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Matches of Yesteryear - Posh v U's 11/10/97
Written by wessex_exile on Friday, 28th Feb 2020 19:28

Another Saturday, another storm – this time Storm Jorge (pronounced ‘hohr-heh’, the Spanish Met Office apparently beat us to the punch on naming this one, so Storm Ellen will have to wait). After the horizontal blasting we received from Storm Dennis at Salford last weekend, I’m rather hopeful the U’s are learning to adjust to these conditions, and at least the JCS pitch ought to hold up better than the Peninsula’s did last Saturday – will it ever stop raining though…

Peterborough United v Colchester United

Saturday 11th October 1997

Nationwide League Division 3 (Tier 4)

Attendance 6,277

Match #46 of the Matches of Yesteryear series, and we go right back to 1997/98, and perhaps appropriately the last time we successfully managed to get out of the football basement (in the right direction obviously). It is mid-October, and the U’s travelled to London Road, home of near neighbours Peterborough United, managed back then by the irrepressible Barry Fry. Always a colourful character, Fry really became a household name during his second spell as manager of Barnet from 1986 to 1993. This was partly because of both Barnet’s success and his larger than life persona, but mainly because of his tempestuous relationship with controversial chairman Stan Flashman. During those seven years Fry was sacked and reinstated by Flashman eight times, eventually having the last laugh by walking out on Barnet for Southend two months before the end of the 1992/93 season (as if going to Southend was anything to laugh about).

The U’s, under Steve Wignall, had started the season reasonably well, with an indifferent August followed by a much better September, and by this game were positioned 9th, one point outside the play-offs, and six points from the top three automatic promotion slots. Peterborough were enjoying a considerably better start to the season, top of the league on goal difference, and banging in goals for fun (averaging nearly 2.5 per game at the time). Peterborough often enjoy this reputation, and it’s usually matched by an equally fragile defence (the ‘we’re going to score one more goal than you’ approach), but this time they were getting that part of the game in order, and had one of the meanest defences in the league as well, conceding less than a goal per match.

I travelled over on the train for this game, stopping off pre-match for a few beers at the former Bridge Inn at the junction of London Road and what was then Cripple Sidings Lane (now renamed in a slightly more PC fashion “Hawksbill Way”). I think this was one of the first times I’d actually encountered a designated ‘away fans’ pub on my travels, and not realising it was such, was amazed to find the entire pub packed out by rowdy noisy U’s fans when I walked in – what a treat. Sadly, this is yet another great football pub that has been lost to us, closed in 2000, and now demolished to make way for “Spring View”, a characterless residential tower block.

The Bridge away fan pub, shortly after closure

The U’s lined up:

1….Carl Emberson

2….David Gregory

3….Scott Stamps

4….Aaron Skelton

5….Steve Whitton (programme lists David Greene)

6….Peter Cawley

7….Richard Wilkins

8….Steve Forbes (programme lists Paul Buckle; Karl Duguid 76’)

9….Mark Sale (Paul Abrahams 76’)

10..Tony Adcock (programme lists Isaiah Rankin)

11..Isaiah Rankin (programme lists Paul Abrahams)

Apart from corner-pishing curse-breaking Barry, there were a few names in the Posh line-up that are worthy of mention, not least Mark Tyler in goal. Tyler had been at Peterborough since 1994, but after a series of loans to other clubs, this was really the first season he established himself as their no. 1. He would go on to make 413 appearances for the Posh, before transferring to make another 257 appearances for Luton, then returning between the sticks for Peterborough after that. All in all, Tyler made 691 first team appearances throughout his long career, and is now goalkeeping coach at Peterborough. Miguel De Souza, formerly of Wycombe Wanderers, was also on the bench for Posh, but the name which really resonated for me was Jimmy Quinn.

In my previous life living in Bradford during the 80s, I used to watch Bradford if I couldn’t get to a U’s game (which was often, given I couldn’t drive then, and had no money). As a result, I remember the buzz that went around the city back in 1989 when Bradford signed Quinn for £210k – at the time that was a substantial amount of money. Quinn was not only a well-respected striker, but an established member of the Northern Ireland squad as well, and his signing by Terry Yorath was considered a bit of a coup. He arrived at the tail end of the 1988/89 season, and by the time he was sold for £320k to West Ham United in December, he had scored 14 goals in 35 appearances.

For the U’s, the player I was most looking forward to seeing for the first time, and the name that everyone was talking about, was mercurial striker Isaiah Rankin. Signed on loan from Arsenal a couple of weeks earlier, and although yet to be on the winning side for the U’s, Rankin was reported to be possessed of blistering pace and a real bag of tricks where dribbling was concerned.

After the excellent pre-match refreshments, the old Moy’s End away terrace was thronged with the U’s faithful in full, lubricated voice – I don’t know how many, but must have been well over 500. London Road was a bit more ramshackled than it is now, and the old terrace was both cavernous and possessed of excellent acoustics, and we were making well use of it. As with games against Cambridge United, to me matches against Peterborough seem to have lost a bit of their spark these days, but back then they were much more feisty affairs, with the ever-present potential for things to get a bit physical. The Moy’s End was one of the last remaining standing terraces left in English professional football, demolished in December 2013 to make way for the unimaginatively designed and named Motorpoint Stand – but that’s progress for you.

RIP Moy’s End - you'll be missed, but not your pillars

The U’s started much the brighter of the two, and a neutral observer would have struggled to recognise which of the teams was currently top of the league. Rankin, in particular, was absolutely everywhere, causing the Peterborough back line no end of torment, both through the middle and down the wings. He was unstoppable, and it came as no surprise when he popped up in the 32nd minute to score his first goal for the U’s – sending us ballistic on the away terrace. There was a particularly agitated group of Peterborough supporters down at the front of the Main Stand, closest to the away terrace, who appeared more intent on facing us than the match, and one of them from afar clearly was inviting me to perhaps meet outside for a chat – I laughed! The U’s were rampant, and we went in at halftime 1-0 up, though it could have been more.

If the U’s were irrepressible in the first half, they came out all guns blazing in the second half too – and with just a minute gone, had drawn a rash challenge in the box (I’m sure it was Rankin jinking and weaving through) and referee Paul Taylor had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Rooster, for what I was certain was going to be the goal that guaranteed 3pts for the U’s. However, I hadn’t counted on Mark Tyler, who to be fair was having a very good game against a rampant U’s frontline, and he saved Adcock’s slightly tame spot-kick.

This was a significant turning point in the match, it clearly set us back a step or too, and gave Posh not just confidence, but an imperative to get back into the game as quickly as possible. Now the U’s were on the back foot, and started to sit deeper and deeper, already now seeming to think holding on was going to be the order of the day. However, we couldn’t, and in the space of a few minutes we went from 1-0 up to 2-1 down, with goals from Carruthers (55’) and Houghton (58’). Although now the boot was on the other foot, the U’s rallied, and again started to challenge. For 20 minutes, we watched a very good game of football between two very good sides, which honestly could have gone either way.

With 15 minutes to go, Wignall made a double substitution, bringing on Duguid and Abrahams for Forbes and Sale, in an attempt to swing things more to our advantage. Unfortunately, whether their introduction was unsettling/ distracting, it was Peterborough who responded first, with none other than Jimmy Quinn drilling home to give Peterborough what felt like un unassailable 3-1 lead. However, the U’s were made of sterner stuff, and continued to press Peterborough, who by then were definitely happy to try and hold on. With eight minutes to go our pressure was rewarded, as Adcock scored another for the U’s to make it 3-2. By now, it was all U’s, but despite battering Posh right to the end, we just couldn’t find any more goals.

Peterborough United 3 (Martin Carruthers 55’, Scott Houghton 58’, Jimmy Quinn 78’) Colchester United 2 (Isaiah Rankin 32’, Tony Adcock 82’)

Walking back to the train station after the game, I reflected on the day – although very disappointing to have lost, we had been excellent, thoroughly deserved far more from the game, and had given the team top of the table a real run for their money. Moreover, I couldn’t believe the quality that Rankin possessed – with him in the squad, as far as I was concerned the future for that season looked very rosy indeed.

Unfortunately, the football gods were not on our side where Rankin was concerned, and after just 12 league and FA Trophy appearances for the U’s (scoring five goals) he returned to Arsenal. They transfer-listed him at the end of the season, and although I and others were keen to sign him up, he went instead to Bradford City. The irony was not lost on me. He enjoyed modest success with Bradford, eventually making a handful of appearances for them in the Premier League, but for one so apparently blessed with talent, I can’t help feeling that Rankin underachieved in his football career?

Peterborough’s early form fell away, and by the end of the season they finished a disappointing 10th in the league, seven points behind the U’s, who were promoted via the play-offs – but that’s another story for another day.

Incidentally, I spotted the chap who wanted to chat in the car park after the game, but he didn’t seem as keen anymore…

Up the U’s

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Letters from Wiltshire #09 by wessex_exile
Letters from Wiltshire #08 by wessex_exile
Lots of discussion this week on football forums, including here, on two subjects – the petition to lobby parliament to allow limited numbers of supporters back into football grounds, and of course the return of that old chestnut from Man City Chief Executive Ferran Soriano, introducing Premier League ‘B’ teams into the EFL. First off, I don’t mind admitting I’ve signed the petition ( https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/552036 ), as have 192,779 others at the time of writing, though I don’t actually think it’ll make any difference. I can completely understand why some do not think this is a good idea, as second-wave spikes of coronavirus infection pop up all over the country (mainly because – let’s face it – some people are dicks and can’t be trusted to sit the right way on a toilet). But to me, the two go hand in hand (not dicks and toilets) – whilst football clubs throughout the country struggle financially without spectators, we are always going to be under threat of this sort of ‘B’ team nonsense as a condition of financial support from the Premier League fat cats. They got their way in 2016 with the EFL trophy, who’s to say they won’t again when the financial squeeze really starts to tighten its grip without paying customers through the turnstiles? Robbie has featured prominently in this debate in recent weeks, and looks like he will again on Sky tomorrow if this tweet from Sophy Ridge is anything to go by - https://twitter.com/SophyRidgeSky/status/1313874336118341632
Letters from Wiltshire #07 by wessex_exile
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