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When Saturday Comes #35
Written by wessex_exile on Sunday, 24th Apr 2022 15:31

[i]When Saturday Comes[/i] and the U’s have already given us a fantastic start to the weekend, with a stirring and well-deserved 2-1 victory at promotion-chasing Newport County. Yes, the Exiles had lost the previous three at home and are looking like they are going to bottle their chance for the play-offs, and yes with the U’s now safe technically we had little to play for, but don’t take anything away from this performance. If Wayne Brown is still being ‘interviewed’ for the full-time role as Colchester United manager, then last night was the equivalent of having an excellent incisive question of your own lined up for the interview panel.

[b]© Huw Evans Picture Agency[/b]

With his 8th of the season, Noah Chilvers is rapidly becoming hot property for the U’s, and I have no doubt will be the subject of considerable interest during the summer. Likewise for Shamal George I’m sure, though fortunately we can activate a one-year contract extension clause to ensure if anyone else wants him, they’re going to have to pay. I’m also delighted for Big John Akinde, finally off the mark with a deft backheel flick to divert Freddie’s effort into the net, and then picking out Chilvers with a defence-unlocking slide rule assist for the second.

The 3pts moves the U’s for now up to the heady heights of 15th – if you’re wondering, the last time we were here or higher in the league was 10th September after our 3-2 victory at Barrow. No doubt results this afternoon will whittle away that position, so enjoy it while you can. The 3pts also finally took the U’s past that magical 50-point mark, though I stand by my previous assertion, I reckon 40 points is going to be the safety mark this season. This afternoon, if Oldham are beaten at Boundary Park by play-off chasing Salford City, and both Barrow and Stevenage win their home matches, the Latics will be relegated alongside lowly Scunthorpe. At the top, although FGR are clearly already promoted given their significant goal difference advantage over leading play-off contender Northampton – who have three games left and are 9pts behind – they will be confirmed as promoted with just a point at Bristol Rovers.

Ukrainian forces continue to defend the shattered remains of Sea of Azov port Mariupol against almost overwhelming odds. Certainly, eventually the city must be taken, but at what cost for the Russian aggressors? A humanitarian corridor to evacuate those civilians who haven’t already got out, or been killed in the fighting, is planned to be established today. Previous efforts have failed, often with Russian military action claimed as the reason. Of minimal significance to the embattled people of Ukraine, the UK is facing a cooking oil shortage due to a disruption in Ukrainian exports. Some supermarket chains are already rationing sales to just two or three items per customer – like that’s not going to encourage panic-buying at all.

Kate and Gerry McCann have welcomed the news that a German man has been formally identified by Portuguese authorities as a suspect in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine, citing the man as an “[i]arguido[/i]” – a Portuguese legal term usually translated as “named suspect”, “formal suspect” or “person of interest”. Although the authorities did not name the man, it is known he is Christian Brueckner, a 44-year old convicted rapist. Portugal’s statute of limitations for crimes that carry a maximum sentence of 10 years or more imprisonment is 15 years, and the 15th anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance is the 3rd of May this year. This may be a factor in why the Portuguese authorities have made this move now.

After the massive spike in Covid infection rates through January and February, with a secondary spike in March, finally the infection rates are falling back towards where they were during the second lockdown. We’re not out of this yet, and the death toll is still around 250 people per day, but surely, hopefully, now an end to this is in sight? Mind you, we’ve all said that a few times before, so fingers firmly crossed for now.

[b]U’s World[/b]
Apart from the excellent result last night for the U’s, the club are also running their annual End of Season Player awards. Fans can vote for Official Player of the Season, Young Player of the Season and Goal of the Season here: Without wishing to influence anyone’s voting intentions, I’ve gone for Skuse, Chilvers and Tchamadeu, but in fairness there’s a lot of excellent competition in all three categories.

It's also fantastic news that Junior Tchamadeu has been nominated and shortlisted for the EFL League Two [i]Apprentice of the Year[/i] award. He is alongside Stevenage’s Alex Aitken and Rochdale’s Ethan Brierley, and even if he doesn’t win, it’s still a fantastic achievement to be one of the three short-listed. The EFL awards ceremony can be watched live and for free on the Sky Sports app, streaming live from the Grosvenor House Hotel in London from 7pm onwards tomorrow night.

And finally…as has already been discussed on the messageboard, following a three-year partnership, Texo’s sponsorship deal of the U’s home shirts will conclude at the end of this season. It has been announced that the Workhorse Group, already sponsors of our away shirts, will now pick up sponsorship of the home shirts as well. With Robbie having already confirmed that we return to blue and white stripes next season, this has led to speculation that with the same sponsor for home and away shirts, the U’s might revert to default blue and white stripes for all matches, only relying on the away shirt as a clash kit. That remains to be seen, but I doubt there’d be many (any?) objections if they do.

[b]Stat attack[/b]
The weekend stat attack seems a tad pointless, given we’ve already played our weekend fixture last night, so how about this. It’s always good to have a goal in life, so why not this season, wouldn’t it be good if at the very least we could improve on last season’s performance, finishing 20th on 51 points and with a -17 goal difference? So right now we’re in 15th place, on the same 51 points, and with a -14 goal difference.

Of the four teams below the U’s playing this afternoon, I expect Bradford City to easily overcome relegated Scunthorpe to overtake the U’s, no matter how poor the Bantams were at the JobServe. However, I can’t see Rochdale getting anything at Exeter City, and Walsall face a tough game at home against automatic promotion contenders Port Vale. Carlisle have a tricky visit to Harrogate to negotiate, and with goal difference against them, they’ll have to win to overtake the U’s. I’ll predict we’ll be in 16th place by 5pm this afternoon, which will mean just one more point from either Walsall at home or Hartlepool away will ensure we have at least improved on last season’s performance. Hardly anything to crow about I grant you, but given where we were at one point, I’ll take that.

[b]“[i]The wages of sin is death but so is the salary of virtue, and at least the evil get to go home early on Fridays[/i]” Terry Pratchett, [i]Witches Abroad[/i][/b]

Incidentally – on the subject of Friday night football. We all remember Friday nights at Layer Road, so often seemingly the perfect start to any weekend, so here are those stats. Overall, we’ve played 351 matches in all competitions on a Friday night throughout our history (obviously not counting Good Friday matches), winning 164 times (nearly half!), drawing 94 and losing 93. It gets even better at home, with the U’s winning 136 games and drawing 55 out of 238 matches, losing just 47 games. Home and away, Stockport County are our most frequent opponent, playing them 20 times on a Friday night, followed by Tranmere Rovers (19) and dear friends Southend United (15).

Our best Friday night result is 5-0, something we’ve achieved twice, in 1953 against QPR and in 1974 against Grimsby Town. The latter is particularly pertinent, because as a tender youth of just 12 years age, I was Barside for the Grimsby game with my sister and brother-in-law. John Froggatt scored one of his few (only?) hat-tricks for the U’s that night, supported by a brace from Bobby Svarc, the final one a magnificent diving header from the very edge of the penalty area. Mind you, Notts County went one better in 1963, thrashing Benny Fenton’s U’s 6-0 in what was the last game that season.

Overall, Crewe Alexandra have to be our most preferred Friday night opponent, with the U’s winning nine and drawing one of the 12 Friday night games we’ve had. Although we’ve only played Peterborough United four times on a Friday night, the U’s have won every one of them. Grimsby, Plymouth Argyle and Port Vale aren’t much better, each losing the three Friday night games we’ve played against them. On the flipside, near neighbours Cambridge United are pretty close to being our bogey side, beating the U’s eight times and drawing two of our 12 Friday night matches. Barring games against sides we’ve only played once or twice on a Friday night, Cardiff City arguably has the most consistent Friday night record against the U’s, winning four out of five attempts.

[b]Match of the Day
[i]Colchester United v Ipswich Town
Friday 29th September 2006
Coca-Cola Championship (Tier 2)
Attendance 6,065[/i][/b]


[i]Match of the Day[/i] for this blog, and it seemed fitting after yesterday evening that this one is a Friday night special – and no, I don’t mean the (ahem) ‘free-love’ parties preferred by New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey and his wife, nor indeed the act of defecating in a work toilet late on a Friday and leaving it to stew over the weekend for colleagues to discover on Monday morning. I don’t have too many Friday night games in my memorabilia collection (for obvious reasons), but I do have our 2006 game against Ipswich Town.

Well, it’s in my memorabilia collection because it’s on my calendar (hence with thanks the programme photo is from Graeson’s website), but it’s only on my calendar because that was the evening me and a bunch of mates went to a local Salisbury pub to watch the Sky TV televised game. There was no way unfortunately I could be at the game in person, nor was it likely I could have got a ticket even if I could get there, so opted for the second-best option, and managed to persuade a slightly bemused landlord to screen the game in his back room. This was mainly on the promise that we would be drinking plenty of alcohol throughout the night – we definitely made good on that pledge.

In context, this was of course our first season in the Championship, and thus our first opportunity for a competitive fixture against the auld enemy since Dick Graham’s U’s were drawn away at Portman Road in the 2nd round of the 1969/70 League Cup (we lost 4-0). In the league, our paths hadn’t crossed since 1957, fifty seasons earlier. We’d had a slightly ropey start to our first season at this level, losing the first four on the bounce. But Geraint Williams had since steadied the ship, winning three and drawing two of the next five games, meaning the U’s were 15th going into the match. Ipswich had had a similarly patchy start to the campaign and were only 3pts ahead of the U’s at the time.

Geraint Williams U’s lined up that evening:
1….Aidan Davison
2….Greg Halford
12..Pat Baldwin
5….Wayne Brown
18..Chris Barker
14..Richard Garcia
6….Kevin Watson
10..Kem Izzet
7….Karl Duguid
11..Chris Iwelumo
8….Jamie Cureton

[b]Savour the atmosphere as the U’s run out[/b]

The U’s started brightly, and at pace, but it was Ipswich who nearly opened the scoring when Sylvain Legwinski wastefully drilled a pass from Jon Macken wide when he should at least have tested Aidan Davison. They were made to pay in the very next U’s attack in the ninth minute. A drilled shot by Cureton from the edge of the box threaded its way through a forest of legs, leaving ‘keeper Lewis Price somewhat unsighted until the last moment. All he could do was palm away the effort, straight into the path of the master of shithousery Karl Duguid. Doogie kept his cool, managing to keep his foot over the awkwardly bouncing ball, and side foot home beyond the despairing (second) dive of Price.

Layer Road erupted, the back room of the Ale and Cider Press Salisbury erupted, I’d imagine rooms in pubs, clubs and houses all over the world erupted as the U’s took an early lead in the game. Buoyed by this early success and roared on under the floodlights by the Faithful, the U’s continued to harry and press Ipswich for the remainder of the first half, and on balance were unlucky not to have grabbed a second before half-time that their dominance deserved. Mind you, it wasn’t all plain sailing, with a glancing header from Alan Lee flashing across the face of the goal and wide in the closing seconds of the first half.

Into the second half, Ipswich finally seemed to come to terms with the battle they had on their hands, and the bear pit of a cauldron it was being staged in. As Ipswich grew in confidence, the U’s backline, marshalled expertly by Wayne Brown, stepped up and resolutely kept Ipswich at bay through fair means or foul. Jim Macken looked like he’d equalised for Ipswich early in the second half, but it was somewhat controversially ruled out by referee Lee Probert for a foul on Aidan Davison. It took me a moment to realise it had been disallowed, prompting more celebrations as if we’d just won the World Cup. Post-match, George commented “[i] I couldn't see why the goal was ruled out. Of course, I'm glad it wasn't given, but if I had been Jim Magilton, I would have been disappointed[/i]”.

Again, the U’s nearly managed to make Ipswich pay for their profligacy, but Price pulled off a superb save to deny Iwelumo a minute or so after the disallowed goal. Just after the hour Macken was subbed by manager Jim Magilton, replacing him with former Colchester United loanee Billy Clarke. Clarke had a short loan spell with the U’s at the tail end of the previous promotion season, with two starts and four from the bench. Although Ipswich continued to press, still they couldn’t unlock the U’s defence, even after the 86th minute introduction of attacking midfielder Dean Bowditch, and the U’s held on for a historic victory.

[b]Colchester United 1 (Karl Duguid 9’) Ipswich Town 0[/b]

The result propelled the U’s ahead of Ipswich Town and into 9th place, and with our home form particularly strong (it would be mid-February before the U’s lost another game at Layer Road), it was the springboard for a sustained and genuine challenge for the Premier League play-offs. Obviously, history shows we didn’t quite make it, but knowing it was still a very real possibility going into the penultimate match of the season at Stoke City was one hell of an achievement.

The U’s finished in 10th place, seven points ahead of Ipswich Town, 12 points ahead of Norwich City, and a whopping 27 points ahead of Southend United, who were relegated immediately back to League One.

Relax, pour yourself a cold one, and enjoy again this vintage moment 😊

Up the U’s!

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When Saturday Comes #36 by wessex_exile
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