it was my fifth game in barely a month, stretching back to that memorable Tuesday night FA Cup 3rd Round replay against Accrington Stanley in mid-January – Em and Alfie’s first and only trip to Layer Rd, though the lad didn’t know much about it at the time, as he wasn’t to be born for another eight months.

So what constitutes a ‘cup run’, is there a recognised metric to define performance in a cup competition as such? I’m not aware of one myself, but I’d say any run of four or more matches ought to be about right. On that basis, I’d reckon that the LDV Vans Trophy cup run of 2003/04 is probably unique for me, as I’d managed to be at all six matches – helped enormously by the accident of geography that the first two rounds were games at Cheltenham and then Yeovil.

Southend at the time were struggling near the foot of Nationwide League Division 3, and at considerable risk of relegation out of the football league. The U’s were mid-table in Division 2, with an outside chance of possibly sneaking the play-offs with a decent run of results. However, being more than a division apart hadn’t made much difference in the 1st leg, with the U’s losing 3-2 at Layer Rd, leaving themselves lots to do at a packed-out and as usual hostile Roots Hall. This wasn’t just my first visit to Roots Hall since our Boxing Day 2-0 victory back in our Conference relegation season of 1989/90, this was the first visit since then for Colchester United as well.

This was school half-term week, so with my eldest two away at their mums, and Em working away on the Isle of Wight (after Alfie’s first 10-week scan on the Monday), I was free to be able to travel over to Essex for this match, popping in to see my youngest sister before the match (she lived then on Colchester Road, right next to Roots Hall) and staying at my Mum’s overnight. I met up with my brother-in-law, nephew and niece for the game, to join a pretty much full away end of vociferous U’s supporters – as usual happily exchanging pleasantries with the South Essex bottom-feeders. I remember the following day the Gazette carried a very full match report, together with plenty of photos, a few of which also captured the four of us in the stand behind the goal, but sadly I didn’t keep a copy for posterity – but then again, why would I?!

The U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown
22..Greg Halford (Rowan Vine 61’)
19..Alan White
18..Liam Chilvers (Wayne Brown 45’)
25..Sam Stockley (Gavin Johnson 81’)
7….Karl Duguid
6….Thomas Pinault
10..Kem Izzet
4….Joe Keith
9….Scott McGleish
12..Craig Fagan

The Blues at the time were managed by Steve Tilson, who had taken over from our very own Steve Wignall during November. Appointed by Ron Martin, his task was made clear to him on day one, avoid relegation at all costs, and they were just starting to pull clear by the time of this match. On the pitch that night were a host of players we have grown to hate over the years, including Kevin Maher, Tes Bramble and Drewe Broughton. Carl Emberson, bought in by Wignall, was on the bench as the reserve keeper, indirectly losing his place as the No. 1 to Darryl Flahavon after just seven matches of the season.

As for the match, well it couldn’t have started better for the U’s, with Southend’s one goal advantage wiped out in just the third minute. Determined to take the game to the Blues from the outside, McGavin and Izzet exchanged passes in the home penalty area, with diminutive midfielder Kemi poking home from close range to send the away end into bedlam. With the match no level, and away goals not counting, we were in fine voice, and the U’s responded with wave after wave of attacks.

However, Southend had already been showing their resilience in the league, and were gradually working their way into the game, giving as good as they got. As you might imagine, with so much at stake against fierce local rivals, the game had quite a feisty edge to it too, with both Lewis Hunt and then Sam Stockley booked in the first half. In the third minute of first half injury time they got their reward, when Broughton, who also clipped the post with a fierce drive, smashed one past Brown to level the scores on the night, and restore their one goal advantage.

The second half was a bit of a disappointment, with the game descending into a niggly messy affair, with no team really getting on top. Parky bought on Wayne Brown for Liam Chilvers at halftime to tighten up the defence, and for his second debut at the U’s. The competitive edge was still there, with Craig Fagan, Kevin Maher, Alan White and Jamie Stuart also picking up bookings during the half. Broughton wasted an excellent chance to put the Blues 2-1 up on the night, heading over when it looked easier to score, but the miss of the night was for Tes Bramble, who made a right mess of his chance from only six yards. He nearly made amends five minutes later with a rasping 25-yard effort, but Brown performed miracles to save it.

In the final ten minutes, we threw the proverbial kitchen sink at Southend, with Doogie in particular going close on a couple of occasions. However, the seminal moment came in the 3rd minute of injury time, when Izzet was flattened in the box for a clear penalty – clear to everyone that is apart from referee Mike Ryan, who was having none of it. Absolute mayhem followed, with U’s fans spilling over on to the pitch, stewards desperately trying to maintain order, and I’m pretty sure Izzet (and possibly also McGleish) booked for their protests. However, all to no avail and the match finished 1-1, with Southend victorious 4-3 on aggregate over the two legs.

Southend United 1 (Broughton 45+3’) Colchester United 1 (Kem Izzet 3’)

So Southend progressed to their first major final appearance, though at the Millennium Stadium not Wembley, facing Steve McMahon’s Blackpool in front of 34,031 supporters. McMahon had won this competition two seasons earlier with Blackpool, and they ran out comfortable 2-0 winners on the day, with an early goal from Murphy, and a second from Coid ten minutes into the second half.

As there’s little else to chuckle about – missing out on a cup final appearance to our fiercest local rivals, let’s remember a happier moment from our battles through the ages…

Up the U’s
Colchester United Hall of Fame
at 11:55 5 Feb 2020

There is an announcement on the OWS about the Hall of Fame. The Former Players' Association Hall of Fame committee will be adding in their own choice, but supporters can vote for their legendary U's player to be inducted in 2020. Two players chosen by the fans will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this season, and nominees must be retired from professional football and have played over fifty first team games to be eligible.

To cast your vote for your chosen player, please contact the club on with the name of your nomination (I assume it's one vote per supporter).

2006/07: Micky Cook, Tony English, Brian Hall, Mark Kinsella, Peter Wright
2007/08: Tony Adcock, Dick Graham (Manager), Bobby Hunt, Vic Keeble, Martyn King, Reg Stewart
2008/09: The remaining members of the 'Leeds 1971' team: Bobby Cram, Ray Crawford, Brian Garvey, Brian Gibbs, John Gilchrist, John Kurila, Brian Lewis, Mick Mahon, Dave Simmons, Graham Smith
2009/10: Percy Ames, Mick Packer, Mike Walker
2010/11: Bob Curry, Kem Izzet
2011/12: John Fowler, Roy McDonough, Steve McGavin
2012/13: David Gregory, Steve Leslie
2013/14: Joe Dunne, Nicky Smith
2015/16: Duncan Forbes, Karl Duguid
2018/19: Steve Foley, Ian Allinson

There are plenty of names I could think of, I just wonder if the club would be prepared to bend the rules slightly this year and include Chris Barker (he only played 39 times for the U's)?

Anyone who nominates Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe will be first against the wall come the revolution...
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Blackpool 11/10/03
at 18:26 31 Jan 2020

Ahead of our upcoming match at the Abbey Stadium tomorrow, we again go back to the Parky era, and for this match his first full season in charge at Layer Rd. It’s funny, when I first started following the U’s in the 70s, matches against local rivals Cambridge United always seemed to be a really big thing, up there with Southend in many ways – they just don’t seem to have quite the significance these days?
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Blackpool 11/10/03
at 18:26 31 Jan 2020

Ahead of our upcoming match at the Abbey Stadium tomorrow, we again go back to the Parky era, and for this match his first full season in charge at Layer Rd. It’s funny, when I first started following the U’s in the 70s, matches against local rivals Cambridge United always seemed to be a really big thing, up there with Southend in many ways – they just don’t seem to have quite the significance these days?

Colchester United v Blackpool
Saturday 11th October 2003
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 3,265

Match #41 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and we have a home game against Blackpool in 2003/04. This was Blackpool’s third consecutive season at this level, after a solitary season dropping down to the basement back in 2000/01. Under the chairmanship of the odious Owen Oyston (the least said about him the better) since 1988, Blackpool’s go-to position had been more or less consistent lower mid-table in the third tier, and they were certainly living up to that billing this season, in 17th place and six places lower than the U’s.

In Match #36 (U’s at Cheltenham) I reflected on Peter Heard’s somewhat surprise appointment of untested Reading legend Phil Parkinson to the managerial hotseat in January of the previous season, with Geraint Williams confirmed as his assistant. As we know, Parky had steadied the ship during the tail end of that season, and in this, his first full season in control, we were beginning to see some of the promise of things to come.

Parky was starting to introduce some of the sports science stuff that he’d been exposed to during his time at Reading, and no doubt learned whilst getting his coaching badges. Perhaps it hadn’t bedded in that quickly, because August was a poor month for the U’s, with the U’s languishing in 19th place after an away point at Tranmere (I was there, but it’s not on my memorabilia list, so it won’t feature in this series). However, September was considerably better, as the U’s went undefeated in the league, winning four and drawing two, at the end of which Parky rightly received the Nationwide League Division 2 Manager of the Month award.

I love this photo – not just because it’s a wonderful line-up of many true Colchester United legends, but mainly because of physio Stuart Ayles. Never mind the boxer’s nose, or the dishevelled highlighted mess that purports to be a hairstyle (yet looks like he’s just stumbled out of bed after an all-night bender), but that tie! Where do I have to go to get a tie that substantial – it’s awesome, and I want one! Joking aside, from memory I always thought he must have been a good physio, totally bought into Parky’s philosophy for bringing the U’s kicking and screaming into the world of modern football. I suspect he was quite good for team spirit too, both on the training ground and after hours…

That run in September had propelled the U’s into the play-off places, and with real hope amongst the faithful that we could maintain that challenge. However, the famed Manager of the Month curse had immediately kicked in, losing 3-0 at lowly Notts County in our first match of October, with the U’s dropping to tenth as a result, so it was important that the U’s got immediately back on track in this match at home to Blackpool.

The U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown
25..Sam Stockley (Scott McGleish 85’)
19..Alan White
5….Scott Fitzgerald
2….Andy Myers
7….Karl Duguid
6….Thomas Pinault
10..Kem Izzet (Bobby Bowry 45’)
16..Rowan Vine
8….Wayne Andrews
12..Craig Fagan

For Blackpool that day, despite their lowly position, they did have Scott Taylor up front, who was already banging goals in for fun that season. They also had current manager Simon Grayson in defence, alongside ever-present Danny Coid in the midfield. However, the other name of note as an attacking midfielder was none other than Richie Wellens – the current manager of Swindon Town, and after Tuesday night a man who is probably heartily sick of the sight of Colchester United this season.

My calendar for 2003 simply reads “U’s v Blackpool” for this day, so apart from knowing I didn’t bring any of the children along, I can’t really remember quite what the circumstances around my trip over was. However, I most likely drove over with Em to visit Mum and the family for the weekend, taking the opportunity at the time to get over to Layer Rd with my brother-in-law. I say most likely, because that’s pretty much my modus operandi for trips to Essex back then 😊, usually capped off with a trip down to Maltings Yard in the evening to see my mate Dave.

As you are probably gathering, my actual memories of this match are very hazy at best, though I certainly remember Wayne Andrews getting us off to a perfect start, shooting home after just 87 seconds. However, fortunately Daniel’s excellent The U’sual fanzine comes to the rescue, as Issue 6 (from November 2003) contains a summary of this game.

Blink and you’d miss it, Wayne Andrews got United off to a dream start, linking well with Craig Fagan to side-foot home after 2 minutes, and Colchester were comfortably on top for the first 45. Kem’s injury saw him emerge on crutches for the second and his replacement Bobby Bowry throw in the worst performance of his United career. As United lost all attacking momentum, Blackpool grabbed an equaliser, and if it wasn’t for Brown, they could have had all 3 points. Man of the Match – Thomas Pinault. Disciplined and creative from the holding role, and assumed responsibility when Izzet was forced off."

There were other aspects to the game I recall, certainly that Rowan Vine was causing considerable problems for Blackpool most of the afternoon, and that their equaliser was scored by none other than Scott Taylor (who else). However, it was Richie Wellen’s attempt from near the half-way line I remember best, after spotting Simon Brown off his line – fortunately that one hit the bar, and the game finished a 1-1 draw.

Colchester United 1 (Wayne Andrews 2’) Blackpool 1 (Scott Taylor 53’)

Blackpool inevitably finished lower mid-table again this season, but in Scott Taylor they had a striker in magnificent form, and he finished with 27 goals in all competitions that season. Continuing that rich vein of form into 2004/05, it came as no surprise when he was sold to Plymouth Argyle for £100k in December, already at the time with another 14 goals to his name.

With a considerable buzz going around Layer Road after the arrival of Phil Parkinson, Issue 6 of The U’sual was the third of the year, and by the end of the 2003/04 season Daniel would go on to add Issues 7, 8 and 9 to the list – a fantastic achievement by any measure!

Parky couldn’t quite keep the momentum from September going in the league, and we finished 11th at the end of the season. However, for the entertainment of the faithful, he was just about to embark with the U’s on two successful runs in both the FA Cup and the LDV Vans Trophy, the latter just about to start the following Tuesday (14th October) at Cheltenham.

Up the U’s
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Wivenhoe 23/2/91
at 18:46 27 Jan 2020

And so the unbeaten run goes on. Ahead of yet another vital match against a promotion contender on Tuesday night, we pay our first visit to a yet to be featured competition, going back nearly thirty years in the process. Last time in the Matches of Yesteryear series we explored our furthest distance for a ‘local derby’ match at Wycombe, this time we reflect on what must surely have been the shortest distance ever between the U’s and opponents for a competitive match?
Matches of Yesteryear - U's v Wivenhoe 23/2/91
at 18:45 27 Jan 2020

And so the unbeaten run goes on. Ahead of yet another vital match against a promotion contender on Tuesday night, we pay our first visit to a yet to be featured competition, going back nearly thirty years in the process. Last time in the Matches of Yesteryear series we explored our furthest distance for a ‘local derby’ match at Wycombe, this time we reflect on what must surely have been the shortest distance ever between the U’s and opponents for a competitive match?

We also go all the way back to #2 in my football memorabilia collection. By no means anywhere near the start of my journey following the U’s, that was 20 years earlier, but any programmes, ticket stubs etc. I may have had from those early days have sadly long since disappeared in house moves, clear outs etc.

Colchester United v Wivenhoe Town
Saturday 23rd February 1991
FA Trophy (3rd Round)
Attendance 4,923

Match #40 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and the random match selector choses our first 1990/91 Conference season, and indeed our first experience of competing in the non-league FA Trophy. This particular match is our 3rd round encounter with near-neighbours Wivenhoe Town; by road it was a distance of less than five miles between Broad Land and Layer Rd. This was to be our first, and currently only competitive match against Wivenhoe Town, though I’m sure we have met on a fair few occasions for pre-season friendlies, not least that very season, back on 31st July 1990 (though I wasn’t there and don’t know the score).

Wivenhoe will always hold a special place in my heart, and for so many reasons. Living on Greenstead, I spent my formative years as a teenager with my mates hanging out in Wivenhoe, alternating between the bars and concerts at Essex University, the excellent pubs of Wivenhoe (whether tucked away on a Friday night in the Black Buoy, playing darts at the Station, or a lazy Sunday afternoon on the quay at the Rose & Crown), or trying to make sense of a crazy world in smoke-filled bedrooms down in the village, listening to music and sharing large ones. I lived at the Cross for nearly a year, two of my sisters lived at various locations about the town for many years, and all my closest friends (some no longer with us) lived there. There was no way I wasn’t going to be at Layer Rd to see the FA Trophy game between the two places that meant so much to me.

As a competition, the FA Trophy was created in 1969, designed to fill the gap between the League Cup and the FA Amateur Cup – many non-league sides paid some of their players even then, and were therefore ineligible for either of those competitions. Although the qualification criteria have changed a bit over the years, generally (and currently) it has been open to the first four tiers of non-league football (these days the National League, Southern League, Isthmian League and Northern Premier League). So, following our regrettable relegation into the Conference in 1990 here we were in the FA Trophy.

In the 1st round we had eased past Windsor and Eton, winning 1-0 away in front of just 727 on a cold January night. The 2nd round was slightly improved, beating Runcorn 2-0 at Layer Rd in front of 2,348. Now, there must have been a reason, which I assume was weather-related, but that season we didn’t play a league match in the Conference between 26th January and 2nd March. As a result, this game against Wivenhoe was our very next match after beating Runcorn in the 2nd round three weeks earlier. If anyone can remember anything more about this period, the weather, or anything else to do with that gap in our schedule, I’d be grateful for more information.

The U’s lined up:

1….Scott Barrett
2….Tony English
3….Ian Atkins
4….Eamonn Collins
5….Scott Daniels
6….Neale Marmon
7….Warren Donald
8….Gary Bennett (Martin Grainger)
9….Roy McDonough
10..Mario Walsh (Laurie Ryan)
11..Nicky Smith

Not surprisingly, given their proximity, looking through Wivenhoe Town past players over the years is like a Colchester United Who’s Who. Names like Paul Abrahams, Tommy English, John Cheesewright, Adrian Coote, Richard McKinney, David Rainford, Mick Packer, Robbie Reinelt and Jack Wignall all stand out. Their starting line-up for this match included former U’s Lee Hunter, Steve Wright, Phil Coleman and Steve Leslie (yes, THAT Steve Leslie). Good heavens, they were even managed on this day by none other than U’s legend Micky Cook! As a club, The Dragons had clear ambitions, and after promotion to the (then) Vauxhall Premier League at the end of the previous season, were in 6th place in their attempt to join us in the Conference.

I drove over for this match, which was also a chance to go see my Mum and family, as well as catch up with those mates down in Wivenhoe on Saturday night. In the afternoon, me and my brother-in-law started off with a few beers in the Drury, then took up our spot on the Barside in a packed out Layer Rd. Nearly 5,000 were squeezed in, helped in no small part by the many hundreds of Dragons who’d faced the arduous trek on the Eastern National 74 and 74a bus services.

The U’s, managed at the time by player/manager Ian Atkins, weren’t doing too badly in their attempts to gain promotion straight back into the football league, and were third behind Kettering and Barnet, and with games in hand. Chairman Jonathan Crisp had decided to keep Colchester United a professional full-time outfit after relegation to the Conference, and with few (any?) others on a similar footing back then, most were expecting us to return at the first attempt. Bernard Webber’s editorial in the programme, under the banner headline Hooray! Ian is staying, focused heavily on the close-call that we had apparently been through, with Atkins in the running for a post at Birmingham City. The Birmingham City manager’s job went to Lou Macari, choosing Chic Bates from Swindon as his assistant, and Atkins was thus to remain at Colchester United for the foreseeable.

I wish there was more that I can remember about this game, it was such an important moment for me, but it was also such a long time ago. I’m sure I remember it was played out in a very good-natured manner, the support for both sides excellent, and that in truth it was a comfortable walk in the park for the U’s for the most part. Without any disrespect to Wivenhoe Town, a neutral observer would never have guessed there was barely a league between the two clubs at the time.

The match facts are simple – in the 25th minute the U’s took the lead through Roy McDonough, and Gary Bennett added a brace in the second half (57th and 68th minute) to round off a comfortable victory. I do clearly remember later in the game, with Wivenhoe playing towards their own supporters in the Layer Rd end, and already 3-0 down, that they went close with a rasping shot that wasn’t wide by much. I don’t remember who took the shot, but I do remember being vaguely disappointed that it hadn’t gone in – they deserved something from the game.

Graeson’s excellent Coludata website has a pair of photographs from this game, and I’ve taken the liberty of adding both below for your enjoyment.

Hirsutely-challenged Neale Marmon in action against Wivenhoe

In truth, although there was never any question of divided loyalties – once U’s, always U’s – with Colchester United 3-0 ahead and comfortably in control, no one would have cheered louder if Wivenhoe had grabbed that late consolation goal, and I’m sure I wouldn’t have been the only one either – hell, it was a game where I’m pretty certain virtually every one of the U’s faithful that afternoon personally knew someone in the away end.

If anyone else has any memories of this game, I’d be delighted to hear them. In the meantime, the U’s finished comfortable winners of this most local of local derbies and eased into the FA Trophy quarter-finals.

Colchester United 3 (Roy McDonough 25’, Gary Bennett 57’, 68’) Wivenhoe Town 0

By this stage of the competition I had grown complacent, beginning to think this FA Trophy lark was a bit of a breeze, and already considering travel plans for our trip to Wembley in the final. The quarter-final saw us drawn at home again, to Witton Albion. With no other easy means at the time of finding out the result, nor any particular concerns, I wasn’t surprised when I learned via the Grauniad on Monday morning that we’d won 2-0. I was most definitely surprised (though I shouldn’t have been) when I discovered later that day that the Grauniad had lived up to its reputation and should have reported that lost 2-0!

After crashing out of the FA Trophy, and my Wembley dreams shattered, the U’s spent the remainder of the season chasing and failing to catch Barnet. Barnet were promoted champions, with us one place and two points behind them, condemning the U’s to a second season in the Conference. Chairman Jonathan Crisp fumed “to come second with a fully professional squad in a part-time league is a bloody disgrace and left (considerably poorer) shortly after.

Now, there are many who have multiple reasons for being severely critical of Crisp’s tenure as chairman of Colchester United, and I’m one of them – but – in this regard I do say fair play to him for at least trying to bankroll our attempt to get straight back out of the Conference. Okay, so he was also responsible for us being there in the first place, and a whole host of other nonsense in the process too, but I’m sure you get my drift.

Atkins left also, finally getting the job he wanted in the first place as Assistant Coach at Birmingham City, after Lou Macari won the Associate Members Cup for the Blues and then walked out immediately for Stoke City. It was left to Roy McDonough to step up as player-manager at Colchester United the following season – though knowing Big Roy, rather than just stepping up it was probably more likely a hefty sliding challenge with studs showing…

Big Roy heads towards goal against Wivenhoe – not sure if this is when he scored or not?

Up the U’s
Death before Dishonour
at 15:43 26 Jan 2020

There is news on twitter, and discussed on our OMB and at length on the Exeter City forum, that apparently some enterprising Col U guerillas 'captured' (aka stole) the flag of the Exeter City Red Legion ultra group at some point this weekend.

It would appear to be the code of the Ultras movement that if a group loses their colours, they have to disband in dishonour!

Seriously, no joke - at least it hasn't been burned this time...

Twitter link:

Exeweb link:
Prediction Logged by at 19:46:10
Exeter City v Colchester United prediction logged
Matches of Yesteryear - Wycombe v U's 23/3/02
at 16:18 24 Jan 2020

Ahead of another vital match in our bid for promotion back to League 1, this time at t’other St James’ Park in Devon, we return to our previous spell at that level, and dip again into one of the odder football rivalries (given that over 100 miles separates us from them).
Matches of Yesteryear - Wycombe v U's 23/3/02
at 16:17 24 Jan 2020

Ahead of another vital match in our bid for promotion back to League 1, this time at t’other St James’ Park in Devon, we return to our previous spell at that level, and dip again into one of the odder football rivalries (given that over 100 miles separates us from them).

Wycombe Wanderers v Colchester United
Saturday 23rd March 2002
Nationwide Football League 2 (Tier 3)
Attendance 6,737

Match #39 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and a first trip (in this series) to Adams Park, home of the auld enemy Wycombe Wanderers. Not my first trip by a long stretch, that was back in September ’91 to witness Scott Barrett score the winner from about 90 yards, and every visit since has always been a feisty affair. In truth, I’ve been to Adams Park so often that the trips are starting to merge into one, and it’s difficult to recall one from another – there have of course been visits to the infamous White Horse and its dubious delights, I’ve even had beers in the Hour Glass before, not that we’ve been able to do that any time recently.

However, for this trip I'm absolutely certain I had driven over, and met up with my brother-in-law at a Hungry Horse on New Road for some lunch before the match, a pub which was recommended in the Football Fans Guide. Try as I might though, in researching this blog I was struggling to find mention of the pub anywhere. However, after much digging and following a trail of breadcrumbs through t’interweb, I eventually discovered that it was yet another football pub that had slipped away, converted into a Tesco Express at some point in about 2009 or so. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, there must be mileage in a book remembering the lost football pubs of the UK?

We left my car at the pub, and drove down to one of the enterprising local businesses that were charging for parking on the Hillbottom Road – I certainly don’t remember which one, but I do remember it spared us the interminably long walk from the Hour Glass roundabout, which looks like it ought to be a short five minute stroll, and feels like a half hour trudge. As always, there was a decent turnout from the U’s faithful, considering it hadn’t been the best of seasons for the U’s, with just over 500 in attendance (I think the official figure was 505).

At this point, with six games to go, the U’s managed by Steve Whitton were 16th and all but safe on 49 points, and Wycombe were slightly higher mid-table with all thoughts of moving in either direction gone for another season. That may well have been a factor, because frankly this was probably the most uneventful match I’ve witnessed between Wycombe and Colchester – and that extended to the terraces as well (at both ends). Lawrie Sanchez was in charge of Wycombe at the time, of Ecuadorian descent, but actually played international football for Northern Ireland. Sanchez was a reasonably gifted midfielder in his day, with long playing careers at both Reading and Wimbledon, as well as his three international caps. Like many who don’t know the history, even he was slightly perplexed by the rivalry between the U’s and Chairboys. In his programme notes he comments “it has always been a mystery to me how this clash is described as a ‘local derby’ considering the distance between the two clubs”.

There is a somewhat more controversial reflection on our mutual relationship by ‘Ted’ on page 46 of the programme, which to be honest I’m impressed he managed to get past the copy-editor. Special mention to our very own Essex Girl, former visitor to these shores though…

The U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown
20..Micky Stockwell (Alan White 88’)
3….Joe Keith
??..Con Blatsis
12..Scott Fitzgerald
10..Kem Izzet
15..Thomas Pinault
8….David Gregory
11..Graham Barrett (Karl Duguid 40’)
9….Scott McGleish (Adrian Coote 19’)
21..Kevin Rapley

Signed on a non-contract basis on 15th March, this was only Australian Con Blatsis’s second appearance for the U’s, after making his debut in the 3-1 home win over QPR the Saturday before. He was so recent that he didn’t make the matchday programme squad list, so I’ve no idea what number he had on his back (though I’d hazard a guess it was 33?). Also in the line-up was popular Arsenal loanee Graham Barrett. Barrett was due to return to Arsenal in May, but coming into this fixture Whitton had already made enquiries about the possibility of keeping him through to the 2002/03 season, though in his own words “I’m not very hopeful but had to ask the question”. For the Chairboys that day, plenty of players that we’ll all be familiar with through the enmity between our two clubs, including the wonderfully named Jermaine McSporran, Sean Devine, Andy Rammell, Keith Ryan (on the bench) and Steve Brown. However, the name to pick out from this match has got to be Danny Bulman in midfield. If you’re thinking that name sounds familiar, yep – it’s the same Danny Bulman who 18 years later blasted in Crawley’s opening (and ultimately consolation) goal in our 4th round League Cup match.

As for the match, certainly one of the duller encounters between the rivals, seemingly played out by two teams who were more just going through the motions waiting for the end of the season, rather than if there was anything really at stake. As one commentator on the original unofficial WWFC Gasroom website said “the only previous 0-0 draw between the two sides had come at Layer Road in November 2000 but at least that had the excitement, albeit controversial, of a sending-off and a mass brawl between players to liven up the proceedings”.

In a fairly even encounter, Wycombe were the first to show any really scoring intent, with Currie blasting high wide and handsome twice in the first quarter of an hour. It wasn’t all Wycombe though, with Rapley forcing a decent save from Taylor in goal after a jinking run into the box. This was actually after we’d lost Scotty with just 19 minutes on the clock, taken off injured and replaced by Adrian Coote. Things didn’t improve on that front, and after 40 minutes Graham Barrett was also taken off with a knee injury, to be replaced by Karl Duguid. I don’t remember it being a particularly physical game, just seemed bad luck really. Right on the stroke of half-time, Andy Rammell decided to liven up the atmosphere, with a beautiful 9.5 swan dive in the box, claiming he was pushed. Needless to say, the referee was having none of it, much to the dismay of the baying home fans (and of course our delight), and the first half finished 0-0.

Not much to report at half-time, other than one enterprising chap deciding he couldn’t be bothered to wait in the lengthy queue for the loo, and nipped into the ladies instead. I suspect he regretted that decision when he was soundly rounded on by one of the better-known (and fiercest) U’s ladies when he emerged, and given the haranguing of his life – certainly made me chuckle anyway.

Although Wycombe again started the brighter in the second half, with Devine just missing with an angled drive early on, the U’s began to really get on top thereafter, and for most of the second half looked far more likely to score what I’m certain would have been the winner. Coote in particular was causing no end of problems, including leaving Taylor in a heap that earned him a yellow card (and Taylor needing a new shirt). On 80 minutes we thought we’d finally got the breakthrough, as Coote poked home from close range to send the faithful into delirium. Unfortunately, some were still celebrating as Wycombe took the free-kick for offside, and so the match finished 0-0. Overall, it was the fair result, both teams could have snatched it, but to be honest neither team really deserved to. I certainly went home reasonably happy, knowing we’d reached the magical 50 point mark.

Wycombe 0 Colchester United 0

Though we didn’t know it at the time, Graham Barrett’s injury meant this was his last appearance in a U’s shirt. The following season he went on loan to Brighton, and following his release from Arsenal, signed for Coventry City in 2003. Although a very gifted player, including a handful of international appearances for the Republic of Ireland, Barrett was dogged by injury problems throughout his career, and eventually retired from football at the relatively young age of 28.

However, his wasn’t the only final appearance for the U’s that day – it also marked the end of legend David Gregory’s playing days for Colchester United. A talented midfielder, he had started at Ipswich, but struggled to break into the first team, and after a brief loan spell at Hereford and a handful of matches at Peterborough when Ipswich released him, Colchester United snapped him up in 1995. In the following seven years at Layer Rd, stalwart David made 226 league appearances, scoring 19 times in the process, for a year or so playing alongside his brother Neil.

Leading up to the Wycombe game, Greggors had cracked a bone in his foot (Wikipedia reckoned it was against Port Vale, but I don’t think he played in that game?), which ultimately brought an end to his distinguished playing career for the U’s. After a couple of years in non-league for both Canvey (teaming up with brother Neil again) and then Wivenhoe, he retired from playing, and joined Matt Hudson in the Colchester United media department, where he remains to this day (now almost ever-present as the voice of Colchester United in the match commentary team).

In April 2013 Greggors was deservedly inducted into the Hall of Fame, not least for scoring the winning (and let’s be frank, dreadfully scuffed) penalty to achieve play-off success against Torquay in the 1998 Wembley final – happy days, so thank you David!

Up the U’s
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