Quantcast
Please log in or register. Registered visitors get fewer ads.
Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 18:34:35
Exeter City v Colchester United prediction logged
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #18
at 18:20 24 Nov 2020

Trump has finally conceded defeat, albeit in a childlike, begrudging and typically ungracious manner, but at least things are moving on now, and hopefully the beginning of a new, less adversarial era in world affairs. There was an interesting article on one of the news websites this morning looking at how the transition for other administrations have gone – none as poorly (so far) as this, but still some amusing anecdotes nevertheless. Apparently, ahead of George W Bush taking up residence, the departing Clinton team went around the White House removing all the W’s from keyboards – very childish, but quite funny too…
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #18
at 18:20 24 Nov 2020

Trump has finally conceded defeat, albeit in a childlike, begrudging and typically ungracious manner, but at least things are moving on now, and hopefully the beginning of a new, less adversarial era in world affairs. There was an interesting article on one of the news websites this morning looking at how the transition for other administrations have gone – none as poorly (so far) as this, but still some amusing anecdotes nevertheless. Apparently, ahead of George W Bush taking up residence, the departing Clinton team went around the White House removing all the W’s from keyboards – very childish, but quite funny too…

Colchester United v Aldershot Town
Saturday 6th December 2003
FA Cup (Second Round)
Attendance 4,255




Recent forum chats have mentioned our gripping 1-1 draw with Derby County in the FA Cup way back in the 70s. As a frustratingly tantalising taste of FA Cup action (for Durham at the very least), Letters from Wiltshire #18 has indeed chosen an FA Cup match, but in this instance our second round game against Aldershot Town in December 2003. As it happens, I’ve already featured the 3rd round game against Accrington Stanley (Matches of Yesteryear #55) as one of the last blogs from last season. If you’re lucky, our 5th round game at Sheffield United may well appear at some point in the future.

For now, this will be a slightly abridged submission today, with kick-off looming for our match against previous play-off adversaries Exeter City. I’m sure there’s a feature that could be written looking at our oft-tempestuous relationship with Exeter City, flags and the like – but maybe for another day.

Battle of the Garrisons…
…is how the matchday programme introduced our FA Cup Second Round match in 2003. Aldershot Garrison (also known as Aldershot Military Town) was established in 1854, though not quite as old as our own garrison, established by the Legio XX Valeria Victrix in AD 43. Aldershot Garrison was also the scene of one of the worst mainland UK attacks by the IRA, when in 1972 a car bomb killed seven civilian support staff, including a Catholic priest. To bring things right up to date, the garrison is also currently the headquarters of the MoD COVID Support Force.

Aldershot Town Football Club were originally formed in 1926, and in immediately prior to the star of the 1932/33 season dropped the “Town” to be just Aldershot FC. As most will recall, the original Aldershot FC went out of business on 25th March 1992 after just 36 games of that season, an event I have already covered elsewhere. However, what I didn’t realise previously, and particularly relevant to our Derby County recollections, according to Wikipedia, Aldershot FC’s record signing was none other than Colin Garwood, who they bought for £54k from Portsmouth.

Aldershot Town Football Club were formed in 1992 from the wreckage of the former club, competing then in the Isthmian League, and in 2001/02 were rewarded with eventual promotion to the Conference, where they still competed for this visit. This would be the first, and to date only time we have played the newly formed Aldershot Town Football Club.

Dreaming of glory
The U’s were at the time competing in the 3rd tier of English football, and had already despatched 4th tier Oxford United reasonably comfortably in the FA Cup 1st Round (t’other U’s with Andy Woodman in goal at the time). Now just one more victory away from a potential glamour tie, I decided to head over on the train for this one on a pink pass – meeting up with my brother-in-law for a few pre-match Drury beers beforehand.

Phil Parkinson’s U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown
25..Sam Stockley
18..Liam Chilvers
19..Alan White
2….Andy Myers
7….Karl Duguid
6….Thomas Pinault
10..Kem Izzet
16..Rowan Vine
8….Wayne Andrews
9….Scott McGleish

There’s not too much I can say about the Shots that day, no names I really recognise apart from of course their manager at the time Terry Brown. Brown had a modest playing career mostly in and around non-league London and suburbs clubs, before moving into management at his last club Hayes. He moved to Aldershot a year before this game, and after some success at Aldershot would go on to manage AFC Wimbledon, eventually guiding them back into the Football League in 2011. Other significant connections included Wayne Andrews, a former Aldershot player, and of course Steve Wignall – former player, captain and manager of both Aldershot and the U’s. In tribute, the programme included a feature about Wiggy.

Dunno, guv
As for the game, well my memory is as hazy as my familiarity with the Aldershot Town line-up, but I certainly recall that they gave the U’s a pretty stern test. That was probably no surprise, they were riding high in the Conference at the time and looked a genuine contender for promotion. In recognition of the shared Army bond, Colchester United made free tickets available to soldiers from both garrisons which no doubt helped a fairly decent crowd, well over our season average at the time, turn up. The club also helped coordinate a collection for the Army Benevolent Fund, and the match ball was apparently delivered by a Lynx helicopter from 653 Squadron, part of 3 Regiment Army Air Corps based in Wattisham.

At least, that’s what the programme said, but I can’t remember the helicopter thing at all – if it happened, I suspect we were still in the Drury at the time.

Aldershot certainly came with the intention of having a proper go at the U’s, they too looking for the possibility of a money-spinning 3rd round tie, and the first half was a very keenly fought even contest, with no side really dominating. If anything, Aldershot were possibly having the better of it on occasion, but still we reached half-time goal-less. For a U’s side who had been beaten by non-league opposition six times out of the last 12 years in the FA Cup, 0-0 against a Conference side at half-time was actually doing okay.

Whether it was simply fitness, or a half-time motivational speech, or possibly Aldershot sitting deeper to try and hold on for a replay back at the Rec, but into the second half the U’s started to get a grip on the game. Never really dominating, but certainly having the better of it, and Wayne Brown was denied a clear penalty when he was clearly hauled down in the box. That’s not to say there weren’t scares, and an absolute rocket from Aldershot striker Lee Charles had Simon Brown at full stretch to keep out with his fingertips.

Finally, plucky Aldershot Town were undone by a piece of individual brilliance, when Rowan Vine weaved and skipped his way through the defence to fire the U’s into the lead with less than ten minutes to go. The U’s were too good to let that slender lead slip, and in fact could have doubled it when Duguid had a certain goal cleared off the line in injury-time. But no harm done, and the U’s were through and into the draw for the FA Cup 3rd Round.

Colchester United 1 (Rowan Vine 83’) Aldershot Town 0

Another view
Daniel’s Issue 7 of The U’sual (entitled “Cardiff anyone?”) included a short review of the match, as follows:

A professional performance from the U’s saw them through as the extra quality on display eventually showed through. All credit to Aldershot, who had a few chances, drawing one full length tip from Simon Brown that was rewarded by the Match of the Day producers, before Vine danced through the Shots defence to slip home a later winner. Man of the Match – Andy Myers. Typified the U’s spirit, professionalism and work rate, getting up and down the line and marking his winger out of the game.

It was professional too, and a mark of respect that Parky showed to Aldershot, he didn’t make a single substitution. As for a 3rd round glory draw – far from it – Accrington Stanley away, which we were lucky to draw, albeit the victorious replay at Layer Rd (as mentioned above) was quite a match.

…and finally
Aldershot Town would stay in the Conference promotion hunt all season and finish in the play-offs. Ironically, they pinched the last play-off spot by one point at the expense of today’s opponents Exeter City. Despatching Hereford United in the two-legged semi-final on penalties, they faced Shrewsbury Town in the final at the Britannia Stadium. However, fate was not on their side, and after drawing 1-1, lost the penalty shoot-out.

Up the U’s
Forum
Thread
Worrying signs at Roots Hall
at 10:19 21 Nov 2020

Southend have postponed today’s match against Cambridge United, apparently because of a small number of +ve tests, and only having 10 fit players.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/55025064

Okay, so my best wishes to those who have COVID-19, but what’s the other bit about, how can that be? Our rivalry can be as intense as any in football at times - we absolutely love it when they lose, when they’re relegated, when all manner of football-related misfortune is visited upon them, but to me this announcement is very worrying. It’s starting to sound like someone somewhere is coming to the conclusion that Southend United Football Club is no longer a going concern? Cambridge United have made representations to the EFL, so I guess we might hear more about this in due course.

Rivalry is one thing, but the Football Family is bigger.
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #17
at 17:30 20 Nov 2020

So I never actually imagined more than two weeks after the event that Trump and his attack-dog “Hot Mess” Giuliani would still be refusing to acknowledge that Biden has won the US Presidential election, but there you have it. Closer to home, we are just past halfway through our circuit-breaker 4-week lockdown, and most of the graphs suggest things are slowly improving, but nowhere near a rate that would see figures return to the pre-October levels. Much closer to home, Alfie has been in self-isolation for the last 14 days because one of his teachers tested positive – delighted to say we have both passed through that period without developing symptoms…and without killing each other either 😊
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #17
at 17:30 20 Nov 2020

So I never actually imagined more than two weeks after the event that Trump and his attack-dog “Hot Mess” Giuliani would still be refusing to acknowledge that Biden has won the US Presidential election, but there you have it. Closer to home, we are just past halfway through our circuit-breaker 4-week lockdown, and most of the graphs suggest things are slowly improving, but nowhere near a rate that would see figures return to the pre-October levels. Much closer to home, Alfie has been in self-isolation for the last 14 days because one of his teachers tested positive – delighted to say we have both passed through that period without developing symptoms…and without killing each other either 😊

Notts County v Colchester United
Saturday 15th January 2000
Nationwide League Division 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 4,931




Letters from Wiltshire #17, and we return to the memorabilia random match generator for a trip to Meadow Lane in only our third match of the 21st century. In the context of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we go back to when the world was last meant to come crashing to an end, just fifteen days after the Millennium Bug was supposed to have brought the world to its knees, economies collapsing, society breaking down, planes falling from the skies etc. As we know, none of that actually happened, and although there were sporadic technical glitches around the world with software which hadn’t factored in 4-digit year codes (so 2000 would be indistinguishable from 1900), these were very minor indeed. Still, didn’t stop virtually an entire industry of consultants popping up overnight who could ease our Y2K worries…

Crikey!
For the U’s, our concerns approaching the new millennium were much more grounded in reality, and despite our then customary first win of the season away at Chesterfield, just two more victories in the next 18 matches had left us mired in the relegation zone by the end of November. To be fair, much of this for manager Steve Whitton was just trying to mend a side broken by the departing manager Mick Wadsworth. We rallied slightly following a half-decent December (doing the double over Chesterfield in the process), and following a reasonable point away at fellow-strugglers Blackpool in our first match of the 21st century, we were precariously placed just outside the relegation zone.

What followed, in our previous match before travelling to Meadow Lane, was a game that is already part of Colchester United folklore, as the U’s entertained Bristol Rovers at Layer Road. In a ripping end-to-end contest, Jason Roberts gave the Pirates a 12th minute lead, McGavin equalised on 36 minutes, before Roberts (46’) and then our very own Jamie Cureton from the penalty spot (59’) gave Bristol Rovers a commanding, seemingly unassailable lead. McGavin gave us hope with a stunning strike over the despairing dive of ‘keeper Lee Jones three minutes after Curo’s penalty, only for referee Butler to dash that hope – pointing to the spot in the 69th minute for another Cureton penalty.

And then the miracle really began.

Cureton tried for the same top corner, sending Simon Brown the wrong way, but his effort cannoned of the corner of post and bar and away to safety. With ten minutes to go, Layer Road erupted as Karl Duguid controlled beautifully on the edge of the six yard box to pull the U’s level at 3-3, and then put us into dreamland with a blistering strike from outside the box to make it 4-3 just two minutes later. Ecstasy turned to agony in the 86th minute, when Nathan Ellington pounced on a loose ball (back off the bar I think) to bring it back to 4-4, and then cometh the hour cometh the man, with a minute to go Lua Lua blasted Layer Road into the stratosphere, jinking, twisting and turning in front of three defenders to make it 5-4 for Colchester United, and probably one of our greatest comebacks of all time.

When lockdown began, Colchester United very kindly added the full match to their YouTube channel, so if (like me) you weren’t lucky enough to have been at Layer Road that day, it is definitely worth a watch.



After the Lord Mayor’s show…
As mentioned, I wasn’t at Layer Road for the Bristol Rovers match, so had to content myself spending a remarkably pleasant Saturday afternoon drinking beer with mates in a local pub and watching as Jeff announced each goal as it was scored. I might have lost my sh*t a bit when Lua Lua’s goal-flash arrived, much to the amusement of those around me. With no other matters pressing, and on the back of the Brizzle game, I decided what better way to spend the next weekend than a trip to Meadow Lane.

I’ve been to Notts County on a number of occasions (two years earlier for example, covered under Matches of Yesteryear #34) and it’s usually been a reasonably stress-free awayday. I say usually, but train cancellations did force me and Alfie to turn round and head home a couple of years ago, when we realised we couldn’t make the match before about half-time. Still, all good back in 2000, and as I wasn’t meeting my brother-in-law at the Trent Navigation this time, I contented myself with some beers on the train without the need to get to Nottingham too early. Once I got into the ground (we were still back then housed in the cavernous Kop stand closest to the train station), there was a fairly decent turnout from Essex gathered, clearly still buoyant after the Bristol Rovers comeback.

The U’s lined up:

1….Simon Brown
6….Joe Dunne
5….David Greene
4….Gavin Johnson
24..Ross Johnson
3….Joe Keith
30..Steve McGavin
8….David Gregory
11..Jason Dozzell
25..KK Opara (Lomana Tresor Lua Lua 65’)
9….Jamie Moralee

Whilst the U’s were struggling to pull away from the relegation zone, Notts County under manager Gary Brazil were going considerably better, just outside the play-offs, but only on goal difference. No one, therefore, was underestimating the task we faced – I personally would have been over the moon with a point (and in a small dark corner of my soul maybe subconsciously actually sort of okay losing so long as we didn’t get gubbed). But hope is a curious thing, and that result against Rovers had certainly provided plenty of that, so we were all in good voice cheering on the U’s that afternoon.

In the Notts County line-up was striker Kevin Rapley, who would go on to somewhat underperform for the U’s for a couple of seasons a year or so later, and Mark Warren in central defence. Warren would sign for the U’s in August 2002 but left for our South Essex rivals the following January. For the U’s, Titus Bramble (on loan from Ipswich) had picked up a knock in the Bristol Rovers game, and had temporarily returned to Portman Road for treatment, so new Brighton and Hove Albion loanee and long-throw specialist Ross Johnson stepped up to make his debut for the U’s. Although we didn’t know it at the time, that Rovers game turned out to be Bramble’s last appearance for the U’s.

On a chilly January afternoon, Notts County certainly started the brighter of the two, and Brown did well to pull off a stunning reflex save after just 20 minutes. Notts County broke down the right wing, with a pinpoint cross met perfectly on the volley by Craig Rammage. I’m pretty certain everyone in the ground believed it was a goal all the way, but Brown thought otherwise and managed to instinctively tip it over the bar. That was the sort of thing that really raised your spirits and instil some self-belief, and five or so minutes later it paid off.

Kelechi “KK” Opara was proving to be a bit of a revelation at the U’s and was certainly a handful this afternoon. On 30 minutes he picked the ball up in Notts County’s half and weaving his way into the box past various attempts to block him, was eventually tugged back in unison by both Matthew Redmile and Mark Warren. Referee Michael Ryan had no hesitation, and gleefully McGavin took his chance from the penalty spot, expertly finding the bottom corner of the goal well beyond the reach of Darren Ward. After the match, McGavin admitted that the role of penalty-taker hadn’t really been sorted out ahead of this match, but with Lua Lua on the bench to begin with, he happily took the opportunity to stake his claim.

And it didn’t stop there either. Bang on half-time, and just after receiving a yellow card, McGavin managed to dart between a hesitant Gary Owers and Ward to tap home right in front of us an exquisite cross from the mercurial Opara out on the right wing. 2-0 up at half time, and we were bouncing around the terrace in delirium!

Backs to the wall…



Into the second half, and McGavin very nearly made it a hat-trick, with the ball ricocheting into his path just two yards out from a David Greene header, only to see his deft touch smothered on the line by goalkeeper Ward. Thereafter, with promotion-contenders Notts County really starting to apply pressure, it became a real park-the-bus backs to the wall performance for the U’s, desperate to hold on to their 2-0 lead.

They did well too, with a really gutsy performance, Brown doing particularly well to push a well-struck shot by Rapley around the post for a corner, but inevitably the pressure did eventually tell. On 65 minutes Stallard expertly hooked a shot from inside the box over the defence and the head of Brown, and into the goal to half the deficit to 2-1. Whitton immediately sacrificed the flamboyant flair of Opara for the…err…flamboyant flair of Lua Lua, but clearly in much more of a midfield holding role. For the remaining 25 minutes I can’t remember us getting out of our own half with any particular purpose, but boy did we defend resolutely – typified by Joe Dunne throwing himself in the way time and time again, and eventually, miraculously we held on for another vital 3pts.

Notts County 1 (Mark Stallard 65’) Colchester United 2 (Steve McGavin 30’p, 45’)

Phew
Okay, so not quite the drama of the previous match, but on a much more positive note, this was a resolute defensive performance compared to leaking four goals at home, and Whitton said as much in the press after. Significantly, these were our first back-to-back wins in over a year, and with 10 points from a possible 15 gained (going back to the 3-0 victory over Luton Town before Christmas), we seemed to be getting into the form of promotion hopefuls, not relegation candidates.

Downbeat Steve Whitton was trying not to get too giddy about it though, commenting "when we are safe from relegation, then we can start to enjoy ourselves…[but]…the lads did everything we asked of them and it was a good, hard-working away performance". Whitton also singled out KK Opara’s performance, only his second for the U’s, Brown’s excellent performance in goal, and indeed a very solid debut for Ross Johnson in defence. We’d go on to win the next two as well, but ultimately be content with lower mid-table survival at the end of the season.

Both Bristol Rovers and Notts County would miss out on the play-offs, in 7th and 8th place respectively, albeit Notts County were a distant 15pts behind the Gas, who themselves were only 2pts outside the play-offs. I’m sure many Rovers fans that season looked back to when they were winning 3-2 at Layer Road, with Cureton looking to make it four from the spot, and wonder whether that was when they lost their chase for the play-offs?

Now that’s a millennium bug.

Up the U’s
Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 13:09:08
Mansfield Town v Colchester United prediction logged
Forum
Thread
EFL increase available substitutes
at 13:08 18 Nov 2020

The EFL have announced that whilst there will still be seven players on the bench, as of midday on Friday clubs can for the time being use up to five of them if needs be.

https://www.efl.com/news/2020/november/efl-statement-five-substitutes/

We kick off 45 minutes earlier than Coventry v Birmingham on Friday night, so could we be the first club in a competitive match to use five substitutes? If we're 3-0 up (or down) with a few minutes to go, I'd do it just for a laugh.
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #16
at 14:02 14 Nov 2020

Good morning everyone. Outside the football bubble, and across the pond, we have the soon to be ex-President of the United States walled up in his White House bunker, inexorably going through the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief…and in a particularly undignified and un-statesman like manner. Clearly we’ve had Denial by the bucket-load, Anger as he lashes out firing those he perceives as disloyal, Bargaining as his legal team try and force recounts of perfectly valid election results, and no doubt a huge amount of Depression as he sulked in silence for the best part of a week. Now perhaps, as he nearly slips up when eventually breaking radio silence to address the press, we see the beginnings of Acceptance. If I’m honest, I’d be quite happy for Trump to keep this up and make the transition as embarrassing as possible for himself and his supporters – and if the police could eventually drag him out of the White House in hand-cuffs, all the better.
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #16
at 14:00 14 Nov 2020

Good morning everyone. Outside the football bubble, and across the pond, we have the soon to be ex-President of the United States walled up in his White House bunker, inexorably going through the Kübler-Ross 5 stages of grief…and in a particularly undignified and un-statesman like manner. Clearly we’ve had Denial by the bucket-load, Anger as he lashes out firing those he perceives as disloyal, Bargaining as his legal team try and force recounts of perfectly valid election results, and no doubt a huge amount of Depression as he sulked in silence for the best part of a week. Now perhaps, as he nearly slips up when eventually breaking radio silence to address the press, we see the beginnings of Acceptance. If I’m honest, I’d be quite happy for Trump to keep this up and make the transition as embarrassing as possible for himself and his supporters – and if the police could eventually drag him out of the White House in hand-cuffs, all the better.

Leyton Orient v Colchester United
Saturday 29th April 2017
Sky Bet League 2 (Tier 4)
Attendance 6,854




For Letters from Wiltshire #16, I’m choosing a specific match from the memorabilia collection, and the last time I watched the U’s play Leyton Orient, today’s opponents. We go back to the tail end of season 2016/17, with the U’s right outside the play-off zone, and still in with a remote chance of snatching the last play-off spot. The future was considerably less rosy for Leyton Orient. Their relegation out of the Football League had been confirmed some time ago, but they were in even more disarray off the pitch, all of which could be laid at the feet of one man – Francesco Becchetti.



We want our club back!
Wind the clock back to the end of 2013/14, and there was Orient in the play-off final for promotion to the Championship, up against Rotherham United. They were agonisingly close to achieving it too, going into a 2-0 lead, only to be pegged back to 2-2 by Rotherham, and then after extra-time taking a 3-2 lead in the penalty shoot-out, before Rotherham goalkeeper Adam Colling saved their last two spot-kicks to give Rotherham a 4-3 victory. Watching on was Becchetti, who clearly saw a business opportunity in Orient, and bought out Barry Hearn’s 90% share in the club in the summer.

Some have been critical of Hearn (an O’s supporter himself) selling his share in the club to Becchetti, but that would be unjustified. In a Telegraph interview in 2017, Hearn did describe selling to Becchetti as “an absolute disaster”, but he went on to say “Three years ago, I was so optimistic about the future of Leyton Orient it’s not true. Because I saw a man with enthusiasm and passion, who was moving to London, had loads of money, gave the fans what they were always asking me for: ‘When are you going to get your chequebook out?’ Well, he got his chequebook out and this is what’s happened”.

What followed through 2014/15 was a sad litany of dreadful, even bizarre performances both on and off the pitch, which saw Leyton Orient steadily slide backwards from that pinnacle. Becchetti did initially put money into the club, but it wasn’t matched on the pitch, and in September manager Russell Slade had seen enough and walked. Kevin Nugent took over, but he was replaced a month later by Becchetti’s man Mauro Milanese. Becchetti sacked him as manager in early December, bringing in Fabio Liverani. However, the turmoil had left its mark on the pitch, and nothing could be done to avoid relegation at the end of the season – when Becchetti sacked him too.

Giving up on his Italian contacts, next in the managerial hotseat for 2015/16 was former defender Ian Hendon. Hendon’s Orient started well, but then faltered, and in January – yep, you guessed it – Becchetti sacked him. During this time, some of the already circulating rumours about Becchetti’s ‘style’ of management really began to emerge. For instance, believing it would help team bonding, Becchetti ordered the team and some club officials stay for an entire week at the Marriott Hotel in Waltham Abbey, just five minutes from the club’s training ground. I think that’s called incarceration?

Hendon was temporarily replaced by Andy Hessenthaller, before Kevin Nolan took over as player-manager. By April, with Orient outside the play-off zone, Nolan was replaced by…Andy Hessenthaller. Nolan stayed in a playing role through to the end of the season, but it wasn’t enough to get into the play-offs – they finished 6pts behind 7th place AFC Wimbledon (who, incidentally, would go on to win the play-offs).

Bad enough as things had already been, the summer of 2016 was when things really started to turn ugly at Brisbane Road, with a flurry of departures from the club, including fans’ favourite Dean Cox, who had his contract terminated “by mutual consent” (pfft). More would follow, and by the start of the 2016/17 season Orient were virtually unrecognisable as the side that had challenged for promotion. The club was in free-fall, and between September and March had been through five different managers when Omer Riza took over. Becchetti stopped paying staff for two months, so the PFA had to step in and loan players half their wages. Financially the club was in a mess, with reported debts of £5.5m, and at a High Court winding-up hearing Becchetti was ordered to either sell the club or settle the debt. He did, eventually, sell his interest in the club to a consortium led by supporter Nigel Travis, but the damage had already been done to Leyton Orient.



The coup de grâce
I’ve always enjoyed my trips to Brisbane Road, invariably regardless of the result, so with promotion still a possibility, myself and Alfie took the train up to London Town on a bright Saturday morning for what we hoped was going to be an enjoyable day out. There is always a big turn-out from the Faithful, and more often than not quite a few of the Old Guard barsiders will surface. Sometimes a grim and fearsome bunch, but at least they’re our grim and fearsome bunch. With the boy in tow, today wasn’t a day for getting messy in the Coach & Horses before the match, but I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity for at least one. As always, the atmosphere inside was rocking, and it was looking like it was going to be a better than usual following at the match.



Picking up tickets at the small booth on Brisbane Road itself, together with a ‘programme’ that comprised a folder up single A1 sheet that was stark testimony to the financial plight of Leyton Orient, we headed into the ground past countless O’s supporters carry flags and banners that basically had one simple message – “Becchetti Out!”. The away stand was filling up already, but we managed to squeeze ourselves in near the back, before the last-minute flood of those left in the Coach & Horses finally arrived – eventually 1,257 vociferous U’s supporters would pack out the away stand. Looking around the ground, there were of course all those banners and flags on view, but otherwise the O’s supporters were strangely subdued. Not that our supporters let that get in the way, who with the drum backing, were in full voice, and would remain so throughout what turned out to be one of my stranger football away-day experiences.

The U’s lined up:

1….Sam Walker
14..Alex Wynter
18..Tom Eastman
15..George Elokobi
2….Richard Brindley
3….Matthew Briggs (Macauley Bonne 70’)
4….Tom Lapslie
23..Sean Murray (Doug Loft 73’)
7….Drey Wright
31..Tariqe Fosu-Henry
9….Chris Porter (captain)

Much as I’m sure we all had tremendous sympathy for what Leyton were going through, facing relegation after 112 consecutive years as a Football League club, we still had a job to do if we were to snatch a play-off spot. The U’s were clearly not going to let emotion get in the way and took the game to a somewhat piss-poor Leyton Orient right from the start. Eastman had an effort that was saved for a corner, and from that Elokobi saw his header well-saved by Sargeant the goalkeeper. Brindley also went close with a decent free-kick that just curled over the bar. On 26 minutes, the deadlock was finally broken, when Fosu timed his run to perfection to head home at the back post from a perfect Eastman cross, and the away end went ballistic.



To their credit, whilst I was expecting that to be the key that unlocked a fragile Orient defence, it actually spurred them on somewhat, and for most of the remainder of the first half Orient were probably having the better of it, though without really creating any clear cut chances. Walker in particular did well to block Kennedy’s header on goal, albeit he had to scramble to collect it at the second attempt as he spilled the first save. Still though, for the most part, silence from the home fans, and a deafening raucous barrage from the U’s faithful, complete with blue flares on occasion.

Into the second half, and after what was a fairly even uneventful five or so minutes, Orient’s Portuguese winger Sandro Semedo finally gave the Orient supporters something to cheer about – and some! Picking the ball up just inside our half, he raced forward and left fly from 30 yards with an absolutely unstoppable drive which swerved and dipped ferociously to find the top corner behind Sam Walker – who could do nothing but watch and marvel at the effort. If you going to get relegated out of the Football League, that wasn’t a bad way to score the last League goal at Brisbane Road.

Despite their goal, still the U’s were on top, and on 78 minutes were justifiably back in front when Fosu’s trickery turned the Orient defence inside out, before squaring for Chris Porter to tap into an empty net from a few yards out. The away end was in bedlam, and we were still celebrating when Macauley Bonne put the result beyond any doubt, turning well in the box to drive past Sargeant into the far corner – not particularly firmly struck, but with deadly accuracy.

Some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over…
And that should have been that, but with five minutes to go Orient supporters began their pitch invasion – barely a trickle to begin with, but in the end a flood, and the two teams had to leave the pitch whilst play was suspended. It was by and large a good-natured pitch invasion, just honest Orient supporters who wanted to protest about the handling of their club – men, women, kids, supporters of all ages, creeds and colours gathered in front of the main stand, and neither the police nor the stewards seemed particularly interested in doing anything about it.



There were some comical moments in all of this – whoever it was who managed to get on the tannoy to try and persuade the supporters to leave the pitch was very amusing – if only for his repeated and increasingly frustrated attempts to get the supporters to “LISTEN!”. Our support, never one to miss a chance, then chimed in with “Clap Clap – ClapClapClap – ClapClapClapClap – Listen!”, much to the amusement of the home fans. At one point many of the Orient supporters came across to ‘confront’ the U’s fans in the away stand, which certainly did get the police and stewards attention for once, but it turned out to be just a mutual show of support for each other, with massed chants of “Becchetti Out!” and “Stand up if you hate Southend!” shared between the U’s and the O’s.

Eventually, by about 5.30, it was clear to me the match probably wasn’t going to re-start, so me and Alfie left for Paddington station and the train home. I found out later that it was announced over the tannoy that the match had been abandoned about 15 minutes after we’d left. An hour after that, sneaky referee Carl Boyeson bought both teams back out to finish playing the last five minutes and injury-time to ensure the result stood. Video of those final minutes is quite amusing, as both teams just took it in turns to pass the ball around at a walking pace without making any effort, just to use up the time before the eventual final whistle at approximately 6.50pm.

Leyton Orient 1 (Sandro Semedo 52’) Colchester United 3 (Tariqe Fosu-Henry 26’; Chris Porter 78’; Macauley Bonne 80’)

On the Road
There was a final twist in my tale for that day – when we got back to Paddington station we discovered that all west-bound trains were cancelled because of a major signals failure at Didcot Parkway. Crap! GWR were their usual spectacularly unhelpful selves, offering no other solutions than announcing that tickets valid for that day would also be considered valid for the Sunday as well. Poor beleaguered platform staff were being swamped by passengers demanding solutions, answers etc. – it was chaos.

At the time, Alfie relied on daily medication each morning, which obviously I didn’t have with me, nor did we have any overnight bags, nor even the faintest idea where on earth we could stay that night (by now it was well after 7pm). I rang GWR to see if it was an option to go down to Waterloo, head across to Bath via Salisbury, and back to Chippenham from the opposite direction, but they couldn’t even guarantee those trains would be running because of the disruption, so I really only had once choice left – get an Uber.

A bit less than £200 later, me and Alfie finally got home about 9.30pm. To cut a long story short, what then followed was a protracted discussion/ dispute with GWR about my taxi fare, which finally Transport Focus had to get involved with. Having initially sent me a derisory £10 travel voucher by way of compensation, Transport Focus eventually forced GWR to reimburse both the taxi cost and our train tickets – oh, and they forgot to ask for the travel voucher back too 😊.

There’s a chap on YouTube who goes by the name of Palmers FC, who visits football grounds making ‘On the Road’ vlogs, and it so happens he was at Brisbane Road that day so his video is definitely worth a watch. Incidentally, check out “Geography Man”, who is actually in the background of my photo above of Alfie outside the Coach and Horses.



Up the U’s
Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 17:09:45
Colchester United v Leyton Orient prediction logged
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #15
at 18:22 10 Nov 2020

Well, there’s a turn up for the books, the mighty U’s unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by lowly Marine AFC, four tiers below us in the league pyramid. These things happen, and we’ve done it to others on more than a few occasions, but the manner of the result on Saturday is what rankles the most. Virtually our strongest line-up available, but the complete lack of any urgency right from the outset was dreadful to see. Even as we reached squeaky bum time into the 2nd half, having drawn level, still we ponderously passed aimless triangles in midfield for far too long. Someone has to pay for that debacle, so let’s hope it’s the auld enemy Southend tonight in the Pointless Trophy…
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #15
at 18:22 10 Nov 2020

Well, there’s a turn up for the books, the mighty U’s unceremoniously dumped out of the FA Cup by lowly Marine AFC, four tiers below us in the league pyramid. These things happen, and we’ve done it to others on more than a few occasions, but the manner of the result on Saturday is what rankles the most. Virtually our strongest line-up available, but the complete lack of any urgency right from the outset was dreadful to see. Even as we reached squeaky bum time into the 2nd half, having drawn level, still we ponderously passed aimless triangles in midfield for far too long. Someone has to pay for that debacle, so let’s hope it’s the auld enemy Southend tonight in the Pointless Trophy…

Colchester United v Southend United
A brief history of time…




I’m afraid this will have to be a mercifully brief blog, as time has rather run away with me with work, and I have less than an hour to do this ahead of kick-off tonight. With so little time available, it’s not going to be much more than a crunching some numbers in the long and sometimes ‘tense’ relationship with our South Essex cousins. In that context, I was particularly pleased to find the programme cover photo above on the internet, given it was a match I was at and remember very well indeed.



History
Following our formation in 1937, there were a handful of non-competitive friendlies and such like against Southend, with the very first a 2-1 win for the U’s on 10th May 1939 at Layer Road in the Colchester Challenge Cup Final – no idea what that was about, never heard of that competition at all. Our paths didn’t cross in a competitive match until we were elected into the Football League South – the very first league match played out on 14th October 1950, back when Southend were playing at the Southend Stadium greyhound track. We lost 2-4, our goals scored by Turner and Curry, and in front of a crowd of 18,358! This remains the largest crowd for a match between the two sides.

Southend moved back to Roots Hall in 1955, originally being evicted when the site was designated for storage at the outbreak of the First World War, and according to my records (and Graeson’s) our first visit to Roots Hall was 11th April 1955. This conflicts with the font of all knowledge Wikipedia, which states Roots Hall wasn’t re-opened until August 1955, so I’m not sure which one is correct. However, if that April '55 date was our first match at Roots Hall, we lost that one 2-4 as well ☹.



Overall, we’ve played each other 79 times in various competitions, and as we’d probably expect, the WDL ratios are fairly even, with Southend victorious 33 times, the U’s 29 times, and 17 games drawn. Goals for and against are pretty even to, scored 118 and conceded 124.

Over the years, there have been one or two significant victories for the U’s. Our highest score was winning 5-2 at Roots Hall back in January 1985 (Adcock, and two each for Groves and Bowen), and our largest margin a 4-0 victory in November 1968 at Layer Road (Oliver, Simpson, Gibbs and Dyson). We’ve also won 4-1 twice (January 1972 and January 1986, the latter in the Associate Members Cup) and 4-2 once (October 1985).

The shoe has been on the other foot on a fair few occasions as well. Twice Southend have beaten the U’s 6-3 – in 1964 at Roots Hall, and depressingly at Layer Road in 1955. Twice they’ve beaten us 4-0, at Southend Stadium in 1953 and Roots Hall two years later, and there have been a handful of 4-1, 4-2 and even one 4-3 defeats as well. One of those 4-1 defeats back in November 1956 was our first meeting in the FA Cup, and to rub salt in the wounds, it was at Layer Road in front of 11,280 as well. Would that sting any more than losing to Marine AFC – probably, if I’m honest.



As for streaks, our longest streak for consecutive victories was five matches between November 1984 and February 1986, and with three draws either side of these victories, our longest undefeated streak is eight matches from April 1984 to October 1986. Southend United clearly liked playing the U’s in the early years, and for the first 15 matches they won eleven of them (and drew one). However, they never really exerted total dominance, and have never achieved more than three consecutive victories in a row. After those first 15 matches, the head-to-head record until quite recently very much favours the U’s.

…and finally
Just a brief comment on the Boxing Day 1989 match at Roots Hall (programme cover above). I don’t have this programme in my collection, but me and my brother-in-law were at the match. By the time we arrived, the police weren’t letting U’s fans into the away end, so we decided to take up seats in the main stand amongst the Southend support.

We weren’t wearing colours, so initially it wasn’t a problem, but it did become a bit tense once the U’s took the lead through Grainger in the 65th minute, and those around us started to suspect they’d been infiltrated. When English put us two up just four minutes later, we just couldn’t help ourselves I’m afraid 😊. To be fair, although there was some blue-rated ‘bantz’ going back and forth thereafter, no one actually did anything, and the stewards were content to leave us where we were.

You will all remember that this was the season we were relegated to the Conference, and I’m pretty certain Southend were promoted (possibly as champions?). It is somewhat ironic, given the current form of the Blues, that we also play each other on Boxing Day this season. What are the chances of history, in reverse, kind of repeating itself?

Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way
Oh what fun it is to see United win away!


Up the U’s
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #14
at 12:02 7 Nov 2020

Welcome to Lockdown #2, and as I write this blog, an as yet uncertain future with the orange loon threatening to refuse to hand over the keys to the White House and calling on all his white supremacist mates to rise up in arms. Moving on swiftly from chump to champ, Chairman Robbie has again addressed the U’s faithful, with another clear, concise statement on the current situation and how it may or may not affect Colchester United. I know in the past he hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think an awful lot of people are warming to him because of the leadership he has shown through this crisis, and long may it last!
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #14
at 11:49 7 Nov 2020

Welcome to Lockdown #2, and as I write this blog, an as yet uncertain future with the orange loon threatening to refuse to hand over the keys to the White House and calling on all his white supremacist mates to rise up in arms. Moving on swiftly from chump to champ, Chairman Robbie has again addressed the U’s faithful, with another clear, concise statement on the current situation and how it may or may not affect Colchester United. I know in the past he hasn’t been everyone’s cup of tea, but I do think an awful lot of people are warming to him because of the leadership he has shown through this crisis, and long may it last!

Blackpool v Colchester United
7th February 1948
FA Cup 5th Round
Attendance 29,500




As alluded to in previous blogs, Letters from Wiltshire #14 is a bit of a ‘special edition’ really, covering the U’s famous 1947/48 cup run all the way through to our match against then First Division Blackpool in the 5th Round, and was prepared by our very own PeterWrightsKnees. PWK actually pulled much of this together during the close season, and in discussion we decided that it would be most fitting to use it for our first FA Cup match this season (let’s face it, we might not get a second!). Hence, I couldn’t quite believe the coincidence that the random match selector for Letters from Wiltshire #13 also chose a game against Blackpool. With few, if any, still about who were actually at the game (PWK was only 18 months old himself), inevitably PWK has had to rely on the internet for much of his research.

Background
Colchester United Football Club was formed in 1937, briefly for a time playing alongside the amateur club Colchester Town at Layer Road. With the Second World War getting in the way, this was only our sixth season in the old Southern League, playing alongside some very familiar faces as well (Gillingham, Hereford United, Yeovil, Cheltenham, Gravesend & Northfleet etc.). The U’s were managed (as player manager) by Ted Fenton, who had been in charge since the start of the previous season, though was no stranger to Layer Rd having originally played for Colchester Town in the 30s as a teenager.

Ted Fenton had a long and distinguished playing career at West Ham before arriving at the U’s, and indeed was estimated to have played over 200 matches during World War II fixtures. As a result, he had numerous contacts throughout football, and in his first season at Layer Road assembled an impressive squad of 28 part-time professionals. Some had to be let go by the time the 1947/48 season started, but he had added wisely with players such as Bob Allen, Harry Bearryman and Vic Keeble (Keeble was signed for the princely sum of £10).

Whilst 1947/48 is rightly remembered for the FA Cup run, it shouldn’t be overlooked that it was quite a good league season as well, with the U’s eventually going on to finish 4th behind champions Merthyr Tydfil, Gillingham and Worcester City. As was somewhat ‘vogue’ back in the day, there were some impressive results as well – thumping victories against, for instance, Gloucester City (8-0), Exeter City Reserves (6-0), Gravesend & Northfleet and Dartford (both 6-1), Torquay United Reserves (5-0), and Bedford Town (5-1).

There were also one or two bizarrely inconsistent results as well – for instance, Cheltenham Town beat us both home and away in the league (winning 5-2 at Whaddon Road), but were smashed by the U’s 7-1 in the 5th Round of the Southern League Cup. The U’s actually went on to reach the final of the Southern League Cup that season, but because of fixture congestion, the final couldn’t be played until April 1949, a year later – we lost 5-0 at Merthyr Tydfil btw.

The Road to Blackpool Pier
4th Qualifying Rd: 15th Nov 1947 (attendance 10,396)
Colchester United 3 (Arthur Turner 11’; Bob Curry 34’, 65’) Chelmsford City 1 (McClelland 69’)

The U’s eased past fellow Southern League team and local rivals Chelmsford City in a very one-sided affair, with goals from Turner and a brace from Curry. By modern standards, we’d give our eye-teeth for a crowd of over 10k, but in truth it was actually a disappointment at the time, with 15,000 expected (and some in the press actually predicting 18,000).

1st Round: 29th Nov 1947 (attendance 8,574)
Colchester United 2 (Andy Brown ??; Bob Curry 80’) Banbury Spencer 1 (Tommy North 16’)

Compared to Chelmsford City, Banbury Spencer, a welfare club for a firm in Oxfordshire that specialised in surgical appliances, were made of sterner stuff, and pressed the U’s all the way. Records are unclear about the timing of Brown’s first goal, but for most of the game the factory team held the U’s 1-1 once Tommy North had equalised. We weren’t helped by missing Dennis Hillman in the line-up – his car broke down on the way to the match, and the replacement car that collected him then got a puncture, eventually reaching Layer Road just after kick-off. The roar that greeted Curry’s winner ten minutes from time was as much relief as celebration – Banbury Spencer had really pushed the U’s.

2nd Round: 13th Dec 1947 (attendance 10,642)
Colchester United 1 (Bob Curry 72’) Wrexham 0

Within sight of the possibility of a glamour tie against top level opponents, the 2nd Round was our first taste of league opposition, Wrexham, who were then in the Third Division North. In front of another bumper 10k+ crowd, the U’s took the game to Wrexham from the start. However, it would take until the 72nd minute for the U’s to take the lead, with Curry heading home from a sublime Arthur Turner cross.

The Essex County Standard report captured the moment beautifully, as Turner “…veers left and turns the ball right into the goalmouth with the dexterity of a spiv putting over a fast one on a gullible customer. Then a figure springs forward to meet the ball high up. It is goal getter Bob Curry and his perfect header sends the ball flying into the corner of the net far beyond Williams’s despairing reach”. The tension wasn’t over though, with Wrexham awarded a penalty a few minutes later as Wrexham’s star left-winger Tunnicliffe is brought down by Kettle in the box.

I will leave the Essex County Standard to pick it up from here.

Boothway then stepped forward and as he was in the act of kicking the ball from the ‘spot’ you could have heard the proverbial pin drop. What followed was incredible but true. Amid gasps of astonishment, he delivered the feeblest penalty kick I have ever witnessed in a quarter of a century of football watching. Whether he kicked the ground I do not know. But not only did the ball go straight to Wright, the Colchester goalkeeper, but he actually had to stoop and wait for it”.

There was one final twist in the tale, but fortunately no harm was done, as very late on another penalty was awarded, only this time to the U’s. Len Cater was unceremoniously flattened when racing into the box, and up stepped Turner for the spot-kick. He struck it well, but the Wrexham goalkeeper Williams was equal to the challenge, diving to the left to brilliantly keep it out. However, the U’s were still through to the promised land of the FA Cup 3rd Round.

3rd Round: 10th Jan 1948 (attendance 16,005)
Colchester United 1 (Bob Curry 70’) Huddersfield Town 0

Into the 3rd round, and a dream tie against First Division Huddersfield Town to whet the appetite. As you all know, back when we were formed in 1937, our blue and white stripes were courtesy of Huddersfield Town. Ted Davis, appointed as the first manager for Colchester United, was a former goalkeeper for the Terriers, and it was his Yorkshire contacts that enabled the U’s to be kitted out in the same strip. As a result of the clash on this day, both sides played in alternative strips – the U’s in a West Ham borrowed reserve strip of plain blue with white collars and cuffs, and Huddersfield in red shirts and black shorts. Ted Fenton later claimed he had never lost a West Ham match whilst wearing that kit.

Over 16,000 crammed into Layer Road to watch the spectacle, and this was no smash and grab raid, the U’s were in this game right from the start. Fenton, Bearryman and Kettle were snapping at the heels of the Huddersfield attack relentlessly, never giving them a moment to settle. Up front, Hillman gave what was reported as a “scintillating” display, and with Curry and Turner bamboozling the Huddersfield defence constantly, it was entirely deserved when Allen rifled in a free-kick which Huddersfield goalkeeper Hesford did well to get a hand to, but there was who else but Curry to steady himself and drill it home.

The final whistle promoted a spontaneous pitch invasion – for the first time in the history of English football, a non-league side had defeated top-flight opposition – and deservedly so too. Huddersfield Town manager George Stephenson said after the match “I am quite satisfied with the result. On the day’s play, the better side won. Yours is a wonderful achievement after so short a career as a professional club. It is a great day for your team to have licked a First Division side”.

4th Round: 24th Jan 1948 (attendance 17,048)
Colchester United 3 (Bob Curry 16’, 19’; Fred Cutting 47’) Bradford Park Avenue 2 (Billy Elliot 13’; George Ainsley 28’)




Into the 4th Round, and again the U’s were drawn at home, against Second Division side Bradford Park Avenue. The town, indeed probably much of the nation, were now firmly in the grip of cup fever following the exploits of the “giant-killers”, and over 17,000 squeezed into Layer Road for the match.

I would provide a summary of the Bradford Park Avenue match, but this British Movietone News clip does it far more eloquently than I, so enjoy…



The big match
And so non-league minnows Colchester United made it through to the 5th Round of the FA Cup, the first time a non-league side had achieved such a feat, to face mighty Blackpool. This was our first away fixture of the cup run, and whilst virtually the whole town would likely have travelled to the North West if they could, we were still in the post-war days of petrol rationing, and would be for two more years hence. Although over 3,000 supporters did make the journey, many of the planned coaches had to be cancelled because of fuel shortages.

Blackpool were entering into what could be described as the golden period in their history, under then manager Joe Smith, and were already established as a very strong First Division side – as would any team be who could boast both Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen in their starting line-up.



Media interest in the progress of non-league Colchester United had reached fever-pitch. In a world emerging from the devastation of the Second World War, there was a real appetite for these David against Goliath ‘against all odds’ fairy tales. I’ve already used this image before, but it’s worth sharing again a selection of cartoons from the national press which preceded the match.



Bearing in mind there were no substitutes back then, on the day the two sides lined up:


Graeson’s excellent www.coludata.co.uk website includes a transcript of the original match report from the Essex County Standard. It’s a gripping read, so is repeated here verbatim.

MATTHEWS MADE U’S FANS MARVEL – Plucky but outplayed
Most perfect of hosts is Stan Matthews, whether he is entertaining a football team at his hotel or a soccer crowd on the playing pitch. The day before the Cup-tie he was treating the “U’s” to eggs and bacon. On Saturday afternoon he cooked up something far less palatable for Colchester appetites. It was soccer a la Matthews, with plenty of sauce to flavour the dish. Grand football fare, but just a little too rich for Colchester stomachs after a diet of Yorkshire pudding at the expense of Huddersfield and Bradford.

Ted Fenton and his team-mates had stout hearts and loads of courage, not to mention a fair share of football skill. For 20 minutes in the first half – after being a goal down in four minutes – they really threw Blackpool right off their game with the speed of their tackling and their terrific team spirit. For a spell, it looked as if they might just conceivably bring off another Cup shock at Bloomfield Road.

But then class inevitably told its tale, and an electrifying five minutes which produced three goals immediately after the interval wrote finis to the Colchester Cup story. This Blackpool tidal wave completely submerged the United’s Wembley hopes and washed the sensation team of the season right back on to the Southern League bench.

Whether their epic Cup run will have supplied the Open Sesame to the Third Division remains to be seen. Although it is now a question of “back to normal”, the “U’s” have written an unforgettable chapter in the history of soccer and carved for themselves a niche in the hall of football fame. They have done great deeds at Layer Road, but neither their amazing Cup-fighting spirit nor the backing of their 3,000 rosetted supporters could enable them to cope with a side which restored one’s faith in First Division football.


GREAT DOUBLE ACT
Disappointed as were the vast contingent of “U’s” fans, they would not have missed seeing the match for anything. Blackpool, in Matthews and Mortensen, have undoubtedly the greatest double act in the football show business. The “Two Stanleys” put up a performance which made worthwhile even the tedious 270-mile-each-way journey.

Matthews proved he still top of the bill as the supreme wizard of dribble, and Mortensen is just about the fastest thing in football boots I have ever seen. The elder but extremely fit Stan bamboozled and danced his way past a Colchester defence which must have been fed up with the sight of him – when they saw him! Sometimes he ran rings round half-a-dozen defenders at a time and only a left-winger Len Cater seemed to have any success at all in trying to stop him. As for Mortensen, he made several bad misses in the first half, but those two goals within a minute almost directly after the change-over were breath-taking efforts which struck home like lightning.

Yet it was not a two-man triumph. Blackpool – apart from that 20-minute spell – gave a brilliant all-round exhibition of First Division football at its best. If there is a real weakness in their side it certainly wasn’t obvious in this match. For once the celebrated F-plan failed to work, although this game might have been charged with more sustained interest had Bob Curry succeeded in equalising in the 14th minute.


CURRY’S MISS
The leading-up move was typical of those which led to the downfall of Huddersfield and Bradford. The ball was pushed across to Turner, who drew the defence before slipping it forward for Curry to run on to it at full speed. The scheme worked like a charm and backs were left standing, but the Colchester captain flash ball narrowly past the far upright with only the keeper to beat. It was that United’s best chance of the match, and Bob was just unlucky.

A switch of wing-halves between Bearryman and Brown was revealed as part of the plan to deal with the Matthews– Mortensen menace, but within a few minutes it had collapsed. A game which was played in a perpetual drizzle and a pitch which quickly churned up, started with a goal at that stage headed by Munro from a Matthews corner, re-taken because a Press cameraman was in the way. It seemed that Wright should have saved the high dropping ball into the far top corner of the net, but his delayed-action one-handed punch was ineffective.

The “U’s” fought back with great spirit for the next 20 minutes, and had the Blackpool defence worried. On one occasion Curry came within an ace of scoring, Robinson diving desperately to hold a fast grounder travelling for the far corner of the net. Then Blackpool again pierced the United defence after 30 minutes when, after nearly every forward had had a shot block, Macintosh took a square pass and hit the ball first time hard and low beyond Wright’s reach.

Colchester were unlucky to be two down at the interval, and even Blackpool fans were full of praise for the display up to that point.


THE DECISIVE PHASE
After the change of ends came three successive shocks in five minutes which put Colchester right out of the Cup and completely out of the picture. Within two minutes, Mortensen beat three men in a close dribble from near the touch-line towards goal, and Wright never saw the shot which streaked into the far corner of the net. A minute later he added another following a free-kick by Johnston, a superlative half-back, who completed a wonderful England triangle which provided a soccer display that will live long in the memories of those who witnessed it. The third goal in those drama-packed five minutes was scored by McIntosh from a neat pass by Dick.

A little later Blackpool should have had a penalty when Matthews beat man after man in an astounding dribble before being brought down by Bearryman as he was going through the Colchester defence like a knife through butter. I am satisfied that he was fouled several yards inside the area, but the referee awarded a free-kick right on the line and this was cleared. The last thrill of the match came five minutes from the end when Munro centred and Wright was temporarily knocked out in diving fearlessly at the feet of Dick just as the inside-left shot for goal.

Hero of the Colchester defence was “Digger” Kettle, who proved more than a match for Munro, much to the obvious annoyance of the former Scottish international left-winger. The United attack was disrupted because the inside forwards and even at times the wingers had to fall back on the defence. The result was that Turner was often left to plough a lonely furrow, though both Hillman and Cater had occasional brilliant raids which spelled danger. On the day’s play, Hillman was Colchester’s No 1 attacker and Kettle their best defender.

If there was any weak link in the Blackpool defence – and I don’t think there was – it was Stuart at left-back, but Hayward was much more of an obstacle than expected, and Johnston and Kelly were delightful wing-halves, both in defence and attack.


And thus our brave and record-breaking FA Cup run came to an end at Blackpool in the 5th Round.

Blackpool 5 (Alex Munro 4'; Jimmy McIntosh 30', 50’; Stan Mortensen 47', 48’) Colchester United 0

The Essex County Standard also provided various other titbits of information, which all add colour and context to what must have been a truly magnificent day.

3,000 COLCHESTER FANS TOOK BLACKPOOL BY STORM
Rosettes, Bells, Rattles, Banners
if Blackpool FC was not staggered by the “U’s” attack, Blackpool itself was shattered as 3,000 Colchester fans poured into the town from dawn to midday on Saturday. Rattles, bells, bugles and the enthusiasm of the “blue and whites” so subdued Blackpool that shopkeepers, waitresses and barmaids sported the United’s colours and many people declared their allegiance to the “gallant little oysterman”. Blackpool agreed. “Not since the pre-war illuminations have we had such an invasion”.

As Colchester United trotted on to the field, they saw large patches of blue and white in the 30,000 crowd and heard a roar which equalled that from the Blackpool crows. Said Ted Fenton afterwards, “I had a choking feeling when I saw the blue and white all over the ground. We can’t go wrong as a club with supporters like that.”


BLUE AND WHITE EVERYWHERE
Before dawn broke the first Colchester contingent arrived. A relief train brought more. Then the buses poured in until blue and white was seen everywhere in Blackpool’s streets. Throughout Friday night, by train, bus, car and even aeroplane, “U’s” supporters were travelling north. They left Colchester amid unparalleled scenes of enthusiasm.

Rosetted, bell-clanging crowds descended on North Station on Friday evening. Over 100 fans had gone from the station in the afternoon, but the stream quickened as the evening wore on. Benham’s contingent were complete with a 20-ft banner, on which the famous “Up The United” war-cry was painted. Bells, rattles and the rousing cheers of the happy fans vied with the engine whistles in a pandemonium of sound.


60 WERE LUCKY
Disappointed fans who had reserved seats on the 15 Supporters’ Club coaches which were cancelled mingled with the crowd at Sheepen Road to see their more fortunate comrades start their 280-mile trip. The Mayor (Mr L E Dansie) was there to wish the voyagers good luck. Cyril Walker took along his accordion and, with the “Umbrella Man”, soon had the crowd singing the now-famous song of victory “Up the U’s”. Rattles were waved, bells rung, and one after the other the 11 coaches glided away on their all-night trip.

Along the route as far as Halstead groups gathered to cheer and shout “Up the U’s” as the convoy moved on its 13-hour journey. Old couples waved from lamp-lit rooms, children cheered, and villagers came out of their “locals” to raise their glasses and shout “Good Luck.”


ONLY ONE BOXTED PLANE
Although it was anticipated that half-a-dozen ‘planes would take off from Boxted aerodrome on Saturday morning only one, in fact, did so. This was piloted by Mr Mike Murayda, ex-USAAF officer, now residing in Colchester, who flew from Boxted during the war. Accompanying him were Mr B Woolf, the well-known businessman, Mr K J Pecina and Mrs D G Woolcombe, of Colchester.

Other flashes of the great day:-

The Man Who Wasn’t’ There – One man who did not see the match was 57-year-old Mr John James Cook, a bus proprietor of Long Road, Lawford. On his way to Blackpool by bus he collapsed, received head injuries and had to be taken to hospital.

Curry Gets The Ball – After the match the two teams were entertained by the Mayor of Blackpool. Bob Curry, the United captain, was presented with the ball.

Hotel Coach “Ditched” – A coach conveying a party from the Salisbury Hotel, Colchester, skidded on the icy road into a ditch, but no one was injured.


“U’s” £2,500 SHARE OF CUP “GATES”
Colchester United’s total share of the FA Cup-tie “gates” after the Blackpool match, is in the vicinity of £2,500. From this figure, of course, has to be deducted wages and other expenses. For example, the actual proceeds of the Huddersfield match amounted to between £1,100 and £1,200, but after expenses had been deducted the Colchester club’s 50-50 share was about £400. The attendance at the Blackpool match was 29,500 and the receipts amounted to £3,200.

The wrap-up
Following all the attention gained from our cup run, Ted Fenton became a much sought-after manager. It therefore came as no surprise when he was offered the role of assistant manager back at his first love and old club West Ham United. It also came as no surprise that this was something he simply couldn’t say no to, and he left the U’s during the summer of 1948.

We boast about the U's being the first non-league club to beat a first division club when overcoming Huddersfield in the 3rd round, but we sometimes also forget that, in that cup run, we also became the first non-league club to get to the 5th round of the FA Cup. It was equalled by Yeovil Town the following season (1948/49), but it took until 2016/17 for that record to finally be broken, when Lincoln City made it into the quarter-final.

Blackpool would go on to reach the FA Cup final, losing 2-4 to Manchester United after taking a 2-1 lead. As for the U’s, as a result of the cup run, we were awarded a bye straight through to the FA Cup 1st Round the following season, where we faced Reading in front of a record attendance of 19,072, in a match that was abandoned because of fog during the first half (we lost the rearranged fixture).

Colchester United would eventually receive their just reward for their exploits, promoted into the Third Division South in 1950.

And the rest, as they say, is history…

Up the U’s
Forum
Thread
Latest statement from Robbie...
at 18:25 5 Nov 2020

...and another clear positive statement keeping us up to date with the facts, and again interspersed with some wry humour. Love his 4-3-3 comment particularly

https://www.cu-fc.com/news/2020/november/club-statement/
Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 18:23:27
Colchester United v Leyton Orient prediction logged
Prediction
Prediction Logged by at 17:49:29
Colchester United v Stevenage prediction logged
Blog
Letters from Wiltshire #13
at 12:59 3 Nov 2020

2020 – the year that just keeps on giving. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the government has announced another lockdown, starting this Thursday and lasting for at least four weeks. The implied threat is there, behave this time, or in the words of the late great Alan Rickman “Christmas is cancelled”. When I read in my local press the police had to break up a Bristol rave this weekend with over 700 revellers in attendance, I fear for the worst. For now, ‘elite’ football is unaffected, which I assume includes the FA Cup next weekend as an ‘elite’ competition, even if non-elite teams like our opponents Marine FC are taking part? As for the future, I personally think now that it is unlikely we’ll see fans back in stadia this season, though I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that…
Forum
Thread
Letters from Wiltshire #13
at 12:59 3 Nov 2020

2020 – the year that just keeps on giving. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the government has announced another lockdown, starting this Thursday and lasting for at least four weeks. The implied threat is there, behave this time, or in the words of the late great Alan Rickman “Christmas is cancelled”. When I read in my local press the police had to break up a Bristol rave this weekend with over 700 revellers in attendance, I fear for the worst. For now, ‘elite’ football is unaffected, which I assume includes the FA Cup next weekend as an ‘elite’ competition, even if non-elite teams like our opponents Marine FC are taking part? As for the future, I personally think now that it is unlikely we’ll see fans back in stadia this season, though I sincerely hope I’m wrong about that…

Colchester United v Blackpool
Saturday 8th August 2015
Sky Bet League 1 (Tier 3)
Attendance 4,438




The latest in the Letters from Wiltshire series, and we reach unlucky #13. No one is quite sure when the no. 13 became associated with bad luck – some believe the origin is biblical, with Judas being the 13th apostle at the Last Supper. In Norse mythology there is a similar theme, with a feast for the gods disrupted by Loki as the 13th guest, ending up with the world apparently plunged into darkness. In more recent times, the Tarot “Death” card is the 13th major arcana card in most traditional decks, though this of course could be a construct precisely because the no. 13 had already attracted a reputation for bad luck (though in truth, the Death card is more generally associated with major change in someone’s life, not specifically death). Whatever, and as I don’t have a programme for the match selected, let’s keep the supernatural mumbo-jumbo going with my Halloween pumpkin commentary on 2020.



I’ve noticed on a number of occasions that the random match selector appears to be anything but random, and today is certainly no exception. I won’t go into detail now, all will become clear in Letters from Wiltshire #14. However, before we get to the opening day of the 2015/16 season, and our match at home to Blackpool, here’s a brief run-down on Tuesday’s opponents Stevenage.

All you need to know about Stigenace
…is how Stevenage was recorded in the Domesday Book, translated as roughly “place at the stiff oak”. So, despite it being widely associated with the post-war boom in ‘New Towns’ (it was the first to be designated as such in 1946 under the New Towns Act), as a place it had been around for quite some time before that. Albeit they were very modest beginnings, and prior to the New Town expansion, it was little more than a village stopover on the Great North Road.

Although developed as a New Town with lofty and quite progressive ambitions – pre-planned autonomous residential sectors, a pedestrianised town centre, designated cycleways to keep bikes and vehicles apart, industrial sectors etc., inevitably the first to be sacrificed at this particular design altar were character and individuality. My first, and mercifully brief interaction with Stevenage was getting dropped there after the 1979 Knebworth Festival (Led Zeppelin etc.) on my hitch-hike back to Colchester.

As for football, the original town side was Stevenage Athletic, formed in 1968 playing at Broadhall Way, but going bust in 1976. Stevenage Football Club (originally Stevenage Borough FC) were founded in the same year, to fill the void left by the demise of Athletic. They’d originally planned to continue playing at Broadhall Way, but the stadium lease-holder (and ex-chairman of Stevenage Athletic) had other plans, and dug a trench right across the pitch to prevent it being used for football. Stevenage ended up playing their early years on a roped-off pitch at the local King George V playing fields, eventually returning to Broadhall Way in 1980.

After several decades in various lower divisions, including the United Counties League, Isthmian League and eventually the Conference, Stevenage were eventually promoted into the Football League for the start of the 2010/11 season. They’d won the Conference back in 1996 as well but were denied promotion because Broadhall Way wasn’t considered fit for league football. As a result, our paths didn’t first cross until Boxing Day 2011, their second season in the football league.



For the U’s, this was a very inauspicious occasion, getting battered 6-1 at home! However, since that low-point our record against Stevenage is particularly good, winning nine and drawing three of our 15 matches (14 in the league, and once in the FA Trophy) – though I’m sure most of us still remember the Kurtis Guthrie game for all the wrong reasons. Being relatively close geographically, aside from Guthrie there have been many who have turned out for both sides over the years, not least Teddy Sheringham of all people. Obviously this includes last season’s captain Luke Prosser, and it is a genuine shame that we can’t be there to welcome him back with a well-earned ovation.

Back to it
And so back to the opening day of the 2015/16 season. Following the euphoria of the final day of the previous season, avoiding relegation by the skin of our teeth with that thrilling victory over Preston North End, I think it’s fair to say there was a degree of optimism about the place. Okay, everyone could see the multiple deficiencies that needed fixing to avoid being in that situation again, but there was hope that we would, and with some shrewd signings which showed promise, perhaps the future was looking bright?



We drove over nice and early, to give time for me and Alfie to call in and see Granny for a quick lunch, before parking up at the park’n’ride. It was certainly and literally very bright that day, in fact it was scorching bloody hot! Taking advantage of the U11s for free offer, I had decided that me and Alfie would go in the East Stand family enclosure for the afternoon. On reflection, with the blazing hot sun in our face all afternoon, this wasn’t to be the smartest of moves, but I can’t deny it was a thoroughly beautiful day in all other respects. As a result, on more than one occasion I found myself gazing with envy at the welcoming shade of the South Stand…



”They’re changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace…”
There had been a lot of close-season transfer and loan activity, so it didn’t really come as much of a surprise that no less than six of the U’s that day would be making their debuts – Darren Ambrose, Joe Edwards, Elliott Parish, Matt Briggs and Richard Brindley from the start (the latter two for their second spell at the club), and Kane Vincent-Young coming on as a second half substitute.

The U’s therefore lined up:

33..Elliot Parish
3….Matthew Briggs (Kane Vincent-Young 79’)
4….Joe Edwards
5….Alex Wynter
8….Alex Gilbey
9….Chris Porter (captain; Macauley Bonne ‘79)
10..George Moncur
11..Gavin Massey
18..Tom Eastman
24..Richard Brindley
28..Darren Ambrose (Dion Sembie-Ferris 82’)

Blackpool had been through a difficult 2014/15 campaign, with their new manager José Riga sacked after just 14 league games in charge, the club already five points adrift at the bottom of the Championship. His replacement, Lee Clark, couldn’t do much to improve their plight, and they were eventually relegated still bottom of the league, a massive 20 points from safety. Needless to say, Clark didn’t escape the baleful attention of chairman Karl Oyston, so the Tangerines arrived in Essex for the start of the 2015/16 season under new manager Neil McDonald. That being said, and even though in some disarray off the pitch, as a former Championship side they were inevitably considered by some to be one of the promotion favourites.

In the early stages Blackpool certainly looked worthy of that billing, spurning two gilt-edged open goal chances in the first five minutes. Still, we weathered that storm and had just about managed to steady the ship and get back into the game…when inevitably we conceded the first. The exotically named Bright Osayi Samuel used his pace to devastating effect, breaking through the U’s lines into the penalty box, before pinging a cross virtually through Parish to give Mark Cullen the simplest of tap-ins from less than a yard out. Though left cruelly exposed by our paper-thin defence, there was a question mark as to whether Parish should have got a firmer hand on the pass, but perhaps I’m being overly harsh.

Given we were gaining a foothold in the match, this was a massive setback, and in truth a worrying moment too, given we could have realistically been 3-0 down at that stage. However, within just four minutes were we back on level terms, with Gilbey smashing in an unstoppable shot from outside the area, right into the top corner of Colin Doyle’s goal. A stunning strike that would have featured prominently in Sunday’s media had it been scored in the Premier League.

Thereafter, the remainder of the first half was fairly even, with both sides creating chances, particularly Chris Porter with a header which was only inches wide on the half hour mark. A minute or so from the break, Massey really should have put the U’s 2-1 ahead when through on goal – but Doyle stood up to the challenge and managed to save the effort. We were left to rue the missed opportunity in injury time, when that man Cullen made an inch of room for himself on the edge of the box and drilled home through a forest of legs.

Half-time, the U’s were 2-1 down, me and Alfie were baked to perfection, and certainly ready for the welcome shade of the concourse and a couple of bottles of water.

Refreshed and ready for another grilling, we returned to our seats to watch an equally revitalised U’s come out much the stronger for the second half. Barely ten or so minutes later, we were again level. Massey, who had been terrorising the left back for Blackpool, outpaced him down the wing, and crossed perfectly for debutant Darren Ambrose to calmly side-foot home from five yards out. Nothing more than we deserved at that stage, and although Blackpool always carried a threat, I was hopeful we’d press on and actually win the game. I think Blackpool manager Neil McDonald thought the same, bringing on Jose Miguel Cubero immediately, and Kwame Thomas shortly after, to try and shore things up and hold on to the point.

George Moncur went very close after that, shooting straight at Doyle following yet another free-flowing fast-paced U’s break midway through the second half. Almost straight after Massey then mugged Jose Cubero whilst dawdling in possession in his own half to race through on goal, only to be denied (again!) by a brave challenge from Doyle to prevent what should have been the winner. Doyle injured his left arm in the process and had to be McDonald’s last substitution. No one should celebrate a player going off injured, but in the context of his performance to date, I’ll admit I wasn’t sorry to see the back of Doyle that afternoon.

With just eleven minutes to go, Tony Humes made a double-substitution, bringing on Macca Bonne and new lad Kane Vincent-Young for Porter and Briggs, and a few minutes later Dion Sembie-Ferris for the tired legs of goal-scorer Ambrose. However, try as we might, Blackpool held on, and the U’s couldn’t add to their tally and ultimately win a game that on balance they probably deserved to.

Colchester United 2 (Alex Gilbey 22’; Darren Ambrose 56’) Blackpool 2 (Mark Cullen 18’, 45’)

At the time, I thought that it wasn’t necessarily a poor result against a team I believed would do well that season. With the benefit of hindsight, it really wasn’t that good a start, and after just six games we were in the relegation zone without a win and just four points to show for our troubles. Four league wins on the bounce after that gave hope that Tony Humes had turned things around, but as we entered October that hope turned to utter despair, as we started a dreadful run of form.



Towards the end of November, and with seven defeats from nine matches, Robbie Cowling had seen enough and Tony Humes was relieved of his duties. We then entered the ‘poisoned chalice’ phase of the season, with no one seemingly wanting the manager’s job. Hall and McGreal gave it a go as an interim duo for about a week, then Wayne Brown as caretaker for most of December, Kevin Keen also as caretaker until our inevitable relegation was confirmed with two matches to go, and David Wright as caretaker for the penultimate game. McGreal was appointed ahead of the final match of the season but didn’t take up his position until the season had ended, so for our final match we were managed by McGreal’s assistant Steve Ball.

We must have spent a fortunate in monogrammed manager attire that season…

Oh, and promotion favourites Blackpool were almost as inept as we were, and likewise relegated alongside Doncaster Rovers and Crewe Alexandra.



Up the U’s
Please log in to use all the site's facilities

wessex_exile


Site Scores

Forum Votes: 22
Comment Votes: 0
Prediction League: 0
TOTAL: 22
About Us Contact Us Terms & Conditions Privacy Cookies Advertising
© FansNetwork 2020