|When Saturday Comes #10|
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 17th Oct 2021 14:32
So here we are again, still looking for that elusive first home league win of the season, only this time against high-flying (and recently non-league) Harrogate Town. That isn’t meant to be in any way disrespectful for Harrogate Town, they should be applauded for what they have achieved so far, but it is nevertheless a measure of how far our stock has fallen in recent years that we find ourselves in this situation. I have no doubt that today will be a difficult game, but it’ll be even more so if Hayden Mullins doesn’t take anything from recent performances and realise that what he’s trying just doesn’t seem to be working – he simply has to change things around. Whether he will or not remains to be seen – maybe he will, maybe won’t and the old guard will finally come good? I guess we’ll know one way or another by 5pm.
[b]Sir David Anthony Andrew Amess
26 March 1952 – 15 October 2021
Rest in Peace[/b]
[b]…will play no. 12, Colchester United[/b]
First off, regardless of who we are playing, the game in November will be the U’s 197th in the competition, so with a modest cup run (maybe including a replay along the way), we have a half-decent chance of reaching our 200th FA Cup game milestone this season. Yeah right, who am I kidding, but we can but hope I suppose.
Our very first FA Cup game was on 12th November 1938, with a 4th Qualifying Round 4-1 victory over Ilford at Layer Road. We’ve appeared in the 4th Qualifying Round seven times including that match, and our only defeats (and therefore the only seasons where we haven’t made the 1st round proper) against Wisbech in 1945 and Wealdstone in 1949. Like our dear neighbours Southend today, the only recent appearance in the 4th Qualifying Round was back in 1991 during our second season in the Conference, a hurdle we negotiated comfortably thrashing Burton Albion 5-0 at Layer Road.
Our most frequent opponents in the FA Cup are Gillingham and Bournemouth, who we have both played seven times. However, those Bournemouth stats do include three matches in the 1977/78 FA Cup 1st Round, finally overcoming them 4-1 in a second replay at neutral Vicarage Road. Other common opponents include usual suspects Reading, Torquay and Brentford (all six times), though Sheffield United is an interesting addition at no. 6 in the list.
Before we get into some of the pitfalls and banana skins we’ve come a cropper on over the years, it’s worth bearing in mind that despite what seems to be a never-ending catalogue of failure in the FA Cup in recent years, our worst run of 1st Round exits is (only) five seasons in a row, something we’ve only suffered from 1953-57, 1998-2002 and 2016-2020. Both of the first two came to an end with impressive cup runs (losing to Arsenal in a 4th Round replay and Sheffield United in the 5th Round respectively), so fingers-crossed the patter continues this season.
Non-league giant-killers in our past include Wisbech (1957), Leatherhead and Dover Athletic in rapid succession (1974 and 1975), Wycombe Wanderers and the real start of the rivalry (1985), Sutton United (1993), Gravesend & Northfleet (1995), Hereford United (1997) and of course Bedlington Terriers (1998). Yep, the 90s in particular was not a good decade for the U’s in the FA Cup. In more recent years there has of course been Chelmsford City in 2012, Oxford City in 2017 and most recently AFC Marine last November.
From a U’s perspective, there are some interesting names in today’s 4th Qualifying Round that might be in the bag tomorrow. Marine v Wrexham (Ball 49) has already been highlighted by [b]mfc_cufc[/b], pitching Parky and big money Wrexham against our victor’s last season. York City (Ball 55) knocked the U’s out in a 1st Round replay back in 2001, a game that several of us were in attendance for. Kettering Town (Ball 56) would make for a lively match bringing back memories of some memorable battles on and off the pitch during our Conference years, as would amalgamated club Hayes & Yeading United (Ball 65).
For the prospect of a local derby match, there is Ebbsfleet United (Ball 63), Chelmsford City (Ball 70), Dagenham and Redbridge (Ball 71), AFC Sudbury (Ball 72), Barnet or Boreham Wood (Ball 74), Bowers & Pitsea (Ball 77), and dear old Southend United (Ball 80), provided of course they can overcome Chertsey Town – no guarantee there given their present form. Mind you, if we’d rather avoid another non-league defeat, there is of course auld rivals Wycombe Wanderers (Ball 48), though I fear that draw would probably bring any hopes of a cup run crashing to the floor. But, if we’re to go about this the hard way, what better way to kick it off with several thousand of the faithful at Portman Road to knock out Ipswich Town (Ball 22)?
[b]Match of the Day
Remembering a time when the FA Cup wasn’t a barren source of entertainment for the long-suffering U’s support, [i]When Saturday Comes[/i] this week goes back to our last decent run in the competition in 2015/16. In the league things weren’t going well at all, with a run of nine consecutive defeats finally brought to an end with a battling point away at Oldham the previous weekend. However, the FA Cup offered a glimmer of hope through this dreadful run, starting with an emphatic 6-2 victory at Wealdstone (yes, with four for Macca Bonne [b]Gerry[/b] and [b]Durham[/b] 😊).
The second round was a considerably less emphatic affair, narrowly squeezing 3-2 past non-league Altrincham, reliant on a 94th minute winner from Harriott. Still, nobody wins a knock-out competition on goal difference, it’s all about the victory, and on to a modestly decent third round draw at home to Championship Charlton Athletic. Not the big name draw we’d all hoped for, but a relatively local well-supported opponent offering the possibility of a decent attendance to swell the coffers (and who knows, maybe even a win bonus as well?).
I was living in Warminster at the time, so it was a fairly straightforward train journey over for me and Alfie, helped of course by the shuttle buses which were still in operation back then (easy [b]Noah[/b] 😊). I admit I was expecting to bump into more Charlton fans on our way through London (including a quick drink at Hamilton Hall), given they’d sold nearly 2,000 tickets, but the relative few I did meet were friendly enough and happy to chat. I didn’t get a programme for this game, but do still have Alfie’s print at home e-ticket for the game.
The U’s lined up:
That dreadful run of league form had led to the removal of Tony Humes as manager late in November, after which it had been a virtual cast of thousands temporarily taking over, starting with Richard Hall and John McGreal as an interim appointment, then Wayne Brown as caretaker, and finally Kevin Keen from 21st December. Although subsequent home defeats to Southend and away at Gillingham over Christmas hadn’t exactly been a good start, Keen had finally arrested the calamitous run of defeats with that draw at Oldham. On balance, given Charlton were having an equally poor season in the Championship, and with perhaps the green shots of hope sprouting under new manager Kevin Keen, I was hopeful we could get through this match and hopefully get the big name draw we all wanted in the 4th Round.
Incidentally, no relation, but one of Kevin Keen’s first signings was Jake Kean on loan from Norwich City, and who started today in goal for his debut. Taking up our seats right at the back of the South Stand, and with the floodlights already gleaming through the approaching gloom, it was a lovely chilly autumnal day for a game of football. Charlton had nearly filled the North Stand, and the S1 choir to our right were also in good voice.
Considering both sides were struggling at the wrong ends of their leagues, the match was a pretty decent fast-paced game of football. The U’s started particularly brightly, playing a very fast almost counter-attacking game which time and time again seemed to catch the Addicks defence flat-footed. Rampaging forward, Moncur, Sordell, Massey, Gilbey and Porter were combining well with some neat moves, with both Porter and Sordell going close in the first 20 minutes. Periodically, Charlton did have to remind us that despite current form, they were still a Championship side, but without seriously testing Kean in goal.
Just before the half hour mark the U’s got the break-through their play deserved, albeit thanks to a fortuitous deflection which put the ball perfectly in the path of Marvellous Marvin, who laid a slide-rule pass through to Moncur, who made no mistake cutting inside to curl a beauty past Naby Sarr in the Charlton goal. It really was no more than the U’s deserved, but I must admit I was surprised that Moncur wasn’t booked for his somewhat antagonistic celebrations right in front of the travelling Charlton fans. Charlton’s hopes weren’t helped ten minutes later with captain Jordan Cousins going off injured.
Charlton still posed a threat mind you, and after a weak punch from Kean, only a lucky deflection off the inside of Brindley’s foot onto the post prevented Ceballos from equalising. With less than five minutes to half-time they would regret not taking that chance too. Moncur picked up the ball deep in our own half and marauding forward against a Charlton defence seemingly content just to back off and allow it, he placed a beautiful pass through to Sordell, who made no mistake with his one-on-one against Sarr. As an ex-Addick, it would appear Sordell was equally keen to remind Charlton supporters how happy he was.
Although we should have been home and hosed for a 2-0 lead at half-time, following a veritable game of ping-pong in the U’s penalty area, it took a double save from Kean to prevent Charlton snatching a consolation before the break – though if I’m honest, Kean was in part responsible for us being in that predicament in the first place.
[b]Half-time, and time for Alfie to discover the delights of pie![/b]
The second half didn’t quite live up to what was probably the best half of football the U’s had played all season, with the U’s for the most part seemingly happier to just keep a below par Charlton attack at bay. With just over 20 minutes of the half gone, Porter charged down a weak clearance allowing Moncur to steal in on the rebound, only to be denied by the outstretched leg of Nick Pope. With the clock running down, Keen made a series of tactical substitutions, bring on Joe Edwards, Macca Bonne and finally KVY, and it was Bonne who really should have put the U’s 3-0 up, only to skew his chipped effort well wide of goal.
Deep into injury-time, and with those disgruntled Charlton fans who hadn’t already left gathering at the exit points, finally they saw their consolation goal. A nice cross in from the U’s left found the exotically named Reza Ghoochannejhad betwixt and between Tom Eastman and Alex Wynter, and he made no mistake with a powerful header past Kean. Fortunately, it was just a consolation, and the U’s comfortably held out for a morale-boosting victory, and into the hat for the 4th Round draw.
[b]Colchester United 2 (George Moncur 28’; Marvin Sordell 41’) v Charlton Athletic 1 (Reza Ghoochannejhad 90+2’))[/b]
Finally, the FA Cup draw was kind to the U’s, pitching us against Premier League giants Tottenham Hotspur in the 4th Round. A full house saw Spurs ease comfortably through 4-1, but our cause really wasn’t helped by losing both centre-backs Tom Eastman and Alex Wynter when they collided with each other – ouch!
Spurs would eventually go out in the 5th Round, with the FA Cup won by Manchester United after extra-time against Crystal Palace – by a curious coincidence, the very same three Premier League opponents in our 2019 League Cup run. In the league, neither Colchester United nor Charlton Athletic could escape the inevitable, both relegated at the end of the season, with our manager Keen not even waiting until the end of the season, departing as soon as our relegation was mathematically confirmed.
The highlights of this one are still on YouTube, so for any of you that have forgotten what seeing the U’s score and win at home looks like…
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When Saturday Comes #13 by wessex_exile
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