Gills left breathless by rampant U’s


Colchester 3 – 0 Gillingham – Report and views by Dave Burch

It has been a great start to the New Year for supporters of Colchester United.

The U’s remain unbeaten in 2014 after a stealing a point against MK Dons at Stadium:MK and running riot over Gillingham at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this past Saturday.

The draw at MK was a real backs to the wall job. The Dons manager, Karl Robinson, was full of praise for the U’s defensive display and singled out Sam Walker, who was frankly brilliant.

Walker, who I recently named as my joint player of 2013, still has to work on his game, but the potential is there to see. Some of his saves are ridiculous and defy all the odds.

Sam Walker has been offered a permanent contract at Colchester © cu-fc.com

After the Gillingham fixture, Joe Dunne announced in his press conference, the intention of capturing Walker on a permanent deal from parent club Chelsea, commenting that the ball was now firmly in Walker’s court. Ever since Walker joined the club, he has become a firm fans favourite and I for one would love the giant ‘keeper to stay. I can even forgive him for being an Ipswich fan!

Back to the match, injury forced Joe Dunne into making two changes from the draw against the Dons. Dominic Vose replaced the injured Ryan Dickson and Clinton Morrison came in for Jabo Ibehre, who has been playing through the pain barrier in recent times.

There was a youthful look to the U’s subs bench with Mark Cousins being the oldest member at only 27! Freddie Sears was the second eldest at 24, whilst the relatively inexperienced Jordan Sanderson, Tosin Olufemi, Mason Spence, Macauley Bonne and Frankie Kent made up the rest of the substitutes bench. Alex Gilbey missed out through illness to add to the U’s woes.

Gillingham, in their shocking pink shirts, started the match in quick fashion and took the game straight to the U’s, without really offering much of a threat.

Colchester seemed to be a little startled by the speed of the Gillingham start and began to lump the ball aimlessly into the channels and to Clinton Morrison, which played straight into the hands of the visiting team.

I began to think it was going to be one of those days, but after ten or so minutes, the U’s calmed down and passed the ball between the back line, making Gillingham work hard to try to win the ball back.

The U’s started to keep possession well and I was frustrated to hear calls from the fans to “go forwards”. It can be quite painful to watch as we pass the ball around the back, but if the midfield moves about quick enough it can be a successful way of playing, as it pulls players out of position when chasing the ball down.

Stuart Nelson, often the scourge for the U’s was to have a busy day ahead of him © kentonline.co.uk

Funnily enough, a long ball from Tom Eastman created the first shot on target. The defender’s pass fell nicely to Luke Garbutt, who found Sanchez Watt on the edge of the box. Watt has never been afraid to have a shot, but on this occasion, his daisy cutter dribbled into the arms of Stuart Nelson.

The Gillingham ‘keeper had to be called upon once again a few minutes later, as the U’s again worked the ball forward and Craig Eastmond hit a low drive that bobbled across the surface and had to be pushed wide for a corner kick.

The U’s were really on top and playing some nice possession football. Gillingham however, despite sitting back, showed they could be a danger on the counter, as a long ball forward bounced nicely for Cody McDonald, who struck a powerful effort from twenty yards that fortunately flew wide of the target.

Craig Eastmond missed the best chance for the U’s in the first half © gazette-news.co.uk

On the half hour mark, I felt Colchester should have taken the lead. Some lovely build up play saw Luke Garbutt open his body up and unleash a powerful drive at goal that Nelson could only parry. The bouncing ball fell to Craig Eastmond, whose volley was completely miscued and flew horribly wide of the target, with the goal at his mercy.

Colchester had really found their rhythm and continued to search for the opening goal of the game. Stuart Nelson on the other hand, has always been an arch nemesis for the U’s and he had to be alert to keep out efforts from Luke Garbutt, Sanchez Watt and Dominic Vose.

The half ended with Colchester in full flow, yet there were still murmurs of discontent from the crowd, which surprised me. The U’s had retained possession really well and had pulled Gillingham’s midfield apart in the last fifteen minutes of the half.

The second half started at the same pace as the first half had ended. An early corner dropped nicely for Luke Garbutt, who hit a sweet effort that produced a routine save from Nelson.

Sanchez Watt slid in the opening goal of the game © gazette-news.co.uk

Moments later, the opening goal came in controversial fashion. Dominic Vose excellently held the ball up and released Brian Wilson into the penalty area. Wilson’s pass across goal diverted nicely into the path of Sanchez Watt, who slid the ball into the back of the net from twelve yards. The goal was controversial, as Marcus Bean appeared to be in an offside position when Watt made contact with the ball and motioned to shoot right in front of the goalkeeper’s line of vision. Peter Taylor complained about the goal in his post match comments and I imagine we would all have been livid if the boot was on the other foot.

The goal had completely lifted the U’s and Dunne’s men continued to push forward in search of furthering their lead. Another scintillating through pass from the excellent Vose, put Wilson into the Gills box once again, and this time the full back elected to shoot and saw his dinked effort cleared off the line.

Gillingham were looking like they were on the ropes and waiting for a killer blow, but did manage to fashion a chance of their own from a corner, however Danny Kedwell’s free header was put over the bar.

Straight down the other end, the U’s broke once again and Vose danced his way into the box and struck a powerful effort that Nelson instinctively pushed away for a corner.

The busy Nelson had to be alert once again moments later, diving to save Luke Garbutt’s low free kick down at his post, collecting the ball at the second attempt.

Peter Taylor looked to add to the Gills attacking options and introduced Watford loan signing Connor Smith for Bradley Dack and the enormous Adebayo Akinfenwa entered the fray, replacing former U’s favourite Craig Fagan, who received a nice applause by the home fans.

The move gave the U’s even more freedom in the centre of the park and Dunne’s men mercilessly attacked the Gills, but still could not find that vital second goal. Garbutt put a free kick over the bar and Clinton Morrison missed a great chance inside the penalty area, blasting the ball over the bar.

Sanchez Watt was the next to go close for the U’s as he broke away on the counter attack. Watt waltzed his way through the Gills half, twisting and turning Leon Legge, before seeing a weakly struck shot arrow just wide of the target.

Clinton Morrison celebrates scoring his first home goal in over a year © cu-fc.com

Colchester finally added a second goal, seconds after Dominic Vose made way for Tosin Olufemi, receiving a deserved round of applause from the fans. Luke Garbutt saw his fizzed free kick across the face of goal, headed as far as the corner of the eighteen-yard box, where Sanchez Watt controlled the ball and drilled it towards goal. The wily fox in the box, Clinton Morrison reacted quickest, adding the deftest of touches to bamboozle Nelson and reeled away in complete delight as the ball hit the net.

Morrison made way for Macauley Bonne moments later and Freddie Sears made his long awaited return, replacing Sanchez Watt.

It was only in the 90th minute did the Gills actually attempt to play football and Sam Walker was called into action for the first time, saving a Myles Weston effort, which was hit straight into his midriff.

Freddie Sears wrapped up the game with the third goal © expressandstar.com

Colchester wrapped up a fine display in the final minute of stoppage time, when Sears, allowed the freedom of the pitch by the Gills defence, cut inside and unleashed a powerful effort from twenty yards out, that cannoned off the post and into the net.

The final whistle blew moments later, much to the jubilation of the fans, who had witnessed one of the best attacking displays of the season so far.

Attendance: 3819

Line Ups

Colchester: Sam Walker, Brian Wilson, Magnus Okuonghae, Tom Eastman, Luke Garbutt, David Wright,  Craig Eastmond, Marcus Bean, Sanchez Watt (Freddie Sears 88), Dominic Vose (Tosin Olufemi 86), Clinton Morrison (Macauley Bonne 88).

Subs not used: Mark Cousins, Jordan Sanderson, Mason Spence, Frankie Kent.

Gillingham: Stuart Nelson, Joe Martin, Adam Barrett, Leon Legge, Michael Harriman, Bradley Dack (Connor Smith 64), Jake Hessenthaler (Myles Weston 74), Steven Gregory, Craig Fagan (Adebayo Akinfenwa 64), Danny Kedwell, Cody McDonald.

Subs not used: George Howard, Amine Linganzi, Callum Davies, Jack Marriott.

Match Stats

Colchester United

Gillingham

Goals

3

0

Scorers & Times

Watt (49), Morrison (87), Sears (90+4)

N/A

Shots on Target

14

2

Shots off Target

10

4

Corners Won

7

1

Offside

1

5

Fouls Conceded

3

12

Yellow Cards

1 (Bean)

1 (Martin)

Red Cards

N/A

N/A

Possesion %

67%

33%

 

Many thanks to Matt Hudson at Colchester United for allowing me to upload the official match highlights to the blog.

My Pennies Worth

Joe Dunne won the tactical battle against former England U21 manager Peter Taylor © eadt.co.uk

Well it does not get much better than that does it. Joe Dunne deserves a lot of credit for the win and I am going to eat some humble pie for claiming that the formation was not working at home. That performance just goes to show what Colchester are capable of when our best players are fit.

Gillingham was not at the races that much is true. I was expecting them to be up for the game, following on from their excellent victory against Wolves. They just did not turn up and became the U’s first “double” of the season, following on from the U’s opening day victory at Priestfield.

Colchester completely dominated the midfield and I was surprised at just how sluggish Taylor’s side were. For most of the game, Gillingham was chasing shadows, giving Colchester so much time on the ball.

To a man, every one of the U’s players played their roles brilliantly. Both Magnus and Eastman dared to move into space in the midfield when time allowed and the former even decided to have a stint in attack in the first half!

David Wright – The undervalued man © eadt.co.uk

What I enjoyed most was the players seemed to be enjoying themselves out on the pitch. David Wright played his defensively role as he usually does. A lot of his work goes unnoticed, but his screening of the defence and general positioning is excellent. Whilst he may not be the cleverest with the ball at his feet, what he offers to the defensive side of our midfield is invaluable.

Marcus Bean and Craig Eastmond added to the energy in midfield, taking it in turns to play more advanced. Eastmond is the more creative of the two and he in particular enjoyed having the freedom of the midfield to use the ball well. Both of the midfielders made clever runs into the channels and really added to the display.

In attack, whilst there was not too much to do in terms of defending, both Wilson and Garbutt got forward brilliantly and really added something to the team. Both full backs linked brilliantly with the wingers and were unplayable at times. Garbutt looks so comfortable going forward and on the ball. He received the man of the match award from the club sponsors for his display and whilst I did not agree with them, it was definitely one of the on loan youngsters’ best performances at the club and I hope we can keep him on longer than a month.

Dominic Vose was my man of the match © cu-fc.com

Dominic Vose was my man of the match. The former West Ham youngster does everything so simply, yet beautifully at the same time. I would not really class Vose as a winger in the classic sense as he does not have the blistering acceleration like Sanchez Watt. I quite liked the look of our attack with Vose one side and Watt the other. With Sanchez, you know he is going to be direct, and will look to work his way into the box with pace and trickery. With Vose, you have a player who lets the ball do the work. He has a knack of waiting for the right moment to pick a pass and has the vision to accomplish this too. His ability to run with the ball and keep it is also first class. Sometimes he keeps the ball a little too long, but more often than not, he uses it wisely. He really is quite a find and I hope and pray that he signs the new contract until the end of the season as he is fast becoming my favourite player!

Clinton Morrison also had a good game. The system does not really suit him and long balls up to him will not work. He just gets on with the job in hand and he showed on Saturday, that whilst his legs are not what they were, his brain, touch and movement are still a different class. He really deserved his goal and you could see just how much it meant to him with his celebrations.

Overall, it was a very good performance and a vital three points. It was a second consecutive clean sheet and with more injuries subsiding, hopefully the U’s can build on this victory and get some much-needed consistency going.

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The U’s Highs and Lows of 2013 – Part 2


A Year of Highs and Lows – Part Two

This is the second part of my views on the past year. I have found a bit of inspiration to blog my thoughts and I hope you all do not mind reading as I have once again gone a bit overboard and written a dissertation of this season so far!

Being a football fan really puts you through the emotions and in recent seasons, being a Colchester fan has served us with a lots of ups and downs. Going into the 2013/14 season, I can honestly say that it was the most excited I had felt about a season in a long time.

Under John Ward, things had gone rather stale. I do not think that Ward is a bad manager as he did exceptionally well to take the club to consecutive 10th place finishes in League One. Unfortunately for managers, there comes a time when players stop responding to the tactics and fall into a comfort zone. I feel this happened under Ward. I am also sceptical of some of Ward’s moves in the transfer market and his budget control, as it seems some players were on a fairly good wage for League One. One lasting legacy of Ward however, would come to fruition during the 2013/14 season, with youth products having to step into the first team.

With Dunne now approaching his first full season in charge of Colchester, he decided he was going to do things his way and took the team to his native Ireland early for pre season training. Due to the Financial Fair play rules, the U’s saw the budget cut slightly more, which made signing players even harder.

Early Ambition

Craig Eastmond was the first of the U’s new arrivals © cu-fc.com

I have to confess to being pleasantly surprised when it was announced that Craig Eastmond had signed on the dotted line. The former Arsenal youngster, was excellent during his three month loan spell last season. The signing really showed the U’s ambition to do well after the previous season’s great escape.

Dunne had to wait a while, but the signing of Sanchez Watt really captured everyone’s imagination. Season ticket sales were flying because of the signing of two really exciting players. Watt had also been on loan at the U’s and proved that he could be a match winner on his own.

The re-signing of Jabo Ibehre was also a big coup for the club. Ibehre is a strange player in a lot of ways. One game he is utterly unplayable and the next he will struggle and you’d wonder how he made a professional. One thing is for sure, Colchester played a hell of a lot better with Ibehre in the side than without him.

Ryan Dickson completed the transfer business for Colchester. The former Plymouth, Brentford and Southampton full back had always impressed me before and looked a decent during a trial in pre season.

Of the outgoings, loyal servant John White was offered pittance to remain at the U’s in order for the club to be able to sign the likes of Eastmond and Watt. It was particularly sad as White was in his testimonial year and I felt he had a lot to offer still. People say he had a nosebleed as soon as he got into the oppositions half, however he has six assists this season for Southend and that is one more than Brian Wilson, the U’s top assist maker. It was disappointing to see White join Southend, but he was immediately appointed captain and had been an ever present member of their side, so it is hard to begrudge him the move.

Another outgoing that would come later, was the departure of another loyal servant and club legend Kemal Izzet. With a lack of playing time, Izzet departed the club by mutual consent and has rather surprisingly signed for non league side Needham Market.

Sam Walker rejoined the club for his second loan spell © sellsgoalkeeperproducts.com

Pre season was rather interesting and the draw against Tottenham in front of a near capacity crowd was also a plus point. Sam Walker returned to the club on loan from Chelsea on the same day as the Spurs game. The popular goalkeeper became a fans favourite after joining the club in January and was given a warm welcome when he took to the field. The annoying thing about pre season was losing to Ipswich Town and the manner that we conceded goals was also frustrating. Another low point was the injury to Craig Eastmond at Heybridge. A shocking tackle on the U’s new man looked like he could be out for a while, but fortunately he’d be fit for the opening game.

The Season Starts – Early Joy and Cup Woe

Onwards to the opening day of the season, the U’s started the season with a short trip to Kent to face Gillingham. The newly promoted Gills I expected to be very tough opponents and being a Martin Allen side, you would know they would be direct and physical opponents. They had signed strike duo Adebayo Akinfenwa and former Witham and Norwich striker Cody McDonald prior to the seasons start and I really feared we may struggle for a result. Let us not forget that Gillingham are a much, much bigger club than Colchester too (sic).

The build up to the game was spent in a dilapidated pub, full of U’s fans in fine voice. I can remember speaking to the Swedish Branch guys and not feeling overly confident of our chances, especially as it started raining and the away end at Priestfield is open. By kick off however, the pitch was lashed in brilliant sunshine. Joe Dunne got a lovely reception from the Gillingham faithful as he walked on the pitch just prior to the match starting.

An even first half saw the best chance fall to Gillingham, when Kedwell’s speculative effort from 25 yards brought out a magnificent flying save from Walker.

Into the second half, you just felt that the Gills had run out of ideas, as they struggled to break the U’s down. Colchester, who had been happy to soak up the pressure began to start creating chances and were looking the better side.

I thought we had blown the chance for victory when substitute Alex Gilbey missed two headed chances, however as the board was about to go up for injury time, the young midfielder released Drey Wright on the wing with a gorgeous through pass. Wright twisted Leon Legge inside out and had the alertness to pick out the rampaging Andy Bond, who stroked the ball past the stranded Gills goalkeeper.  It was a great moment and the first three points of the season were sown up. It took until the end of September to win a match last season, so it was fantastic to grab win so early in the campaign.

Andy Bond celebrates putting the U’s ahead at Priestfield © greenun24.co.uk

Peterborough came to town for the Carling Cup first round and soon wiped the smile from everyone’s faces. The Posh completely outplayed Colchester, who deployed a diamond formation to stop the Peterborough midfield from dominating. It just did not work and despite a well worked move from Morrison to allow Ibehre to equalise after 46 minutes, the Posh savagely tore the U’s apart and won 5-1.

At the time, people shrugged at the defeat and called it a one off. The feeling was that Peterborough were the best attacking side in the league and would do that to a number of sides. I remember thinking a little differently. I had a horrible feeling we were going to struggle to break teams down and defensively we looked very vulnerable. The way our heads went down quickly was all too reminiscent of last season and whilst I did not expect us to win, the manner of the defeat shocked me.

We had a chance to put things right in the next fixture against Port Vale, another newly promoted side. Colchester passed the Valiants off the park in the first half. Some of the slick attacking football was an absolute joy to watch. The U’s were creating chance after chance, however a combination of Chris Neal in the Port Vale goal, greediness and poor finishing looked to be costing the U’s dearly as they failed to make the breakthrough.

Gavin Massey’s solitary strike made sure of the points against the Valiants © cu-fc.com

Colchester struggled to replicate their first half form in the second period and it took a rather scrappy goal to give the U’s the lead. Jabo Ibehre excellently spun Liam Chilvers and shot towards goal. Neal could only parry the ball into the path of Gavin Massey on the edge of the six yard box and the winger made no mistake in putting the ball into the net.

Colchester had some bad news in the week after the Vale game, when it was announced that we had failed to meet the requirements for Category 2 status for the Elite Player Performance Plan. This was a massive blow for the future of the club producing young talents. The U’s have many promising youngsters coming through and we could lose them to the circling vultures for virtual peanuts. I felt at the time that all we had worked on off the pitch was unravelling before our eyes.

Back on the pitch, two wins from two looked promising ahead of a visit to Sheffield United, a ground of heavy defeats in more recent times for the U’s. This time however was different as the U’s matched the former Premier League side and shocked them with an exquisite counter attack. Dunne, wishing his team to be able to counter sides, left attacking players on the half way line for Sheff Utd set pieces. In one such instance the U’s broke through with Sanchez Watt and he freed Freddie Sears to calmly slide the ball into the net.

The Blades had started the season slowly and the fans were soon on their back. They were going to have a huge slice of luck just before half time, when a speculative Harry Maguire effort, was completely misjudged by Sam Walker and the ball embarrassingly squirmed into the net, much to the shock of everyone in the ground. The U’s held firm in the second half to pick up a point and it showed the U’s were working well as a unit that the only goal came from an error. It was rather disappointing at the time, but it was hard to moan about Walker after his heroics last season.

Colchester continued their unbeaten streak in the next fixture against the early whipping boys Carlisle, where Tosin Olufemi was to make his first league start for the club against the struggling Cumbrians. The visitors took a shock early lead when Matty Robson let fly with a shot from range and it somehow comfortably beat Walker at his near post. The message boards were full of people commenting how many goals we would score, so to be down after four minutes and deservedly so, came as a surprise.

Sears’ late goal rescued a draw for the U’s © cu-fc.com

The U’s toiled for much of the game, but a late Freddie Sears strike kept Colchester’s unbeaten record going. I began to feel that we may have a season of struggle ahead as we did not seem to be able to break teams down and we were lacking bodies in the box to put pressure on opposition defenders.

Injury Crisis and The First Defeat

Early pace-setters Leyton Orient continued their winning run as they inflicted the first league defeat on the U’s, with a 2-1 victory in the next game. I was quite impressed by the togetherness the O’s had and thought they was a rather workman like team. They reminded me of Colchester when we won promotion to the Championship with their mixed style of play. I was also impressed by their 442 formation, which obviously works for them, as not many sides adopt the slightly out dated style of football, preferring more modern styles such as the popular 433/4231 line up. Whilst they did not outplay the U’s, they had enough nous to see us off. It was a little concerning, as once again we had not really threatened the O’s goal enough.

A shocking 4-1 defeat to Dagenham and a red card to Magnus Okuonghae in the JPT added to the U’s woes. There was worse to come in the next fixture as the U’s travelled to Northampton’s Sixfields to face Coventry City.

Long term injury victim Sanchez Watt would be out of action until Boxing Day © gazette-news.co.uk

It was then that most fans discovered that the club were facing a huge injury crisis. Freddie Sears and Gavin Massey had limped off against Orient and Sanchez Watt was also suffering from an injury. Ryan Dickson was suffering from a mystery illness, whilst Magnus Okuonghae was suspended. A depleted U’s side were played off the park by a rampant Coventry side. It was no surprise really, as Mason Spence had to replace Dickson after only 20 minutes to add even less experience to a patched up defence. Colchester ended the game with four teenagers on the pitch and it began to feel like the problems of last season were going to reoccur.

Dunne strengthened the squad ahead of the Bradford contest, with Everton left back, Luke Garbutt, and Preston winger Jeffrey Monakana joining on loan. An error ridden Tom Eastman gifted Bradford an early lead, as his second miskicked clearance fell kindly for Nahki Wells. The highly rated Bermudian wasted no time in twisting past David Wright and putting the ball into the net past Walker.

Amazingly, a resilient U’s got themselves back into the game and became the first side to score at Bradford’s Valley Parade (still refuse to call it by its crappy sponsored name). A long Walker kick was expertly controlled by Eastmond and he had the vision to release Monakana down the right flank. The U’s new signing, twisted and turned his way into the box and unleashed a scorching effort that went into the top corner. It is still my goal of the season so far.

Goal scoring had been a problem for the U’s so far this season and they had failed to score two in a match prior to the Bradford game. Jabo Ibehre was the man to change that as he scored the U’s second. The striker brilliantly dummied Eastmond’s through pass and raced clear on goal. His finish was perfect and Colchester were leading at half time.

A deft header from Wells brought the Bantams back into the game as the U’s were being forced back more and more. Colchester were still dangerous on the counter and came the closest to grabbing a winner when substitute Gavin Massey slammed a curling shot against the post.

Daniel Pappoe was sent off in injury time, but the U’s held firm for another valuable point. Maybe Colchester did have a backbone after all!

More injuries would strike in the coming weeks, with Tom Eastman suffering from an ankle injury and he was replaced by Matt Taylor joining on loan from Bradford.

The U’s played out consecutive entertaining 1-1 draws in their next two fixtures against Crawley and Bristol City. It was becoming clear that goal scoring problems were hindering Colchester. Ibehre missed an absolute sitter against Crawley and it would have put us 2-0 up and I believe we would have gone on to win the game had we scored, but it just was not to be. The most promising aspect of the season so far was that we were actually grabbing points, where in the 2012/13 season we were losing these games. This could only do us well, but I just feel that this league is a better one than last year and winning games is of the utmost importance.

Dark Clouds Descend – The Winless Run Continues

Home games are the bread and butter for the club and so far the U’s were struggling to win at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Wolves were the next team in town and Colchester folded like a pack of cards in the highest gate of the season so far. The U’s gave Kenny Jackett’s side so much time, space and respect. It was not the sort of performance I expected from a Joe Dunne side. Yes, we had injury problems and we did start the game well. However, after Leigh Griffiths opening goal from the penalty spot, the U’s spirit completely deflated and went on to lose 3-0.

It was this game that I started to feel even more worried about the U’s prospects this season. It sounds a weird comment to make seeing the players Wolves have at their disposal, but I remember other illustrious sides coming to Colchester and we would let them know they was in a game.

Whilst the U’s sat in the relative comfort of 14th place, five points ahead of Crewe in 21st position, we needed a win to start propelling ourselves up the table. We had only lost three games at the time, which was one of the best records in the league outside the top four sides. We had also drawn five times, which was only beaten by Shrewsbury and Bristol City. It was frustrating, because where we expected to be mid table, the fact we were taking the lead against sides and unable to hold on was becoming frustrating.

Sammie Szmodics was thrust into first team action as the injury crisis deepened © cu-fc.com

We were not being helped by the injury crisis of course and the U’s had given youngster Sammie Szmodics his first taste of action after his promising displays for the youth team. It was a promising aspect that at least off the pitch we were seeing signs that we are progressing as a club capable of producing some bright talents for the future.

As the injury problems subsided slightly, the Walsall game gave us the chance to end the run of games without a win and after an early Freddie Sears strike, it looked like it could happen. Walsall had completely outplayed Colchester with some fantastic possession football and were hugely unfortunate not to score after striking the woodwork on a number of occasions.

They got their reward in the 6th minute of injury time when a silly foul, which if I am being honest did not look like much, saw a free kick lined up about 25 yards from goal. Everyone in the ground knew what was going to happen. It was just written in the stars as Andy Taylor stepped up and smashed the ball into the top corner.

Boos rang out around the stadium as another tepid performance saw us fail to win again. A draw was a good result in all honesty, but again being outplayed at home and not really showing much attacking instinct was starting to frustrate everyone and they were letting their feelings known.

The fans frustration and anger was to reach it’s highest at Brentford a week later. Colchester had been lucky to not be behind when Marcello Trotta somehow missed from six yards in the first half. Brentford had not won in a few weeks and their fans were getting on their backs. The U’s sensed the win was there for the taking and when Magnus Okuonghae nodded the U’s into the lead, for a brief moment you felt this was it.

That was until the 76th minute when Trotta made amends for his earlier miss and scored an equaliser. A fifteen minute collapse saw the Bees notch twice more to run out 3-1 winners and condemn the U’s to just their fourth league defeat, however the club had gone ten wins without tasting victory.

Popular defender Matt Taylor returned to Bradford after the expiration of his loan deal © cu-fc.com

With the news that Jabo Ibehre would miss the Shrewsbury fixture on a wet Tuesday night, Elliott Lee joined the club on loan from West Ham and went straight into the squad. Also travelling on the coach to Shropshire was another youth prospect, Macauley Bonne, who found himself on the bench. The U’s were also unable to extend the loan of Matt Taylor and with Tom Eastman still injured, Colchester had to play David Wright at the heart of defence with Magnus Okuonghae.

Colchester got off to the worst possible start, as the Shrews scored with consummate ease after just three minutes. It had taken ages to get to Shrewsbury with heavy traffic on the M6 and at this point I was beginning to feel rather cheesed off. I have to be honest in thinking what a load of turd.

Freddie Sears pulled up with an obvious hamstring injury after half hour and by then I just felt like going home. We were being absolutely outplayed by Shrewsbury and making them look like Brazil. I honestly do not expect the U’s to be world beaters, but it would have been nice for us to resemble a football team. The first half had been an absolute shambles until all of a sudden, just before half time the gloom was lifted. A very rare U’s attack saw Clinton Morrison hold up the ball and release it to Marcus Bean on the edge of the box. The former Brentford man hit a daisy cutter that somehow eluded the grasp of Chris Weale and Colchester were level undeservedly.

Joe Dunne must have put a rocket up the backside of each player because the second half saw us serve up some quality football and completely dominate the home side. The only problem was in the final third. Whilst we were actually able to break Shrewsbury down, in front of goal we looked hopeless and Craig Eastmond’s air kick when unmarked at far post summed up our finishing. The game ended 1-1 and it was another valiant point, but the loss of David Wright to yet another hamstring injury for a U’s player just before the end soured things slightly, especially as Peterborough were up next.

Victory At Last and a Change of Luck

With the 5-1 Carling Cup defeat fresh in the memory, the message boards were full of negativity with how many goals the Posh were going to score. Cian Bolger joined the club on loan from Bolton in the run up to the match and was to go straight into the side.

Football is a funny old game and a superb Colchester display, for me probably the best this season given the circumstances, saw the U’s finally end the eleven game run without a win.

The U’s played like they did against Carlisle on the final day of last season. Dogged determination and with real fire in their bellies. We did not let Peterborough settle and were giving them no respect at all. Craig Eastmond missed a couple of fine chances for the U’s, one hitting the bar, whilst Sam Walker kept the U’s in it with a great save to deny Tommy Rowe.

The game changing moment came early in the second half when Lee Tomlin was adjudged to have kicked out at Craig Eastmond off the ball, and on his assistant’s advice, referee Stuart Attwell showed the Posh man a straight red card.

Joe Dunne then made what I thought was a peculiar move at the time, replacing the excellent Clinton Morrison for Macauley Bonne. The U’s youngster had been scoring left, right and centre for the youth team had only tasted a couple of minutes of professional football, replacing the stricken David Wright at Shrewsbury. It was his 18th birthday and what a way to top it off! A beautiful cross into the box from Luke Garbutt, saw Bonne meet the ball with his head and it flew into the net beyond Olejnik to send the U’s fans into absolute delirium.

Macca Bonne wheels away in delight after scoring his first professional goal on his 18th birthday © cu-fc.com

The screw seemed to have turned for the U’s. Posh struggled in front of goal and had a massive penalty appeal rejected by Attwell. It looked like it was going to be our day, even after Eastmond had broke on the counter and laid in Szmodics for his miss, it just felt we had this game in the bag. Although saying that, I think every U’s fans’ heart sunk when Posh were awarded an injury time free kick on the edge of the box. It appeared to take forever for the ball to be floated into the box and when Tyrone Barnett headed it across the face of the goal I had to close my eyes. The frenzied roar of the crowd indicated the danger had passed and moments later Attwell blew the whistle to give the U’s a huge boost.

Last season, a draw against Shrewsbury turned our fortunes around for the worse. Could a draw this season work the opposite way and be a catalyst for a change of luck? We certainly had a few lucky decisions go our way against Posh and in the next game against Rotherham the U’s again rode their luck.

Back in Rotherham, it started well enough, when early into the game an interesting corner routine saw Marcus Bean score with a diving header. Cian Bolger had a fantastic game against Peterborough, but had a complete nightmare up against former Braintree and Southend centre forward Alex Revell in South Yorkshire. Bolger was at fault for both the Millers goals and looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Elliot Lee’s last gasp header earned the U’s an unlikely point © whufc.com

Colchester toiled and had Sam Walker to thank for a couple of really good saves to stop the home side from further extending their lead. Into the second half, the U’s struggle to create anything and saw Luke Garbutt spurn their best chance, shooting wide when well placed. It looked as if it was game over until the final minute of injury time, when a succession of headers saw Elliot Lee score his first goal off the crossbar. Rotherham appealed to the referee, but the linesman had put his flag up straight away. As soon as I saw it, it was obvious it was over the line.

Maybe our luck really was changing! We did not play well at all, but stole a point. It felt like a victory, much different to the Walsall game that felt like a defeat.

Continued Cup Failure

A big low point for me this season (and for the past couple of seasons) has been the lack of a cup run. We were soundly beaten by Peterborough in the League Cup, humiliated by the Daggers in the JPT and with a rather uninspiring tie against Sheffield United in the FA Cup, you just felt it was not going to be our year…Again.

We started off so poorly. The Blades got the opener through a Harry Maguire header and you just knew it was going to be a hard game. Magnus’ error for the Blades second goal just compounded the misery. Where has the magic of the cup gone? Well, whatever was said at half time seemed to work as Macauley Bonne pulled a goal back minutes into the second half and midway through the half a determined U’s side got back into the game with a lovely hit from Luke Garbutt. Game on!

The U’s luck eventually ran out, when the linesman gave a harsh handball decision against Okuonghae and Chris Porter’s penalty made it 3-2, knocking Dunne’s side out of the cup at the first hurdle. It was a frustrating way to lose, but the first half performance was our downfall.

Consistently Inconsistent

Our inconsistency was really beginning to annoy me. I cannot understand how we play so well one half and so dire the next. I also could not understand Dunne’s formation change for the first half against Sheffield United. It just killed us before we started. We had no shape and created nothing. It was a really appalling half and against Swindon the U’s woes would continue.

It was one of the worst performances of the season as we lost 2-1. Swindon played without a striker and looked to hit us on the counter attack with a huge degree of success, almost cutting the U’s apart at will. Colchester were worse than abysmal and the Robins deserved their victory. Magnus Okuonghae’s consolation goal was merely papering over the cracks.

Luke Garbutt struck late to steal a draw at Deepdale © gazette-news.co.uk

A trip to Preston saw another dire display. If it was not for Preston’s profligacy in front of goal we would have been on to a hiding. Fortunately we scored with our only shot on target through Luke Garbutt. It felt great that we had won a point against the odds, but it was bugging me about how badly we were playing. I guess the only positive point is that we were not losing many and working well as a defensive unit. I am sure we would all much prefer us gain points than none at all. If we had played an attacking game we would probably lose!

I think it is a fair comment to describe Colchester this season as consistently inconsistent. Against the MK Dons we completely dominated and came away with a 3-1 deserved victory through goals from Eastmond, Ibehre and Bonne. We played exactly how we did against Peterborough by closing the Dons down quickly and showing no respect. Joe Dunne has always admired the way MK play and he would have been delighted with the manner of the victory. The Dons were not at their best, but it was up to the U’s to punish them and we did so with aplomb.

Dom Vose has taken his chance and hopefully he can continue making a positive impact © cu-fc.com

It was many fans’ first look at the recently signed Dominic Vose and it appeared to me we have quite a player on our hands. Vose is quite a dynamic player with a low centre of gravity. His ability to twist and turn is terrific and he also appeared to have excellent vision. Sometimes players do not make the grade for reasons known only to them, but you have to give credit to both Dunne, for giving Vose the chance and also to the youngster for taking the chance with both hands and looking all the part.

Another great aspect so far this season was how the youth teamers have come into the first team and not really looked out of place. Dunne had little or no option to stick the likes of Olufemi, Szmodics and Bonne into the first team and none of them have let us down. I am a little bit concerned about the rapid progress of Bonne because natural goal scorers will not stay at a club like Colchester for long. He really does look the real deal and I cannot tell you how excited I am by the development of these youngsters coming through.

December – From Despair to Delight

I must confess to finding the last month extremely difficult and falling out of love with football. I travelled all the way to Tranmere to watch Colchester yet again not turn up and I know you stick with your team through thick and thin, but it was becoming hard to pay and watch the dross being served up. I’m fed up with Colchester continuously being second best and being unable to hit the target in games.

The 2-1 defeat to Tranmere at Prenton Park was followed by a 4-0 home thrashing to Notts County. The defeat was painful. The players just gave up. I commented above that players had stopped responding to John Ward. I felt this was occurring with Dunne and we had just stopped playing football. We do have our attacking players out injured, but we continually persist with a formation that is not working. The bottom side completely tore us apart and I understand that Dunne handed in his resignation, which Robbie Cowling turned this down.

Joe Dunne has had a rough ride with the U’s and most probably feels just as much as the fans © eadt.co.uk

I think it would be a great shame if Dunne was to go, as he has been a loyal servant to the club and is a legend. He continuously wears his heart on his sleeve and you know he has the the clubs best interests to heart. Whilst stability is not always the answer, Dunne and Cowling share the same long term vision and I am not sure we would attract anyone who could improve our fortunes on a shoestring budget. Whether he remains the right man for the job in 2014, no one knows. I am just interested to see how we fair with an injury free squad to pick from.

Back on the pitch, our performances needed to improve and all of a sudden they did when I least expected it! I did not go to Oldham as I was fed up with having to pay a lot of money and watch Colchester put in very little effort in return. Football is an entertainment business and frankly I was not being entertained. With it coming up to Christmas, I thought I would save money and have an enjoyable day without football.

The down side of not going was missing an early Xmas present as the U’s came away with an unlikely 2-0 victory. Bloody typical isn’t it?!?! Colchester restricted the Latics to pot shots from range and were helped by an early own goal. Colchester added a second goal to seal the victory after Vose put the ball on a plate for Ibehre to tuck home from close range.

The annual Boxing Day fixture brought further festive cheers for Colchester fans as the U’s gained revenge for the 6-1 defeat inflicted by the Boro on Boxing Day 2011.

On loan Blair Turgott notched the first goal of his career to put the U’s ahead after Chris Day’s howler © thecomet.net

Colchester romped to a scintillating 4-0 victory, the first time we had scored four under Joe Dunne! Without wanting to be too negative we were handed a huge slice of luck with the opening three goals. Especially from Chris Day who had a horror ten minutes in the Stevenage goal. The one big difference from the past is that Colchester were clinical in taking their chances and made the most of their luck. A lot of the time we have not taken advantage of situations and it is ever so frustrating. Another major positive from the Stevenage game was the return from injury of Sanchez Watt. I hope he can remain injury free as he could be a huge player for us in 2014.

Derailed by the Railwaymen

The U’s inconsistency was to come back with a vengeance against Crewe in the final game of 2013. The match was pretty much a home banker, but ended up a coupon buster.

Colchester started with confidence and played really well in the first half and Luke Garbutt scored a deflected free kick to give the U’s a deserved lead. For some reason Colchester seemed to sit back, stopped the hustle & bustle in the midfield and began to let Crewe play. A simply shocking second half, full of individual mistakes plagued Colchester and Crewe was to make us pay with two goals in quick succession. An injury to Ibehre saw him leave the pitch and Dunne also replaced Vose, who was the only player who looked like he wanted be on the pitch.

The U’s finished 2013 with an awful home defeat, but on the bright side they are in 14th position, five points above Bristol City who finished in 21st place.

Player of 2013

This has been an exceptionally hard one to pick. There are so many players that could win this. Magnus Okuonghae and Brian Wilson were both exceptional the back at end of last season with some towering performances in defence. David Wright came to the club in January and does such a vital and undervalued role in front of the back line too. Gavin Massey is another candidate as he scored some valuable goals and was Mr Consistency on the flank. His work rate is tremendous for a winger and when he plays well, the U’s seem to too. I really cannot decide on one player for my 2013 player of the year so I have chosen two. I have gone for both Jabo Ibehre and Sam Walker.

Jabo Ibehre is my joint player of 2013 with Sam Walker © bbcimg.co.uk

Jabo is a really frustrating player, but his hold up play is first class. We won far more matches with Jabo in the side without him and when he plays well for us he makes a real difference and is virtually unplayable. He scored some vital goals and has provided some comedy along the way with ridiculous skill and wayward shots. Jabo was our leading top scorer last season and also currently tops the U’s scoring charts this term.

Walker gets in just because of some of ridiculous saves he made to win us points. He does make errors and as a goalkeeper most errors lead to goals, but he is only 22 and has a good career ahead of him (I hope with us). At times he has kept us in games and made a hell of a difference last season when our confidence was low. His sheer presence seemed to bring a calming influence to the defence and the Hartlepool & Bury games were both drawn thanks to some outstanding saves by big Sam. The Orient penalty save was a brilliant moment too.  For me he was a key catalyst for us staying up and I hope he remains with us for the rest of the season.

Goal of 2013

Massey’s header at Carlisle © cu-fc.com

In traditional terms Billy Clifford’s wonder strike v Yeovil and Jeffrey Monakana’s beautiful hit against Bradford would win this hands down, however my goal of 2013 award is going to Gavin Massey for his headed goal against Carlisle. The only reason I chose this one is because of the significance of the goal. It was in effect the goal that calmed down the nerves and gave us something to defend against on the final day of last season. Another thing about the goal is the sheer ridiculousness of it. Massey looked to have completely messed up his header, only for the spin from hitting the bar to divert it into the net and sending us all nuts with joy.

Top Goalscorer of 2013

2012/13 Top Goalscorers in 2013

 

Home Goals

Away Goals

Total Goals

Freddie Sears

4

1

5

Gavin Massey

1

4

5

Jabo Ibehre

1

3

4

Drey Wright

1

1

2

Others

3

4

7

Total

10

13

23

Top Goalscorers in 2013/14 Season (All Comps)

 

Home Goals

Away Goals

Total Goals

Jabo Ibehre

3 (+1 Lge Cup)

2

6

Freddie Sears

3

1

4

Craig Eastmond

3

0

3

Macauley Bonne

2 (+1 Fa Cup)

0

3

Luke Garbutt

1 (+1 Fa Cup)

1

3

Magnus Okuonghae

1

1

2

Marcus Bean

0

2

2

Others

2

6 (1 JPT)

9

Total

15 ( +3 Cup)

13 ( +1Cup)

28 (+4Cup)

Jabo Ibehre led the way on the goalscoring front in 2013 with ten goals. Interestingly, Freddie Sears, who was the second top scorer, scored more goals than anyone at home but struggled to net on the U’s travels.

Top Goalscorers in 2013 Season (All Comps)

 

Home Goals

Away Goals

Total Goals

Jabo Ibehre

5

5

10

Freddie Sears

7

2

9

Gavin Massey

2

4

6

Craig Eastmond

3

0

3

Macauley Bonne

3

0

3

Magnus Okuonghae

2

1

3

Luke Garbutt

2

1

3

Drey Wright

1

1

2

Clinton Morrison

1

1

2

Marcus Bean

0

2

2

Others

3

9

12

Total

29

26

55

In this next table, I have put down the goals scored and goals conceded from January – May 2012 in the 11/12 season, as a comparison to how we did in 2013.

The below table shows that under John Ward in the second half of the 2011/12 season, we started games fairly well and also finished strongly. We were very susceptible to conceding goals just before half time and were pretty leaky after half time too.

Jan – May 2011 / 12 Season Goal Times F/A

 

0 – 15

16 – 30

31 – 45

46 – 60

61 – 75

76 – 90

Goals For

6

4

2

4

2

9

Goals Against

3

2

9

7

6

2

This next table is also from the 2011/12 season under Ward. It is no surprise to see so many draws!

Jan – May 2011/12 Season Stats in 2012

 

Win

Draw

Lose

GF

GC

Home

3

7

1

16

11

Away

2

5

5

11

18

Total

5

12

6

27

29

The below table shows how we ended 2012. John Ward was sacked in late September and the majority of these goals were under Joe Dunne. It is interesting to see that there was no real improvement as we still conceded a fair amount of goals before half time. The main difference is between 61-75 minutes where we must have been all out attack. It is pretty shocking to see how many we conceded within the last fifteen minutes!

Aug – Dec 2012 / 13 Season Goal Times F/A

 

0 – 15

16 – 30

31 – 45

46 – 60

61 – 75

76 – 90

Goals For

2

5

5

3

7

2

Goals Against

4

5

8

4

7

10

This next table follows the above. Interestingly under John Ward we conceded ten goals and scored only five in eight games. Ward lost four games and also had four draws. We drew three home games and lost one, whilst we lost three games and drew once away to Preston under his tenure.

Aug – Dec 2012/13 season stats 2012

 

Win

Draw

Lose

GF

GC

Home

4

3

5

13

17

Away

2

2

8

9

21

Total

6

5

13

23

38

I have worked out the total number of goals conceded in 2012 and will compare these stats with 2013 further down. I think this goes to show just how awful we were just before half time and in the second half of games during 2012.

Total 2012 Season Goal Times F/A

 

0 – 15

16 – 30

31 – 45

46 – 60

61 – 75

76 – 90

Goals For

8

9

7

7

9

11

Goals Against

7

7

17

11

13

12

The table below I will also compare with 2013. It is interesting to see just how many games we drew at home and just how poor we were away from home.

Full Stats from 2012

 

Win

Draw

Lose

GF

GC

Home

7

10

6

31

28

Away

4

7

13

20

39

Total

11

17

19

51

67

This table is from 2013 under Joe Dunne and shows our stats from the end of last season. Under Joe Dunne our form suffered, however we had a much better record away from home, winning just as many as we lost. We also scored more goals away from home, but we were also rather open too.

Jan – May 2012/13 Season Stats

 

Win

Draw

Lose

GF

GC

Home

4

1

6

10

14

Away

4

3

4

13

16

Total

8

4

10

23

30

This table shows our goal times for this season. It is interesting to see that we seem to struggle before and after half time but play fairly well in the first half hour. The last fifteen minutes seem to be a bit of a free for all. I think this table explains our inconsistency quite well.

Aug – Dec 2013 / 14 Season Goal Times F/A

 

0 – 15

16 – 30

31 – 45

46 – 60

61 – 75

76 – 90

Goals For

6

6

5

1

3

7

Goals Against

5

4

6

8

2

7

This next table is also from this season. In comparison with the same period in 2012 we have lost less games (the same amount of home defeats interestingly), drawn far more games and won the same amount of times. Our away form this season is also far better as we lost five more times on our travels last season by the same stage. We have scored five more goals than last season, two more at home and four times away. In terms of conceding, this season we have conceded six less than last season.

Aug – Dec 2013/14 Season Stats in 2013

 

Win

Draw

Lose

GF

GC

Home

4

3

5

15

17

Away

2

6

3

13

15

Total

6

9

8

28

32

This table shows some interesting comparisons with 2012. We start games worse than we did in 2012, but we are much better in the first half of games in general, especially in the last fifteen minutes, with eight less goals conceded! We have also scored more goals from the 16th – 45th minute in 2013.

Into the second half, it appears we are far worse goal scoring wise, with six goals less than 2012. We are especially poor just after half time, scoring four goals less and conceding a fair lot. Our concentration levels are notably bad in the last quarter, scoring one less and conceding five more.

Total 2013 Season Goal Times F/A

 

0 – 15

16 – 30

31 – 45

46 – 60

61 – 75

76 – 90

Goals For

7

13

10

3

8

10

Goals Against

10

8

9

10

8

17

Comparing the full stats from 2013 to 2012 show that we have scored the same amount of goals and conceded five less. Our away form is much, much better than 2012, with six less defeats and two more draws both home and away.

We lost five more times at home in 2013 than we did the previous year, whilst it is really interesting to see that in 2012 we scored eight more times at home than this season. Funnily enough this term we have proven to be far more resilient on our travels and have coincidentally scored eight more times than we did away from home last season.

Full Stats from 2013

 

Win

Draw

Lose

GF

GC

Home

8

4

11

23

30

Away

6

9

7

28

32

Total

14

13

18

51

62

A Look to the Future

I do not know what to make about 2014. League One is a really tough league and a couple of bad results can see us in the relegation spots, whilst a couple of victories could propel us upwards. The league is the tightest I can remember it in recent years. One thing is for sure, I would rather be in 14th position than 20th. For me that marks an improvement from last season and considering that we have barely had a full squad to pick from, we have not done too badly and perhaps as well as we could have expected. I do not think the likes of Manchester United could cope with twelve players out injured at once, let alone Colchester.

In 2014 our chance conversion needs to improve, as we simply do not score enough goals and goals win games. We have got ourselves ahead in so many games, but have been unable to convert a second to make the game safe. Hopefully we can keep all our players fit too. The return of fitness to the likes of Sears, Massey, Drey Wright and Watt will be vital to our future prospects. We have started 2014 a lot better than we did in 2013 that is for sure! Another Sam Walker masterclass, resembling that of Hartlepool/Bury saw the U’s secure a 0-0 draw against MK Dons at Stadium:MK. The aim is survival once again and I really hope and pray that we do not have the same situation as last season come 3rd May 2014!

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The U’s Highs and Lows of 2013 – Part One


Colchester United’s Highs and Lows of 2013 – From the Dark to the Light

The year 2013 is finally behind Colchester United. The title of this blog just about sums up the way things have gone in Joe Dunne’s first full year in charge of the U’s.

I have taken some time to have a look at some stats for the U’s in 2013 and they make quite interesting reading. I will delve into them a little later on in part two!

It has been a true roller coaster ride for Colchester fans in 2013. I cast my mind back a few years when things were a bit brighter, a New Years Eve trip to Brentford in 2005.

Former U’s favourite Mark Yeates scored twice against Brentford on NYE 2005 to give the U’s a boost in their promotion hunt © dailymail.co.uk

We were currently in sixth place and the Bees were top of the tree in a tighter than tight league. A 2-0 victory at Griffin Park and a brilliant win 3-1 over Nottingham Forest at Layer Road days later propelled the U’s into fourth place and just three points behind Southend, who was the new leaders. You just knew 2006 was going to be a good year for Colchester on the back end of those two results, there was a real belief we could push on and reach the Championship.

Back into the present and we started the year in 20th position and let us be honest, we were on a terrible run of form. I must confess to thinking that we were utterly doomed after an absolutely dreadful year in 2012. Robbie Cowling appointed Joe Dunne as first team manager and there was a feel good factor around the place until the draw against Shrewsbury. A horrendous defeat at Chelmsford in the FA Cup followed the Shrewsbury draw and the league form plummeted as a result.

New Year, No Change – The Lowest Point

U’s full back Brian Wilson’s horror back pass and poor marking led to two Crawley goals on NYD 2013 © football.co.uk

On New Years Day 2013, Colchester found themselves badly in the brown stuff, no victories since the middle of November and six games without a win. A short trip to Crawley saw another horrible display with Brian Wilson and Mark Cousins both gifting the Red Devils the perfect start to the year. The final score was 3-0 and I can remember sitting on the train home thinking why on earth I continue to put myself through this. It was torturous.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and the U’s had lost to Doncaster away, no real surprise, and now had an absolutely huge match with Scunthorpe. The Iron occupied the last relegation spot and was just a point behind the U’s. It was a must win game for Colchester, however Colchester just do not do must win games…

On to the match and towards the end of a turgid first half, Jimmy Ryan struck first for Scunthorpe. The midfielder smashed a shot from miles out that seemed to deceive Mark Cousins. The U’s stopper looked to have the shot covered, only for the ball to go through his arms.

The Iron doubled their lead seconds after half time when former U’s loanee Karl Hawley raced onto a knockdown from Akpo Sodje and blasted past Cousins. Freddie Sears came off the bench to score a consolation goal for the U’s but it was not enough. The defeat was Colchester’s record breaking ninth in a row and Joe Dunne offered his resignation after the game.

I was sitting in the River Lodge public house after the defeat and spoke to a group of U’s fans and not one of us thought Dunne could continue. Relegation was an absolute certainty. We were in 21st place and just 2 points above 23rd place Portsmouth. It was a crushing feeling and it is hard to describe the emotion you feel. Being a football fan puts you through the mill, but I have to confess that the Scunthorpe defeat was the lowest I have ever felt as a football fan.

Mike Grella provided a moment of comedy as he self imploded in front of goal after a Maradona-esque run © scunthorpe-united.co.uk

Despite it being a terrible match for the U’s, it did provide me with the funniest moment I can remember from 2013. Mike Grella, Scunny’s American striker, had one of the most amazing runs I have ever witnessed. He got the ball from inside his own half and dribbled the ball (on a terrible rain sodden surface) past the entire Colchester midfield and defence. With just Mark Cousins to beat, it looked like it would be the best goal I’d ever seen, only for Grella to lose his bearings, turn around and try to back heel it past Cousins! Fortunately, he made a complete hash of it, but it was just a bizarre moment and why he turned, only he will know. It was the sublime to the ridiculous!

The First Win – Relief in the Ranks

Back to where it mattered, Joe Dunne strengthened the squad with goalkeeper Sam Walker on loan from Chelsea, defender/midfielder David Wright on a free transfer from Crystal Palace and the U’s completed their business signing former loan star Jabo Ibehre on a permanent deal ahead of the game against Walsall.

Jabo returned to the club on a free transfer from MK Dons after a horrendous January in 2013 © cu-fc.com

The Saddlers have always seemed to struggle at Colchester in more recent times. The game looked to be heading for a draw until the 79th minute. Jabo Ibehre put the ball into the net after Ian McLoughlin parried Freddie Sears’ shot, much to the relief of the beleaguered U’s crowd. The points were sealed a minute before time, when Ibehre excellently dummied George Porter’s cross and Sears put the ball past McLoughlin to record a massive win for Colchester.

With Scunthorpe falling to defeat, the win propelled the U’s out of the drop zone and a point behind fellow strugglers Oldham. Where the Scunthorpe game felt like the world was going to end, the Walsall victory was a huge relief and with the new signings, maybe the U’s could kick on now we had that losing monkey off our back?

Moving slowly onwards to the end of February, a resurgent U’s had defeated Portsmouth 3-2 at Fratton Park and beaten Preston 1-0 at home. A loss to Swindon at home sandwiched in the middle looked to be a bit of a blip, but things were looking brighter. Scunthorpe looked to be clearing their selves out of the danger zone, whilst Shrewsbury were dragged into trouble and was just two points ahead of the U’s who occupied 20th place, two points above Oldham.

Double Defeat and the Miracles in March

Another incredible low point followed a 3-0 defeat to away to Sheffield United (standard Colchester at Brammall Lane) with a thrashing against Tranmere at home. Max Power lived up to his name when he smashed in the opening goal from 25 yards after ten minutes. Magnus Okuonghae equalised for the U’s, converting from a Billy Clifford set piece, but a disastrous mix up between Josh Thompson and Sam Walker allowed Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro in to loop the ball into an unguarded net. The goal was completely against the run of play and on the verge of half time.

The rampant visitors added three more goals to their tally without reply to beat the U’s 5-1. It was a shocking performance and Dunne reportedly looked to resign once again, but Ronnie Moore supposedly talked him out of approaching Robbie Cowling. This was another horrible low point and once again, it looked like we were doomed. Colchester were now 21st and sat three points behind Scunthorpe and had to face high flying Yeovil, on a cold and wet Tuesday night for their one game in hand.

Billy Clifford’s strike, my goal of the season, gave the U’s a winning feeling over Yeovil. © eadt.co.uk

Yeovil was on an incredible run of form. I think they had been unbeaten in something like nine games when they visited the Weston Homes Community Stadium. In what turned out to be one of Colchester’s best displays of the season, the U’s came out worthy winners against Gary Johnson’s side. Billy Clifford scored a wonder strike on the verge of half time and Freddie Sears sealed the win midway into the second half, controlling the ball and lashing home past Marek Stech after a great run from Bradley Garmston.

I really did not want to ramble too much about last season, but you cannot help it, as March was a fascinating month. It was a fascinating, if not depressingly exciting season. March started brilliantly for the U’s with a deserved victory at Stevenage to follow on from the Yeovil game. Jabo Ibehre was becoming the man for the big occasions, as the powerful front man netted twice to leave Colchester in 19th place. The U’s were now three points from 16th place Carlisle United, and they had three points breathing space from 21st place Oldham.

Sixty-two fans travelled to Hartlepool in the next match, another MASSIVE six pointer. The U’s went out for the attack but lost Ibehre to a controversial red card, half way through the first half. It was a massive blow, but an incredible defensive performance saw the U’s go home with a point. Sam Walker pulled off a couple of incredible saves to keep the U’s in it. I laughed all the way home and the buzz from that game was just brilliant. It was one of those need to be there moments. It was the longest ninety minutes I can remember, but well worth it for the heroism we saw from the team that night.

Just when you thought everything was going right, a home defeat to Crewe brought U’s fans crashing back down to earth with a bump. Luke Murphy scored a penalty after Josh Thompson handled in the box and despite a George Porter equaliser in the 42nd minute, the U’s were hit a killer blow when Matias Pogba’s near post effort caught out Sam Walker and proved to be the winning goal.

Michael Smith and George Porter celebrate the U’s opener at the Ricoh Arena ©

Last minute heartbreak cost Colchester dear at Coventry in the next fixture. Michael Smith, on loan from Charlton, notched his first goal for the club and Gavin Massey struck in the second half to give the U’s a 2-0 advantage. However, with just ten minutes left to play, Callum Wilson pulled a goal back and in injury time, George Porter stupidly fouled an opponent on the edge of the box and Carl Baker curled in the resulting free kick to leave the U’s heartbroken.

An Eight Foot Octopus Saves The Day

Another away day saw the U’s travel to Bury, who were sitting at the bottom of the table, ten points behind Colchester. The U’s were four points ahead of 21st place Oldham and two points above Scunthorpe before the start of play.

Three minutes into the game and it looked like it was going to be another long day. As George Porter looked to counter attack, a Bury player wrestled him to the ground. As Porter got up, he stupidly kicked out at the Bury player and we all thought for a second that it was a Bury player that had received his marching orders, however when Porter trudged off the pitch, everyone just sat down and thought that was it.

Bury piled forward and continued to miss chance after chance. Finally, in the 26th minute, former U’s striker Craig Fagan found the net and for me that was game over. It was a deflating moment and I felt the impending doom of relegation must be a certainty by losing to Bury. They were the whipping boys of the league and were beating our ten men with ease.

The feeling of doom turned to ecstasy and joy just four minutes later, when the rarest of rare attacks saw the U’s win a corner. The ball flew into the box and Josh Thompson leaped highest to powerfully head home an equaliser. Just a minute later, a miracle occurred! Not only did the U’s force a second, but it was from bloody Clinton Morrison of all people who scored it. The wily old fox in the box had not had a sniff of goal all season. The fans had damned John Ward for signing him and not Kevin Lisbie who was banging goals in for fun at Orient. I think it was probably the first shot in anger Morrison had had in 2013, as he delicately curled the ball into the bottom corner. I will be forever indebted to Clinton for that goal, especially as the game coincided with my birthday.

The 8ft octopus, otherwise known as Sam Walker producing another wonder save at Bury © eadt.co.uk

The Shakers threw absolutely everything at the U’s in the second half. The Bury press described Sam Walker as an 8ft octopus in their post match reports after he made a number of ridiculous saves. When Walker was beaten, the stout U’s defence came to his rescue to clear off the line. When both the defence and Walker was beaten, the woodwork came to the U’s aid. It was epic, Roy of the Rovers stuff.

After the final whistle, a group of us stayed behind and Joe Dunne came out of a side door and did a jig of delight shouting some expletives of joy that I cannot possibly mention. It was then, a merry ColUDude decided to grab the U’s gaffer and lift him off his feet with a bear hug (polite way of putting it). It was one of my favourite moments of the season and the victory looked like it was just the tonic for the U’s to push on and stay up.

Promotion chasing Bournemouth was the next to visit Colchester and I have to confess they were the best team I saw all season and ran out worthy 1-0 winners. The Cherries played some delightful football, but spoiled it by their awful gamesmanship, which infuriated the home crowd.

April Fools – U’s Blow Survival Chance After Bright Start

Drey Wright put the U’s in the Easter Monday draw at Oldham © eadt.co.uk

A vital six pointer came on Easter Monday at Boundary Park. The U’s have had a good record at Oldham in recent seasons and took the lead against the run of play as a horrendous fumble by the goalkeeper allowed Drey Wright to smash the U’s ahead. Dunne’s men came close to adding to the tally when they hit the bar early in the second half, but a Jose Baxter header levelled the game. The result ensured the U’s stayed in 19th place and were three points clear of both Oldham and Scunthorpe.

After an injury to Josh Thompson early into the game against Leyton Orient at home, John White was forced to play centre back, partnering Magnus Okuonghae. The U’s seemed to be hit for six for a few moments after the change, however Gavin Massey and Drey Wright scored to give the U’s an early advantage. Colchester soon settled down, but Kevin Lisbie replied late in the first half to make a very tense second half.

Orient threw everything at the U’s and won a penalty late in the game, a moment which you just wanted the world to open up and swallow you, as it was quite a while since a Colchester goalkeeper saved a penalty (or anyone missed against us for that instance). Kevin Lisbie stood up to take the penalty. For a brief moment, time stood still as the ball seemed to take forever to travel towards Walker’s bottom right hand corner. All of a sudden, the huge frame of Walker got down and pushed the pull to the side.

Sam Walker saved Kevin Lisbie’s penalty to give the U’s a massive three points © cu-fc.com

Incredible! Dramatic! All the ridiculous superlatives you can think of can describe the feelings at that final whistle. Just writing this now has given me that buzz of joy I had at the final whistle of that game as the U’s held firm to win a vital three points, with just four games left of the season.

Frustratingly, Colchester were unable to capitalise on the Orient win, falling to a poor 3-1 defeat against Notts County at Meadow Lane and then losing at home 2-0 to MK Dons, the U’s perennial bogey side. The MK defeat was one of the only times I can remember where I left a game we lost with a smile on my face, after Scunthorpe threw away a one goal lead to lose to Bury, who were dead and buried (boom tish).

The last home game of the season saw Shrewsbury visit Colchester. The U’s would be guaranteed safety if they won and even a draw would do if MK Dons beat Scunthorpe at Stadium:MK. The Iron had to win to stay up, meanwhile, just a point would guarantee safety for the Shrews.

Joe Dunne feels the pain of defeat for the U’s. This is how I felt after the Shrewsbury game © eadt.co.uk

It is hard to write just how deflating the game was. Colchester played like a nervous pub side and struggled to create any sort of momentum. Both sides looked like they were going to play for the draw and have a party at the end with the inevitable news that the Dons had destroyed Scunny. The 0-0 bore draw saw boos ring out for the first time under Joe Dunne as the news crept through that the Iron had actually won. It just was not to be. Karl Hawley scored the only goal of the game to leave the U’s needing a result against Carlisle at Brunton Park on the final game of the season. Annoyingly, Oldham had also survived meaning it was going to be a head to head between the U’s and Scunthorpe on the final day. Scunthorpe had to beat Swindon at home to have any chance of staying up.

After the Shrewsbury draw, I thought we were doomed as once again, it was a must win and we always seem to falter when we most need to win (like we did against Scunny at home).  I felt absolutely furious we had blown our big chance with such a poor showing. The following end of season lap of honour was one of the weirdest moments I have experienced watching ColU. The stadium was near empty as hardly anyone stayed behind to applaud the players. The players looked embarrassed as they trudged around the pitch. I could not bring myself to clap them as they passed, I felt really badly let down after such a poor display.

All To Play For – The Longest Day

On to Carlisle and a large group of us had already selected Carlisle as our traditional end of season night out many moons before trouble brewed. Notts County the season before had ended with a hideous 4-1 defeat, but we made the most of Hooters and had a good night out in the city of Nottingham.

This season was quite a lot different, but for the week running up to the game, I had a feeling we were going to do it. I am quite a pessimist despite what I write in the blogs and I cannot explain to you why, but I just knew we would do it. I think a lot of my friends (yes I do have some) were somewhat unnerved by the confidence I had in the team as we trekked what felt like a million and a half miles north to Carlisle.

The run up to the game was just incredible, sitting in the Carlisle rugby club bar and just seeing faces of so many U’s fans. Every one was a little twitchy, but all we needed was a point to survive. I spoke to everyone and the nerves were there for us all.

Being a Colchester fan for just under twenty years, I was not around for the relegation to the Conference and also most people will know why I was not about for the relegation to the Championship, although that felt different in a way as we had been doomed for a while.

In the Carlisle game, we had it in our own hands to stay up and that made a massive difference for me.

For some reason, all I could think of during the game was the quote from the classic 1962 World War Two film “The Longest Day”. Richard Todd played Major John Howard in the film. Howard, commander of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry (airbourne division) was responsible for occupying and holding on to the vital Caen canal bridge (Pegasus Bridge) over the river Orne on D-Day until reinforcements from Sword Beach arrived. Throughout the film it cuts to a cut scene of Todd/Howard remembering the words “Hold until relieved” and I have no idea why it kept reminding me of our game, but the holding on until the end (and no, I did not need the toilet either…) against the odds seemed to fill my mind I guess.

Hold Until Relieved! © gazettelive.co.uk

Back to the football and the Cumbrians seemed to treat the match as a typical end of season game. The players did not seem to be able to get their selves geared up for the contest, where Colchester had fire and determination in their bellies.

Half time came without either side really troubling the scores. Colchester had defended well and controlled a lot of the game. The nerves were jangling like anything however. My hands was shaking, but I still felt confident we would survive.

Into the second half and Colchester were the better side, attacking well and in the 65th minute the fans nerves were put at a slight ease. A Billy Clifford thunderbolt smashed the underside of the bar and fell into the path of Gavin Massey. The U’s winger wrote his name into club folklore as his weak header, abnormally spun at a tantalisingly slow speed beyond Mark Gillespie and into the net.

The celebrations were absolutely mental, everyone was jumping for joy, grabbing the person next to them and screaming in delight. Grown men were hugging and kissing each other. It is quite amazing just how sport can stir the emotions of people.

Tom Eastman wheels away after his goal secured the U’s survival in League One © eadt.co.uk

Fifteen minutes later, there was even more joy as Gillespie completely misjudged a looping ball into the box and Tom Eastman, the U’s centre back had stayed up from a set piece and headed the ball into the unguarded net to send everyone back into raptures.

Last Day Relief – The Ultimate High

It was an incredible day of football and is very high on the list of the best matches I have been too, just for the sheer emotion, joy and relief. The togetherness of the fans, players and staff was just brilliant that day. The only thing missing was Lord Lovat and his commando’s arriving at the stadium with the bagpipes blasting out! To make up for the lack of Lord Lovat and bagpipes, we decided to have a celebratory pint over the border in Lovat’s native Scotland, unfortunately there was still no bagpipes, but beer had never tasted so sweet.

Victory in Europe!

The ultimate high of 2013 has to be the survival on the last day of the season. In a season of lows, pain and sorrow, this victory just let all the emotion out of everyone and we could relax and have a good summer and rebuild. I felt a tinge of sadness for Scunthorpe having to feel the pain of relegation, but it would have been a nightmare situation financially had the U’s gone down. Fortunately the U’s did win as the Iron scored three late goals to defeat Swindon 3-1.

The U’s started 2013 in 20th place and ended the season there. Despite this being a massive disappointment after consecutive mid table finishes in the previous two seasons, nothing beat the exhilaration of the final celebrations. I celebrated more at the final whistle against Carlisle than I did against Yeovil when we won promotion to the Championship! I just hope I do not have to be celebrating surviving on the last day again for a while, that is for sure!

As I have written far too much here and do not want to cut it down, part two of the highs and lows of 2013 will feature in the very near future. I’ll go through the trials and tribulations the U’s have suffered this season, as there are lot of them, along with the promised stats for the whole of 2013.

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Cup rage, Four-Six and a Stolen Point


The U’s management duo have faced a tough month in November© cu-fc.com

It is fair to say that Joe Dunne does not have the best record in cups since becoming the permanent manager of the U’s. Since he has been in charge, the U’s have lost in the first round of every cup competition entered, bar the Essex Senior Cup!

I think a number U’s fans; myself included, breathed a heavy sigh when Sheffield United came out of the hat to visit the Weston Homes Community Stadium in the FA Cup. I was pleased the game was at home, but I must confess to being quite partial to going to these non-league grounds with proper terracing.

Phil Gibbs was to steal the show in the FA Cup © uk.eurosport.yahoo.com

The Blades travelled to Essex for the tie on the back of a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Shrewsbury and you just knew the game was going to be tough when the referee, Phil Gibbs was shaking hands with Nigel Clough and having a good laugh with the recently appointed Blades boss.

Colchester have been a real Jekyll and Hyde team this season. We started games well and then played completely crap in the second half, we were now starting games poorly and playing well in the second half.

The U’s weakened by being unable to play loanees, Jeffrey Monakana, Elliot Lee and Cian Bolger, were forced into playing an unfit Tom Eastman, whilst Macauley Bonne made his first start for the club. Andy Bond also started for the U’s, as Joe Dunne deployed a diamond like formation. The last time we played this formation was against Peterborough in the Carling Cup and that turned out to be an annihilation.

Maguire celebrating putting the Blades in front © thestar.co.uk

It looked like Dunne’s side would be on the end of another thrashing, when just ten minutes into the tie, Harry Maguire met a corner into the box and ball flew into the back of the net. Looking on the highlights, it looked like it may have been offside, but Marcus Bean appeared to be in the middle of three Blades players and may have played them all onside. It was still a brilliant header by Maguire though, so credit where credit is due.

Just two minutes later, the U’s conceded a second goal. Magnus Okuonghae, who has been such a good player for ColU this season, had a woeful lapse of concentration. A Blades player intercepted his attempted back pass and to add to the U’s woes, an appalling cross, bobbled off Tom Eastman, completely wrong footing Sam Walker and striking the big goalkeepers leg before dribbling over the line.

Two could have been three in quick succession as the confident Blades poured forward. Veteran left back Matt Hill, completely unmarked, unleashed a rocket of a shot from 30 yards out. The ball cannoned off the cross bar and the U’s survived another scare.

Colchester just could not get going in the first half and Phil Gibbs done everyone a favour by blowing the whistle for half time. I must confess to contemplating going to the pub at half time, because the U’s were woefully inept.

I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall in the dressing room at half time and hearing what Joe Dunne had to say. Ryan Dickson came on for Andy Bond at half time, with Luke Garbutt pushed forward to left wing and Bonne moving out wide on the right.

The U’s came out of the blocks at an electric speed and pulled a goal back after a matter of minutes. Clinton Morrison reacted quickest, flicking Luke Garbutt’s superb cross on and Macauley Bonne was in the right place at the right time to nod the ball into the net.

The U’s continued to come forward and looked the only team likely to score for a good ten minutes. With the U’s very much in attack mode, they were susceptible to the counter attack and luckily, Chris Porter was having a bit of a mare.

The Yorkshire side should have made the game secure when the journeyman striker was alone in the six yard box, but instead of tapping the ball into the net, the ball struck the shin of Porter and bounced kindly into the arms of Sam Walker.

Luke Garbutt equalising for the U’s © gazette-news.co.uk

Porter’s miss proved to be a costly one as Colchester grabbed a deserved equaliser just moments later. Luke Garbutt received the ball from 20 yards out and unleashed a sweetly struck shot into the corner of the net.

It was finally turning into a proper cup-tie and after the U’s leveller, the game turned into a real yo-yo battle. Harry Maguire saw a header well saved by Sam Walker, before Marcus Bean drove through on goal, but smashed his effort high and wide.

With Phil Gibbs obviously having a Sheffield United win on his betting coupon, he began to give every decision to the Blades and displayed a woeful lack of consistency towards the U’s. The game looked to be heading towards a replay when a ball into the box found Maguire, who headed the ball against the arm of Magnus Okuonghae. The defender was half a yard away, with his back turned. The Referee’s assistant stuck his flag up to indicate handball and Phil Gibbs could not wait to point to the spot.

The useless Porter stepped up and sent Walker the wrong way to win the match for the referblades. Colchester tried to get back into the game but Gibbs ignored every foul the Blades made.

Gibbs soon blew the full time whistle and made his way back to the changing room with the U’s faithful baying for blood. ShePhil Gibbs progressed to the second round to face either Bury or Cambridge away, with the U’s having to wait another season for any sort of cup progress.

Next up for Colchester were Swindon Town, a traditional bogey team for the U’s.

Swindon boss Mark Cooper introduced the 4-6 formation against the U’s to great effect © swindontownfc.co.uk

Mark Cooper seemed to be looking at West Ham’s striker-less formation as they took to the field without playing a central striker.

The U’s started brightly and were on top for the first twenty minutes of the game as the Robins were happy to sit back with ten men behind the ball, whilst Dunne’s men kicked the ball around merrily at the back.

Colchester created a couple of chances without troubling the injured Wes Foderingham, but soon began to run out of ideas as Swindon began to get a little more daring going forward with Australian, Massimo Luongo shooting wide from range.

It was another well-hit shot from range, which led to the first goal of the game. Sam Walker looked to have made a good save from Luongo’s strike, but he was unable to push the ball out of the danger zone and wide-man Nicky Ajose sneaked in behind Brian Wilson to put the ball into an empty net.

The U’s looked stunned by the goal and struggled to get forward as the well drilled Robins, packed into their own half, stymied the U’s passing game and made Dunne’s side look for the long ball.

Elliot Lee, playing the last game of his loan spell thought he’d got the U’s back into the game, but a Swindon defender was on the line to make a clearance. From the following corner, Marcus Bean looked irate as he went down in the box, but saw the referee wave play on. I did not see much of the incident from the South Stand so could not really comment on whether it was a penalty or not.

Swindon had the best chance to increase their lead from a set piece of their own, but Sam Walker was on hand to catch a fierce, headed effort.

The half time whistle soon came with the striker-less visitors in the lead.

The Robins celebrate scoring in their deserved victory at the WHCS © dailymail.co.uk

Usually when the U’s have been woeful one half, they usually come out firing in the second, but that did not occur on this occasion as the Robins went straight on the attack and scored a goal, similar to one you would see in a video game.

Ryan Harley, with all the time in the world, drilled an effort across the face of goal and Dany N’Guessan timed his run perfectly to simply tuck the ball into the net.

Colchester was just not at the races and could not deal with the Robins midfield, with Luongo and Harley causing all sorts of problems for the home side. There seemed to be a real lack of desire to win the ball back. Once the U’s did find a way into Swindon’s half they found themselves quickly closed down and conceded possession back to Swindon.

The Robins thought they had a deserved third goal, midway through the half, but the referee’s assistant had his flag up to deny the tricky Ajose a second. Moments later, Sam Walker ran out of his goal to deny N’Guessan, but his weak header only found its way to Luongo. The impressive Aussie unleashed a glorious curling effort that looked destined for the net, only to strike the top of the post and the U’s narrowly survived.

Magnus Okuonghae pulled a goal back for the U’s © eadt.co.uk

Despite being second best most of the game, Colchester did pull a goal back in the 78th minute, through centre back Magnus Okuonghae. With the U’s chucking everyone forward, Okuonghae found himself completely unmarked in the penalty area to meet Brian Wilson’s cross and score his second goal of the season.

It was a completely undeserved goal, but gave the U’s some hope of snatching a point against the odds.

Colchester continued to throw everything forward, but Cian Bolger summed up the U’s day with a comical moment of madness, kicking the ball in the air, heading it straight back in the air before handling it as it bounced next to him.

It was a woeful performance from Colchester and Swindon fully deserved the points. It was interesting to see how the Robins lined up, effectively stopping the U’s from playing. Colchester’s movement was woeful and when they did get into the Swindon half, the U’s quickly ran out of ideas what to do with it. Swindon’s wide-men showed Colchester how to attack balls into the box and were incredibly incisive with their chances.

Onwards and upwards, a lesson learned for Colchester as they travelled to Preston for the next fixture. The U’s have had a good record against Preston in more recent times and appear to be the Lilywhites bogey team.

The U’s saw Gavin Massey and Freddie Sears return to the starting line up after both have suffered with hamstring problems.

Preston, who had defeated top of the table, Leyton Orient the previous week, looked confident and full of beans as they started the stronger of the two sides.

Sam Walker had to be alert within a minute of the kick off to deny Joe Garner opening the scoring with a headed effort.

Sam Walker had a stormer for the U’s at Deepdale © gazette-news.co.uk

Minutes later, Walker was beaten all ends up as Kevin Davies met a sublime cross field pass, but the U’s were spared as Davies’ downwards header hit the turf and bounced over the cross bar.

The home side were completely outplaying the U’s, with the visitors struggling to even keep possession of the ball.

Thankfully, Sam Walker was on hand to deny the Lilywhite’s repeatedly as the U’s restricted the home side from shots from range.

Both Freddie Sears and Gavin Massey both suffered reoccurring hamstring injuries and had to be replaced by Jabo Ibehre and Tosin Olufemi midway through the half.

In terms of chances, the U’s were poor in the first half and were unable to threaten Rudd in the Preston goal. Clinton Morrison flashed a header so far wide, that it went for a throw and Jabo Ibehre had a decent chance, dispossessing the Preston centre back, but instead of squaring the ball to Bean, the powerful striker went for goal, putting the ball into orbit.

It looked like Colchester would be undeservedly heading into the break with the scores level, but on the stroke of half time, Garner reacted quickest to a cross into the box and headed the ball beyond Walker’s grasp and into the net. It was a frustrating goal to concede, as I felt Bolger had been slow to react to the danger. Garner anticipated the ball into the box and made his move across the U’s loan defender, seconds before the cross came in. Bolger did not follow his run and Garner was able to get to the ball first. It was a good goal, but a disappointing one to concede, as the U’s had held firm until then.

The second half was pretty much a repeat of the first. The U’s were just not at the races and were fortunate to be only a goal down early in the half as Walker tipped Kilkenny’s head onto the bar.

Walker came to the U’s rescue time and time again denying North End. When a deflected effort did beat the U’s custodian, all Kevin Davies needed to do was get a touch on the ball to put it in. Fortunately for the U’s, Davies missed the ball completely. Davies’ woeful finishing continued minutes later as his toe poked effort went well wide from eight yards out.

The U’s had soaked up an awful amount of pressure and introduced Dominic Vose into the fray with twenty minutes left to play. The U’s began to get a little more adventurous with the former West Ham man’s introduction. When I say adventurous, I mean out of our own half!

Garbutt snatched the U’s a point after a terrible display at Deepdale © twentyfour7football.com

Soon after his introduction, Vose burst in field from the wing and picked out Luke Garbutt. The Everton loanee took a touch and scored with a shot identical to that against Sheffield United. It was the U’s first shot on target and Garbutt’s second goal in as many games for the club.

The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of the home side slightly, as the U’s found a bit of attacking impetus. Vose put another teasing cross into the box, which went for a corner. However, that was pretty much it from the U’s.

The men in gold survived a late onslaught from the home side to pick up a very handy, but undeserved point to extend their unbeaten run against the Lilywhites to seven games.

My Pennies Worth

I have to confess that despite all my enthusiasm and positivity, I am beginning to get a little worried. The only positive to come out of the Preston game was a show of mental strength to grab a goal and take home the point. Last season, we would have buckled under the pressure, but we are actually picking up points and undeservedly too. A point is better than no point and I guess most fans would have been happy with a point prior to kick off.

Freddie Sears has returned to the sidelines after another hamstring aggravation © thepfa.com

My main gripe however is the lack of any sort of cohesion. Ok, the U’s have struggled with injuries and lost Massey and Sears to injury on Saturday too. But we have looked exceptionally poor in the last two league games and have not looked very threatening in attack. It is really worrying how we seem to be sustaining so many muscle injuries this season too.

Against Swindon, we looked devoid of ideas quite early into the game and Joe Dunne said he would take the rap for the defeat. Too many players are under performing and a lack of any sort of width is really starting to hinder the team.

Morrison has been left chasing lost causes without support this season. © cu-fc.com

The formation Dunne persists with relies heavily on wide players and the midfield getting into the box, but this is not happening. The U’s movement has been unbelievably poor and I personally feel sorry for Clinton Morrison, who has worked his backside off with very little help.

It is still early days in the season, but a lack of goals and chance creation recently is becoming a serious cause for concern. The injury problems are not helping things, but I do not think Dunne is helping the side either by persisting with a formation, which does not really suit us with the players available to us. It is unfortunately very John Wardesque.

Next up for Colchester is MK Dons tomorrow and it will be another tough match against a side that always beats us. I am truly hoping for a miracle, because looking at things now, it is looking like it could be another long hard season. The only positive is that we are picking up points away from home. We need to make the WHCS a difficult place to come to, but I feel the formation is restricting us massively.

I love nothing more than watching the U’s play. It is a very expensive hobby and one that is getting harder to tolerate as our performances seem to be declining rather rapidly. It’s becoming quite hard to take, but I am hoping we can start to notch a few wins and keep our head above water and away from any relegation trouble. Whilst we are not losing many, the struggles at home and only three wins this season is a cause for concern in my opinion.

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“You’ll win nothing with kids…” Colchester United and the EPPP


The U’s successful Youth Team could potentially meet Aston Villa’s U18’s at Villa Park should they dispatch Plymouth Argyle on Wednesday © cu-fc.com

There has been one major plus point to the U’s injury problems this season. Colchester fans have had a glimpse into the future with a number of academy players that have been given a chance in the first eleven.

When Robbie Cowling took over the reigns as chairman in 2008, he allowed Geraint Williams, Paul Lambert and Aidy Boothroyd to spend an obscene amount of money for a club like Colchester. It was actually whilst Boothroyd was in charge of the U’s, when Cowling drew up a philosophy of a team of home grown talent, much like what Crewe Alexandra have achieved through the years under the stewardship of Dario Gradi, a true genius in spotting talented young players.

Man behind the scenes – Tony Humes © – cu-fc.com

In January 2009, the U’s local neighbours, Ipswich Town under the management of Roy Keane, cut back on their youth programme, making redundancies along the way. In June 2009, Tony Humes, one of those made redundant, quickly became the U’s new academy manager. There were more to follow with Sean Thacker and Richard Hall both employed by the U’s, after their subsequent release by Ipswich.

The U’s youth programme was already half decent, but the U’s became more and more professional with the scouting network expanded to find and produce the best local talent around the area.

Tom Bender, now at Millwall, made his debut in 2008 and is best known for being knocked unconscious in the JPT v Tranmere Rovers © gazette-news.co.uk

Aidy Boothroyd was all for producing youth talent, having previously worked as a youth and development coach at Norwich and West Brom. It was in September 2009 when Tom Bender made his first ever appearance for the club, becoming the second youngest player to pull on the blue and white stripes, taking to the field as a substitute against Hartlepool United.

Off the pitch, the club was in one of the healthiest shapes it has ever been, with an array of young local talent on the production line. Boothroyd commented to the Colchester Gazette “I’m all for youth and my view is that if you’re good enough, you’re old enough”, after Bender had made his maiden bow for the U’s.

Boothroyd’s time at the club was to be short lived, as Coventry City poached the Yorkshireman in 2010. Robbie Cowling appointed John Ward as the new man in charge, with Ward also being an advocate for producing youth talent and having some bright ideas. I was one of the first to criticise Ward for his management of the club, but what he did behind the scenes, we should be rather thankful.

The 2011/12 season saw the U’s raid Ipswich once again for 19 year old centre back Tom Eastman, meanwhile youth team scholars, Craig Arnott and Bradley Hamilton were given professional contracts.

Whilst Cowling had cut the first team budget and things were not going brilliantly on the field, off the pitch, the club were gearing up for the coming Elite Player Performance Plan (more on the EPPP below) with Cowling pumping an untold amount of money on improving the youth academy at the club.

LuaLua played from the U’s between 1998-2000, leaving for Newcastle United for £2.25million © africahit.com

I can remember the question and answer session held at the stadium, where Robbie Cowling and Tony Humes first spoke about the EPPP. It was a brave new venture for the club and one where the club felt geared. I must admit to not being overly enamoured by the news as I had little idea of just how far the club had progressed and who was coming through the youth team. Greg Halford, now at Nottingham Forest, has probably been one of the better-known youth talents to come through the youth system in recent times. Before that, you will probably have to look at Lomana LuaLua, who the club spotted playing park football. Mark Kinsella who the U’s snapped up as a 17 year old from his native Ireland and went on to represent Eire in the World Cup in 2002 is probably one of the only other well known players the club has had in more recent times.

I really did not think we could produce talent within the next few years capable of playing and adapting to League One football. The likes of Anthony Wordsworth, John White, Dean Gerken, Medy Elito, Garry Richards and current U’s back up goalkeeper Mark Cousins, have all come through the U’s youth system and played in the Football League in recent times. There are always the likes of Robbie King and Marc Canham, highly rated as youngsters, who never made the grade professionally. I thought it was a massive risk that we would pin our hopes on youth talent to progress both on and off the pitch to push the club forward. There are not many clubs producing their own homegrown players and getting them into the first team early, with probably the exception of Crewe and Middlesbrough off the top of my head.

After actually watching the youth team on a couple of occasions, it became clear to me that things were progressing a lot quicker with the youth development than I originally thought, as the U’s under 18 side progressed to the semi final of the Youth Alliance Cup, losing on penalties against a much more experienced Exeter City side.

The U’s state of the art training facility at Florence Park © bbc.co.uk

For anyone that attended that night, it was clear to see the U’s had a few really talented lads. On the back of some fine performances for the youth team Freddie Ladapo and Alex Gilbey, the youth team captain signed professional contracts at the club. As well as the cup run, the U’s had started work on Florence Park, a new state of the art training complex in Tiptree, at a cost of £3million and had also been working with the Thurstable school, also in Tiptree to offer an education to the players alongside their training. It is truly remarkable to see just how far the club had come in such a short time.

The 2012/13 season saw Drey Wright, Shaun Phillips, Tosin Olufemi and Ryan Melaugh pen professional contracts with the club, all of them also impressing in the Youth Alliance League and Cup.

Looking at the squad list, the club started the 12/13 season with twelve professionals that had come through the youth system throughout the years with Mark Cousins, Karl Duguid, John White, Anthony Wordsworth, Freddie Ladapo, Alex Gilbey, Drey Wright, Shaun Phillips, Tosin Olufemi, Bradley Hamilton, Jordan Sanderson and Ryan Melaugh all named in the squad.

Flying winger Drey Wright’s progress has been slightly hindered this season by a knee injury © cu-fc.com

Drey Wright, the son of former Crewe, Ipswich and Southampton midfielder Jermaine Wright, made his debut in the opening game of the season in the Carling Cup. The U’s succumbed to a heavy 3-0 defeat away to Yeovil, but the emergence of Wright, was clear to see just how good the U’s youth recruitment had come. He had only been a first year scholar at the club, but had shown enough promise to firstly sign a contract and then make his debut. Last season, Wright was to become runner up in the League One Apprentice of Year at the Football League awards.

With John Ward’s departure after a disastrous start of the season, Joe Dunne, Ward’s assistant, whom had also been a youth coach with the U’s for a number of years previously, took over the reigns.

It is fair to say it was a risky appointment by Robbie Cowling, but the highly rated Dunne’s plans and future vision was on a par with the U’s chairman.

With the budget severely stretched, Dunne turned to youth to guide the U’s to safety. He used the loan system to bring in bright and promising youth talents, such as, Dominic Samuel from Reading, Dan Potts from West Ham, Sam Walker & Billy Clifford from Chelsea, Bradley Garmston from West Brom, George Porter from Burnley and Michael Smith from Charlton. As well as the loan market, Tosin Olufemi and Freddie Ladapo both made their professional debuts too.

Alex Gilbey (centre) celebrating a man of the match performance for Newport in their Conference playoff final victory at Wembley © cu-fc.com

After making his debut in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat to Northampton, Alex Gilbey left the club on loan to cut his teeth in the Blue Square Premier with promotion chasing Newport County. The U’s youngster earned rave reviews from The Exiles’ fans, making a man of the match appearance in the playoff final to help the club into the Football League.

A very inexperienced U’s side narrowly survived the drop on the last day of the season. When you think just how inexperienced the squad was, it was quite a remarkable achievement.

Coming into this season, Colchester were widely tipped for the drop, with many media outlets stating the lack of budget and only signing, Craig Eastmond, Sanchez Watt, Ryan Dickson, plus the re-signing of Jabo Ibehre were not enough to see them out of trouble. On the development side of things however, Conor Hubble, a talented midfielder released by QPR joined the club after a trial and Mason Spence, a Welsh youth international full back, joined from MK Dons.

Despite a bright start to the season, a series of injuries crippled Joe Dunne’s side. At one point, the U’s had twelve first team players out injured, meaning youth would have to get a chance once again, with eighteen year olds Drey Wright and Alex Gilbey becoming first team regulars.

Luke Garbutt has been a key performer for the U’s during his loan spell with the club, pictured here celebrating his strike in the FA Cup against Sheffield United © twentyfour7football.com

Jeffrey Monakana (Preston), Luke Garbutt (Everton & England U20 international), Elliot Lee (West Ham) and Cian Bolger (Bolton & Ireland U21) have all come into the club to bolster the ranks on loan and whilst they have some first team football of some sort under their belts prior to coming to the U’s, all of them are under 22!

The most pleasing aspect of the injury crisis (if you can call it pleasing!) is the rapid progression of Macauley Bonne and Sammie Szmodics in the Youth Alliance League, which has seen them progress to the first team, putting in some very encouraging performances at the same time.

Freddie Ladapo, Mason Spence and Conor Hubble have all come in to the team and made substitute appearances, whilst Tosin Olufemi has have also come into the team and made his first start against Carlisle United. Both Olufemi and Wright signed new three-year deals at the club on the back of some encouraging displays, which was most pleasing to see.

So far this season, it is perhaps Macauley Bonne, who has stolen all the headlines out of the U’s youthful contingent. After an injury to Jabo Ibehre against Brentford, Bonne found himself called into the first team and on the bench for match at Shrewsbury Town. After an injury to David Wright late in the game, Bonne made his maiden professional bow as a substitute.

In the next fixture against highflying Peterborough United, Bonne, on his eighteenth birthday, found his name on the bench for the injury ravaged U’s once again.

“Macca” Bonne celebrating his first of many goals for the U’s © cu-fc.com

In an extremely brave move, the U’s manager Joe Dunne introduced Bonne from the bench in the 62nd minute replacing the veteran Clinton Morrison. To put it into perspective, Bonne was only two years old when Morrison made his first professional appearance as an eighteen year old for Crystal Palace, firing an injury time winner against Sheffield Wednesday in 1998. It turned out to be an inspired change for the U’s, as after only eight minutes after entering the field of play, the striker connected with Luke Garbutt’s mouth-watering cross to powerfully head home and score his first professional goal, handing Dunne’s side their first victory since August. Bonne was to further add to his tally two weeks later, finding himself alone at the near post to head home Clinton Morrison’s flicked header to bring the U’s back into the game in the FA Cup tie against Sheffield United.

Amazingly, the average age of the U’s team that finished the game against Peterborough was a staggering 23 years and 105 days old. It is quite remarkable really and rather worrying at the same time! Alan Hansen famously quipped “you’ll win nothing with kids” on Match of the Day when commenting on ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ after an opening day defeat to Aston Villa in the 1995–96 Premier League season. We all know what happened next…

Whilst I do not expect Colchester to be tearing up trees any time soon, in the face of adversity, Joe Dunne has shown that he is not afraid to turn to the youth team. Having seen some of the youngsters rapid progression at an early age, who knows what could happen in the not to distant future should we produce and keep more players with the ability of the likes of Macauley Bonne, Drey Wright and Alex Gilbey.

It is fair to say the U’s have some bright prospects in and around the team. Just last week academy ‘keeper, James Bransgrove, who was released on the scrapheap by Brentford and picked up by the U’s earlier this year, was called up to the Scotland U18 team for training, which just goes to show that the club must be doing something right.

Elite Player Performance Plan

The FA introduced the EPPP in 2011 as a way into developing youth talent © Thefa.com

The FA’s Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP), heavily backed by the Premier League, first came into force in 2011 and looked to increase the amount of coaches and home-grown talents in the Football League and effectively fixing transfer fees for them to cherry pick the best youth talents out there for potentially peanuts. Many League clubs were up in arms about the academy changes, whilst the U’s embraced it.

Out of the four categories, the U’s hoped to achieve Category 2 status. The club looked well geared up for achieving this with the FA granting the U’s temporary Category 2 status, pending an audit.

The benefits for the club obtaining Cat 2 status would be that they would require a higher compensation package from clubs poaching the U’s youngsters, determining how long they had been with the club and how many appearances they had made for the first team. For example: £25,000 for Cat 2 sides and £10,000 for every 10 appearances up to 100 appearances for League One clubs. Cat 3 clubs will only receive £12,500 initial payment, whereas the compensation figure for appearances remains the same as long as the club stays in League One.

Another positive is that the club could train youngsters from the age of nine, whereas category 3 sides start at age eleven. Between the ages of nine and eleven, there is a standard compensation figure of £3000. A Cat 2 club is required to pay an annual investment fee of £969,000, subsided by Premier League clubs, with Robbie Cowling commenting that the U’s would receive £500,000 towards the annual investment.

Following the EPPP, was the creation of a new Under 21 League. The U’s U21 development side took to the field in the newly formed U21 League 2 Southern Development League, against some of the Premier League academy sides. Despite finishing the league bottom of the division, they could feel rightly proud of what they had achieved in a small amount of time.

I imagine this was the reaction both Joe Dunne and Robbie Cowling had after finding out the results of the the audit earlier this summer © greenun24.co.uk

This season, the audit took place and the U’s were not granted the Category 2 status they craved, missing out by 3% out of the 65% that the FA required. The U’s lost a lot of marks due to not having produced enough home grown players who had gone on to other league clubs in the last ten years.

It was a ridiculous decision and the club have rightly appealed. It also goes to show just how backwards the FA are, punishing a forward thinking club for things that happened in the past!

With the club producing potentially some of the best players to have ever come from the youth team, this will not have gone unnoticed by the clubs in higher divisions and we just have to hope that the vultures keep away and the FA sees sense and awards the club category 2 status. Although the compensation is still peanuts, any amount coming into the club can only increase the budget in the future.

After the U’s U21 side defeated Arsenal’s U21 side 5-1 in a friendly recently, I can only imagine other clubs will be keeping a close eye on the U’s off field progression.

England U21’s training at Florence Park © cu-fc.com

The training ground has really been a massive boost to the club and is a massive off field asset. Premier League clubs have been happy to send players on loan to the club, because of the off field development and recently, the England U21 side trained at Florence Park prior to the Lithuania qualifying match, which just goes to show what a first class facility the U’s possess.

I had the opportunity to speak to Joe Dunne recently, whilst he was watching the under 16’s train. The Irishman has always been approachable and he asked my opinion on how I think things were at the club and I mentioned to him about the potential of losing youth players and his reply was rather telling. He said with a wide grin “you think the lads in around the first team are good? You haven’t seen what is coming through to replace them if they go”.

The future definitely looks bright and Robbie Cowling’s dream of a team of youth scholars donning the U’s jersey looks more and more of a reality, we just have to keep our fingers crossed we are able to keep hold some of these bright, young stars of the future.

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Turning Point for the U’s?


It has been a tough season for Colchester United this season with injury problems affecting key men, really taking its toll with a quarter of a season passed already.

After the 1-1 home draw against Walsall, boos rang around the stadium and the first airing of discontent was shown towards Joe Dunne. The U’s had played extremely poorly against the Saddlers, who really deserved all three points, rather than the one. The last minute free kick converted by Andy Taylor felt like a defeat and I must admit to feeling rather deflated after the game.

The U’s travelled to West London next to face an out of form Brentford. I could not make the game, however listened to the game on BBC Essex.

The first half sounded an even affair; however, the U’s should have been 1-0 down early on when Marcello Trotta missed a simple chance from six yards.

Magnus Okuonghae celebrates putting the U’s in front at Griffin Park © gazette-news.co.uk

Colchester seemed to have come out of the second half the better side and took the lead when Luke Garbutt’s corner found the head of Magnus Okuonghae, who steered the ball beyond the ‘keeper to put the U’s into the lead.

The U’s appeared to be good for their lead until Marcello Trotta made amends for his earlier miss and poached the home side level.

The goal knocked the U’s for the count and a fifteen-minute collapse saw two goals gifted to the Bees. The first came from a wayward Eastmond pass, which allowed George Savill the opportunity to shoot from range, and his sweetly struck effort flew off the post and into the net. The third goal saw a U’s counter attack fail miserably, again gifting possession away, allowing the Bees to break. A ball across the back line found its way to substitute Kadeem Harris, who marked his Brentford debut with a flying header.

The result, a 3-1 defeat, marked only the fourth defeat for the U’s, but also extended a winless run to ten games, with the some people on various message boards and social media calling for Dunne’s head.

Colchester did not have long to put things right, with a trip to Shrewsbury on the Tuesday night after the Brentford game.

The U’s went into the game without Jabo Ibehre, the forward suffering a hip injury in training.

Big loss – Matt Taylor headed back to Bradford after his loan came to an end. © eadt.co.uk

The U’s had also been unable to extend the loan of centre back Matt Taylor, who returned to Bradford City. Joe Dunne was able to strengthen the front line by bringing in 18 year old forward Elliot Lee from West Ham, but with Tom Eastman and Josh Thompson injured, the U’s were forced to face the Shrews with only one recognised centre back, with David Wright filling in next to Magnus Okuonghae.

Shrewsbury came out of the blocks in rapid style forcing Sam Walker into a very early save before taking the lead. Adam Reach was allowed to run the length of the pitch, in a scene similar to that of Forrest Gump. Reach kept running and running, and once he reached the U’s penalty area, he put in a cross, which met the head of Cristian Lopez and flew beyond Walker and into the net, after just four minutes. It was calamitous defending from the U’s with Wilson not stopping the rampaging Reach and if Lopez did not score, there were three or four players waiting, unmarked in the box that probably would have done.

As one of the 112 hardy souls who had ventured to Shropshire, it felt like it was going to a long, long night.

The Shrews continued to pour forward in droves, obviously seeing Wright’s height disadvantage and putting balls into the box, which fortunately did not cause too many issues.

Colchester did have forays forward, with Lee showing some positive running, but Chris Weale was never threatened. The home side were being made to look like Spain with their ball retention as the patched up U’s could not get any near them to close them down.

Things got from bad to worse on the half hour mark as Freddie Sears, playing in his unfavoured wing position went down clutching his hamstring and you just knew that was the end of his night. Craig Eastmond came on in place of Sears, with Alex Gilbey pushed out wide.

For all their possession, Shrewsbury was unable to get the second goal to kill Colchester off, with Sam Walker having to be alert to deny a rasping Jon Taylor effort.

Marcus Bean’s miraculous equaliser © eadt.co.uk

On the stroke of half time, with their first real meaningful attack, the U’s somehow levelled the scores. Gavin Massey’s pass into Clinton Morrison, saw the striker hold the ball up and lay it off to the waiting Marcus Bean. The midfielder hit a daisy cutter towards the corner that somehow escaped the grasp of Chris Weale and found the net.

It was a miraculous moment as the U’s were looking like sinking without a trace prior to the goal.

Into the second half the U’s played like lions. If ever there was a game of two halves, this was it. Colchester, with Eastmond pulling the strings was looking the better side in the second half, but that second goal eluded them.

The U’s had a great chance to take the lead when Alex Gilbey’s fierce drive was excellently blocked and then Eastmond had another at the far post but the ball would not bounce for him and the defender was able to divert the ball wide.

Shrewsbury struggled to create many chances against the depleted U’s with Jon Taylor smashing their best chance high and wide of the target.

David Wright’s hamstring injury added to the U’s woes © eadt.co.uk

Colchester managed to survive the last five minutes to pick up a point, but another injury was added to the list, when David Wright’s hamstring also gave way at the death. It was clear to see Wright had been struggling, but a last ditch clearance by the former Crystal Palace man finished him off and saw him replaced by Macauley Bonne, making his professional debut for the U’s.

Where Walsall felt like a defeat, this result against the Shrews almost felt like a victory, but it still meant that the U’s winless run continued.

It was at Shrewsbury last season when things started to go pear shape for the U’s, but could this be the point which changes our season for the better?

Next up saw high flying Peterborough United travel to the WHCS and after being demolished 5-1 in the Carling Cup against the same opponents with a side with hardly any injuries, I don’t think even the ardent U’s fan could see Joe Dunne’s men getting anything from this game.

Cian Bolger joined the club on loan from Bolton Wanderers and was put straight into the deep end against Posh.

I was really surprised by the U’s fight as they got into the faces of the Peterborough and closed them down to stop them having any real freedom on the ball.

It was an up and down game of football with chances at both ends. Posh had the first chance of the game when Michael Bostwick leaped highest to meet a Lee Tomlin corner, but fortunately for the U’s, the ball flashed just wide of the target.

Elliot Lee had a great chance to put the U’s ahead moments later, as the youngster making his home debut, dispossessed Grant McCann and raced towards goal. Unfortunately, he spoilt his good work with a poor effort, shooting high, wide and handsome.

Another flowing move saw the U’s create another excellent chance, when Clinton Morrison’s superb hold up play, saw him tee up Craig Eastmond. With just the ‘keeper to beat, the U’s midfielder could only hit a tame effort, which the thankful Olejnik saved with his legs.

The two chances seemed to wake the Posh up and they enjoyed a period of dominance where they really should have taken the lead. Tommy Rowe made the most of a bouncing ball in the penalty area and lashed an effort, which Sam Walker superbly saved and Magnus got a good block on the rebound to divert the ball wide for a corner.

The final chance of the half fell to Colchester, who had soaked up a lot of pressure to launch an attack of their own. Clinton Morrison again linked well with Craig Eastmond, who hit a sweetly struck shot with his left foot that beat Olejnik, but struck the top of the bar to deny the midfielder his first goal of the season.

Into the second half, the Posh started slightly the better as they looked to take advantage of the U’s injury crisis. Lee Tomlin had the best chance, but fired into the side netting as an early warning to the U’s.

It was to be Tomlin’s last real involvement in the match however, as he tussled with Eastmond off the ball, clotheslining Craig Eastmond, wrestling style, before giving him a kick to help him down. Referee Stuart Attwell missed the tussle, but the assistant referee immediately signalled to Attwell about the altercation and Tomlin was given his marching orders. Tomlin then went ballistic as he marched off, launching foul mouth tirades at the assistant ref and the ref himself, before kicking the water bottles up into the air, much to the delight of the U’s fans.

The red card appeared to fire up the visitors who were dominating the possession, but stout defending by Okuonghae and the debutant Bolger kept the Posh from creating any clear-cut chances.

Macauley Bonne capped off his home debut & 18th Birthday with a goal to remember cu-fc.com

Joe Dunne made an inspiring change after an hour; with Macauley Bonne being introduced on his 18th birthday for the veteran Clinton Morrison, a move I felt was very brave at the time.

It turned out to be a game changing moment when Bonne powerfully headed Luke Garbutt’s excellent cross into the net. It was a great moment for the players and fans alike, and a wave of pressure seemed to be lifted.

The U’s just had to hold on to this lead and came under ferocious pressure from the visitors with two penalty claims being waved away by Attwell, much to the dismay to the Posh fans. I have to admit that the second one looked like a penalty, but the U’s had a penalty shout of their own turned down when Bostwick kicked Elliot Lee into the air and you just had to look at the defender’s reaction to know that it was a spot kick.

Colchester had a great chance to wrap the match up at the death when Eastmond broke through the midfield and into the final third with options both left and right. Sammie Szmodics was released through on goal, but Olejnik gobbled up his weakly struck effort.

In the final seconds of injury time, Peterborough was given a free kick, resembling the Walsall game. Tyrone Barnett rose highest to head the ball across the face of the goal, from the resulting free kick, but fortunately for the U’s, there was no one there to put the ball into the net and seconds later the match was over, with Joe Dunne’s side earning their first three points since August.

Next up for the U’s was a trip to Rotherham’s New York Stadium for the first time. For the first time in a long while, the U’s had no new injury worries and was able to name an unchanged line up for the trip to South Yorkshire.

The U’s got off to the perfect start from a corner kick routine which bamboozled the home defence. Luke Garbutt’s inswinging corner found Marcus Bean, whose diving header found the net off the post.

Cian Bolger had a nightmare against the Millers © cu-fc.com

Colchester’s lead did not last long however, as a deep, floated cross was missed by Cian Bolger and allowed Matt Tubbs in on goal, to finish past Walker and into the net for an immediate equaliser. I felt at the time that Bolger should not have even attempted to win the header, but turn and face the striker, however having seen the replay, he had to go for the ball and it was rather disappointing that he managed to miss it completely.

It was a horrendous goal to concede for the U’s and it did not get much better ten minutes later when a corner into the U’s box, saw Bolger get the ball caught underneath his feet. The young loanee saw the ball squirm away from him and straight to Kieran Agard, who swept the ball into the net to put the Millers into the lead.

It was turning into a nightmare for the young Irishman, who was second to every ball against former Braintree and Southend striker Alex Revell.

The U’s really struggled to get to grips with the Millers after a bright start and it became one-way traffic heading towards Sam Walker’s goal. Ben Pringle was running the show in the middle of the park, with the U’s unable to get near the midfield man.

Sam Walker kept the U’s in the game with a couple of fine saves © zimbio.com

Mark Bradley was the next to go close for the home side as a free kick into the box caused havoc amongst the U’s ranks, and the centre back was alone at the far post as he powerfully headed the ball at goal, only to be denied by a fantastic stop by Sam Walker.

Colchester were really struggling to get a foothold against the home side and were wasteful in front of goal with Jeffrey Monakana ballooning a close range effort over and Brian Wilson also shooting wide of the post from distance.

Matt Tubb’s almost grabbed his second before the half ended, but his attempted bicycle kick went over the bar, much to the relief of the travelling U’s fans behind the goal.

The U’s felt aggrieved right at the end of the half when Adam Colin raced of his line and appeared to catch the ball out of his area as Elliot Lee chased a long ball down. Neither the referee’s assistant nor the referee appeared to see it and play continued.

Into the second half, the Millers continued to dominate proceedings without really testing Walker in the U’s goal.

Colchester really should have found an equaliser on the counter attack when substitute Macauley Bonne fed in Luke Garbutt. The young Everton loanee only had Adam Colin to beat, but dragged his effort wide.

The chance seemed to wake up Steve Evans’ side that had two excellent chances to seal the match, firstly, when Alex Revell’s goal bound header was deflected into the arms of Walker and then Tubbs unleashed a low shot at the near post, with Walker managing to pull off a good save.

Rotherham thought they had the game won in the 75th minute when Mark Bradley met Ben Pringle’s free kick and saw his header beat Sam Walker. However, the assistant referee had put his flag up with Alex Revell deemed to be in an offside position and interfering with play, a decision that riled the home support.

Colchester had struggled to get into the game, but Joe Dunne’s subs and formation change saw the U’s start to get a bit more of a grip as the minutes rolled down.

Alex Gilbey’s long range effort saw Colin palm the ball clear and nearly into the path of Szmodics as the half was coming toward its end.

Four minutes injury time was announced which seemed to spur the U’s into a late rally. Steve Evans’ side looked to wind the clock down with a couple of substitutions and The Millers looked to keep the ball in the corner to preserve the points.

A break from the U’s, two minutes into injury time saw Andy Bond try an acrobatic attempt from the edge of Rotherham’s box. However, his shot floated harmlessly over and looked to put an end to the U’s resistance.

Elliot Lee with the U’s injury time leveller © whufc.com

Not to be denied, the U’s had one final flourish. Macauley Bonne’s long throw into the box caused havoc for the Millers and forced a corner. The resulting near post corner from Luke Garbutt was headed as far as Alex Gilbey on the edge of the box; his header was flicked on by Bolger, and then nodded further on by Okuonghae, before Elliot Lee looped the ball over Colin and onto the bar. The ball looked like it had bounced over the line and the referee’s assistant agreed, instantly waving his flag to indicate the goal. It was a goal that Barnes Wallis would have been proud of and gave the U’s an undeserved share of the spoils.

Colchester have really had to stand up and be counted and in the last few games, experienced heads Magnus Okuonghae, Marcus Bean and Clinton Morrison have really come to the fore.

Magnus has had to deal with many new centre back partners this season and has been a real tower of strength these last few weeks. He has got better and better this season and if he continues to play as well as he has done recently, we maybe seeing some bids come in for his services come January.

Marcus Bean started the season on the bench but has come into the team recently and been a real driving force in midfield with some energetic displays. He has also scored his first two goals of late, which have turned out to be vital. It was perhaps, the one area that you could say that Beano had lacked in his game as Colchester United player so far. Although Bean had a bit of a mare in the second half after moving out wide left on Saturday, when played through the middle, Bean has made himself near undroppable at present.

Clinton Morrison has stepped up to the plate during the U’s injury crisis © cu-fc.com

Clinton Morrison came into the side against Brentford and has not looked back since. Clinton is such an intelligent player. You can clearly see why he played football in the Premier League and at international level. His awareness and positional sense is really second to none, it is just a shame that his legs are not what they were. Even when Jabo Ibehre returns to fitness, I would like to see Clinton remain in the side. Morrison has worked hard to break into the first eleven and deserves to stay there. It would be lovely if we could provide him with some goal scoring opportunities, as I still believe he has the quality to put the ball into the net. At the moment, Clinton is the one providing the chances, which is something you cannot complain about.

When you consider that last season we had a horrific losing run (23 defeats in total), only drawing five away from home and surviving it gives me great hope that we will be fine this season. When you consider we have already drawn five away from home, with so many injuries, once these subside, things can only get better.

Also, the introduction of some of the youth players and them not looking out of place can only be good for our future prospects (My next blog will be on the U’s youth talent this season).

This Saturday sees struggling Sheffield United come to down in the first round of the FA Cup. I am hoping we can get quite a few fans in and proceed to the next round, but seeing the club have closed the East Stand, it might be a reflection of what to expect. Anyway, onwards!

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One Robbie Cowling?


U’s Chairman Robbie Cowling outside Florence Park

The weekend is over and the dust has settled as the U’s slipped to a defeat to Brentford at Griffin Park on Saturday. It is another weekend where the U’s have taken the lead, but seen it slip away. The defeat was only the fourth league defeat of the season for Colchester, yet the reaction after the match on social media and the various message boards seemed to point the blame left, right and centre. You’d have thought we’d have been relegated or something, it all seems unnecessary and over the top to me.

David Weir was sacked as Sheff United after a poor start this season © skysports.com

Colchester currently occupy 14th position in League One and are currently four points and plus four goals better off than 20th place Sheffield United, who last week sacked David Weir after a string of ten league games without victory, eight of them defeats. This is Sheffield United, a one time Premier League side, who have an average gate of about 15,000 fans attending home games and a budget twice the size of little old Colchester.

A lot of the blame this weekend seemed to be pointed at the management of Joe Dunne and more bizarrely, the chairman Robbie Cowling.

Robbie Cowling, a self made millionaire, took over the ownership of the club during the U’s first Championship campaign and took over as chairman the following season after Peter Heard’s departure.

Under Cowling, the club smashed their transfer record on several occasions, with Mark Yeates, Clive Platt, Phil Ifil and Chris Coyne taking it in turns to break the previous record of £50,000 spent to purchase Neil Gregory and later equalled with the signing of Adrian Coote. Stephen Gillespie, then further eclipsed the transfer record further after signing from Cheltenham for £400,000 and remains the club’s record signing.

Robbie also help to finance the clubs move to a new ground and to move away from Layer Road. Without him this would never have been possible. A lot of people still pine over Layer Road and I miss the old ground myself, but if the U’s were to move on as a football club and establish themselves, they needed to move. Layer Road was costing a fortune each season just to maintain and there is no way the club could have survived very long if they stayed there.

In all seriousness, for many years Layer Road was just as soulless as the Community Stadium is, so I do not quite understand the argument that we should have never left. I think the memories of a lot of people are really clouded because of the Parkinson era, where gates began to pick up because the club was having a bit of relative success. I remember going in the Barside in the mid 90’s and at times it was as dead as a dodo. We even let fans in for free against Darlington and couldn’t sell out! Let us not forget, Colchester finished 15th the year before they won promotion to the Championship and many people were blaming Heard and thought Parky was out of his depth.

Since the stadium move, the club have got a lot wrong, lets be honest. Even people on the inside of the club can admit it. The mistakes and ground move alienated a lot of former hardcore and ardent fans. It started badly with the hiring of the security firm, who were nothing more than thugs, who spoiled a lot of enjoyment for the fans.

Williams should have gone in January 2008 in my opinion – © dailymail.co.uk

Another thing I feel Cowling got wrong was keeping Geraint Williams at the club longer than he did, because I feel he made a lot of panic signings and although he was the man that lead us to 10th in the Championship, I think he was a weak manager and just too nice. He had a slightly disastrous spell at Leyton Orient after the U’s and is now the Wales U21 manager and managed to lose to San Marino a couple of weeks ago! Williams did the best he could with little tools available to him, but it looked like the dressing room was lost and the football with possibly the most expensive squad the U’s have ever assembled was becoming woeful, with the U’s struggling for wins at their new home.

Cowling made a shrewd appointment in Paul Lambert, whose style was a bit more robust than Williams’ and much more effective on the travels, despite the home form continuing to be poor. Lambert was a tough love sort of manager, who looked like he could be on the verge of something good until he left for Norwich and spunking £125,000 on Joel Thomas, a very dodgy deal, which I cannot for the life of me believe Cowling sanctioned. But Cowling always vowed to support his managers in early days and did what he can to keep them happy.

Aidy Boothroyd came and went like his predecessor Paul Lambert – © bbc.co.uk

The appointment of Boothroyd and making him the highest paid manager in the clubs history was another mistake of Cowling’s, with the benefit of hindsight. The awful brand of football employed by Boothroyd saw fans turn away in their droves once teams got wise to how we play. Let’s be honest, there wasn’t too many complaints when the club were sitting pretty in fourth position for half of the season. It was only when things started going wrong in December and January, did the fans start voting with their feet. Boothroyd vowed to be at the U’s long term and would only leave if Man Utd came in for him, but the Yorkshireman soon departed for pastures new after just a season in charge of the U’s, moving to Coventry.

Cowling having his fingers burned with another manager being lured away, decided to reign the cash in after another expensively assembled squad faltered once again. John Ward, a vastly experienced manager, someone unlikely to be lured away and someone with a decent track record in football, with a good footballing philosophy took over the reigns. Ward was Boothroyd’s number two at the club and was an unpopular choice with the fans from the start.

Ward had a very old school approach to football. He did play football in the right way, on the floor and a quicker tempo. However, he still possessed a lot of negative qualities such as defending a goal lead and putting the side down, bigging up the opposition sides. Ward told it as he saw it, he did not care what other people thought and angered fans with his demeanour.

Results went from bad to worse under Ward with just one win in twenty-two games and after a controversial away defeat at Scunthorpe, the clubs record worst start to a season and declining attendances saw Cowling wield the axe.

Robbie Cowling moved quickly to appoint Joe Dunne as manager – © greenun24.co.uk

Within a matter of days, Cowling moved to appoint Ward’s number two, and club legend Joe Dunne. There were mixed emotions with Dunne’s appointment, with some fans believing it to be good for continuity and others believing it was another cheap option and a lack of ambition.

Dunne has had a tough start to life and was lucky last season that, his status as a club legend saw him have a lenient time from the fans, despite losing a record nine games in a row. Other managers would have gone for sure (David Weir for example).

Cowling said he was convinced by Dunne after speaking to him. It was a brave move by Cowling and it proved a good move with Dunne steering the U’s to safety on the last day of the season.

The other failings being pointed at Robbie Cowling are the lack of deals for match days and the high price of football and the taking away of fans shares, which I can understand to some extent. I also think the spat with Bob Russell and calling the Norwich board Nazi’s have been a bit sour tasting, but both parties are/were equally as bad as each other.

A lot of fans believe that Cowling is only at the club to make a personal fortune and the club just a subsidiary for Jobserve, but I seriously cannot understand this belief. Cowling has pumped so much money into the club on transfers, facilities and has kept the club afloat. He is making a loss on the club each year and continues to help back Joe Dunne as much as he can, but people have to realise that Robbie’s hands are tied due to the Financial Fair Play rules which means we cannot spend anymore than 65% of our income and if we do we will be placed under a transfer embargo.

While the price of football has been high at the U’s, we have had a price freeze for a good few years and a price reduction too. This season, my season ticket was less than one at Layer Road and I had a free shirt chucked in too. At the end of the day, the club is a business and has to generate as much income as possible to better the playing squad in order to progress further. Whilst, the price plan is still confusing for a lot of people, the club are trying different ideas and I don’t think anyone can complain about the match day experience now, compared to how it was in the first couple of years. Tim Waddington, the U’s general manager, was a hell of an appointment by the club. He is approachable and listens to the fans views and takes them on board. He deserves a lot of credit for the improvements of the match day experience.

Robbie will be the first to admit he has made errors at the club, but I don’t believe for one second he has done them out of spite. He has learned a hell of a lot whilst being chairman of the club and we have a lot to thank him for. The club off the pitch are in the best place it has ever been, but the positives are always ignored. Cowling has provided the club with first class facilities off the pitch. The training ground and surrounding houses which are to be built will be put into Colchester United’s name. This is not the work of a man who wants to make a personal fortune at the clubs expense. I think the flack Cowling receives for being a supporter and one time sponsor of West Ham is totally unfair. How many of the clubs fans have two sides? There are quite a few. Also, how many other chairmen in the country are supporters of the club they own?

Terrible owners – look no further than Firoz Kassam © oxfordmail.co.uk

I feel sorry for Robbie, in the fact, whenever something goes wrong, he seems to be blamed for all and sundry. We are so lucky to have Cowling in charge of the club. He could easily go down the route of Firoz Kassam at Oxford and nearly destroy the club we all love. Without Cowling, I personally believe we’d not be in League One and would be struggling to survive. Whilst Peter Heard was extremely prudent, the way football has gone, we’d have been unable to compete with an average gate of 3,000 fans.

Cowling has scrapped his original plan of cutting budgets in order to help Dunne compete with the other clubs in the division. The low gates and some of the high wages that were given to players under previous managers have really restricted Dunne in strengthening his squad and to bring the players that he did, showed that Dunne the person is well liked and players like his methods.

Dunne has been extremely unlucky to suffer the amount of injuries he has done. People are moaning that you can not blame injuries constantly, but having a settled side makes a heck of a lot of difference. Dunne’s options from the bench are minimal and players are playing whilst not being 100% fit. I don’t think there is any manager in the world who would be able to cope with no budget and half the first team squad injured. It’s easy to say, go and sign a striker, but without any money in the kitty, this is not a viable option. There are also calls for Dunne to change his playing style, but I am not so certain that is the problem. Unfortunately individual mistakes and our better players not performing is more the problem. We just don’t have the players to come in an replace under performing players.

Zero to hero at the O’s – Russell Slade © – zimbio.com

After the defeat to Brentford, there are calls for Dunne’s head as it became the tenth league game without victory. Walsall and Leyton Orient had similar runs to what we are having at the moment, minus the injury crisis and look what they achieved last season. Russell Slade, the Orient manager was the biggest idiot of all time just a couple of seasons ago, according to their fans and now look at him. Not one fan has a bad word to say about him.

We need stability and Dunne is doing a good job with the tools available to him. If Robbie was to sack him now, it would be the worst decision he has ever made whilst chairman of Colchester United.

I am positive the club are heading in the right direction and once the injuries cease we will be back on track for mid table after a bright future. Survival is again the aim and achieving this is paramount to the future of the club. Lets face it, we are traditionally a bottom tier league club, punching above our weight. No amount of spin will change that, despite the wealth of the owner and upgraded facilities.

The club needs the fans to support it through the good and the bad times. I know people are entitled to their opinion, but the negativity is doing nothing for the confidence of the players and the atmosphere surrounding the club. Without the fans the club will not exist, without Robbie Cowling the fans would not have a Colchester United.

Lets get behind EVERYONE at the club – Up the U’s

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Injury crisis hinders U’s


U’s remain without a win since I last blogged a month ago, mainly due to injuries.

It has been just over a month since I last blogged on the U’s.

In that time Joe Dunne’s team has suffered from a crippling injury list, which saw a whole first team XI out injured and the men from Essex go the whole of September without a victory.

When I last blogged, the U’s had just suffered a humiliating defeat at Dagenham in the JPT. I suspected it wasn’t going to get much better against free scoring Coventry.

Brian Wilson was forced to play centre back at Coventry © gazette-news.co.uk

What I did not know at the time was just how bad the injury problems were at the club. Tosin Olufemi started at right back, whilst Brian Wilson, a former winger turned marauding full back had to partner Tom Eastman at centre back! It was a recipe for disaster that got worse after twenty minutes when Ryan Dickson had to leave the field and eighteen year old Mason Spence took his place, making his league debut. The change was the last anyone has seen of Dickson, suffering from a mystery illness and meant the U’s had four players at eighteen running around. It was lambs to the slaughter and no surprise when Cov took advantage of a youthful defence to take the lead through League One’s top scorer Callum Wilson.

Leon Clarke had missed two hat tricks worth of chances before the goal came, as the U’s struggled to cope with the wave of attacking from the Sky Blues.

The second half was much the same, and eventually a slip from Brian Wilson, let in his namesake Callum to round Sam Walker and put the ball into an empty net to take the Sky Blues into positive points after their early deduction for entering administration.

Joe Dunne dipped into the loan market for the U’s next trip to unbeaten Bradford, signing Luke Garbutt from Everton and Jeffrey Monakana from Preston.

I don’t think anyone expected anything at Valley Parade (I refuse to call it the Coral Windows bollocks!) The Bantams had not conceded a goal on their home turf and had annihilated ten man Brentford the previous week. The U’s were bobbling along scoring almost a goal a game so it looked unlikely the U’s would get anything, even a goal. The bookies saw nothing but a home win! It looked like that run would continue after some shocking defending from Tom Eastman. The centre back completely fluffed his lines, miscuing a volleyed clearance straight into the path of Nahki Wells. The result was obvious with the Bermudan twisting and turning to bamboozle David Wright, before planting a shot past Walker.

Jeffrey Monakana celebrates his goal at Bradford © eadt.co.uk

It looked like that was game set and match with just fifteen minutes gone. But never underestimate the U’s. Fast forward the clock fifteen minutes and the Monakana miracle occurred. Craig Eastmond expertly controlled a long punt up field from Walker and released Monakana, who waltzed forward and unleashed a rocket of a shot into the top stanchion of the goal to send the plucky 200 followers into dreamland.

What happened next was another moment of brilliance. Eastmond, with all the space in the world, played a quite simply delicious through-pass that set Jabo Ibehre one on one with McLaughlin the Bradford ‘keeper. Everything seemed to go in slow motion as the big frontman slotted the ball under the ‘keeper and into the net. Col U had scored two for the first time this season! Incredible!

The U’s played some fantastic football against Bradford, but a superb looping header from Wells spoiled the fun for Colchester. The game could have gone either way with Massey hitting the post late on for the U’s, before Dan Pappoe lasted just five minutes in to his professional debut with a rash tackle on former U’s man Mark Yeates, which earned him a straight red and also earned Yeates two Oscar’s for his theatrics. Yeates, who broke every bone in his leg, ankle and foot made a miracle recovery to take to the field a couple of minutes later.

A week on and the U’s returned to home soil against Crawley Town. More injuries saw Massey and Eastman miss out, with Bradford’s Matt Taylor joining on loan to make his debut. It was a rather topsy turvy game with the U’s dominating the first half and taking the lead through Freddie Sears’ deflected daisy cutter.

Jabo Ibehre missed an absolute sitter with no one near him and all the time in the world before Emile Sinclair equalised with a powerful header, which Sam Walker palmed, one handed into his net. The U’s ‘keeper made amends moments later with a terrific double save to keep the U’s level.

The second half was dominated by Crawley, but it ended a draw and another point for the U’s.

Bristol City was up next for Colchester. Bristol hadn’t won all season, so it would be typical for the U’s to turn up and be the team to end the Robins’ shocking run.

I must confess to having a few sherberts before the game and having a bit of a hazy memory.

Matt Taylor heads in the opening goal at Ashton Gate © eadt.co.uk

The U’s did their usual – play well first half and then allowing former manager and current Bristol Rovers manager, John Ward into the dressing room to give his half time words of doom and Mr Hyde turning out in the second half. For anyone wondering about John Ward, this is an in house joke about his tenure at the club, as we’d play well first half and shite in the second.

Matt Taylor gave the U’s the lead in the first half with a thumping header, before Luke Garbutt did a magical disappearing act to allow Sam Baldock all the time in the world to smash past Walker to seal a point for both sides.

October started with the U’s biggest attendance in quite some time as Wolves came to town for their first ever visit to the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

The U’s started well brightly, but a trip on the Wolves winger by Matt Taylor allowed Leigh Griffiths to step up and smash a pelanty (say it in a Chris Waddle/Peter Beardsley-esque Geordie Accent for comedy value) past Walker.

The goal completely demoralised the patched up U’s side, still suffering a crippling injury crisis. We could barely string two passes together and were picked off by a hungry Wolves team looking to bounce back to the Championship.

Just after half time it was two – nil after Griffiths was left in acres to pounce past the stranded Walker.

Kevin Doyle celebrating scoring in the Premier League…© sportsmole.co.uk

One thing that struck me during the game was how on earth is Kevin Doyle playing in League One? The bloke earns and cost more than the whole of the U’s squad put together. It is incredible, how bad management can see a club drop down the divisions like a stone. Doyle, inevitably, made it three after Magnus Okuonghae and Matt Taylor went for the same ball and allowed the Irishman to rifle home.

A bad day at the office for the U’s was repeated a week later as Warsaw turned up all the way from the Midlands, incredibly one of the longest trips for the Saddlers. The return journey is one of Colchester’s closer games amazingly.

The U’s took the lead against the run of play when the returning Gavin Massey’s excellent pass found Sears on the edge of the box. The former West Ham man lashed home a super effort for his forth goal of the season.

The U’s had chances to put the game to bed before half time, but John Ward made his dastardly return at half time and the U’s came out playing like a bunch of melons in the second half.

It looked like the U’s would earn a point until the idiotic mini Hitler in black decided to add five minutes of stoppage time for absolutely no reason. Every one in the ground knew what was coming and in the 96th minute of the five minutes stoppage time, Andy Taylor launched an unstoppable free kick, which was never a free kick in the first place, into the top corner of the net.

I have to be honest, despite playing the worst we have done this season, the draw felt like a defeat and I still feel bitter about it now!

Sanchez Watt has missed most the season for the U’s © cu-fc.com

After all the positivity surrounding the club at the start of the season. The serious injury crisis has not helped the club. Sanchez Watt has been out most of the season and he is a  key man. Ryan Dickson has finally returned to the squad after illness, which has seen him miss a month. Gavin Massey has been in and out of the team and he is a real key man and now Drey Wright and Tom Eastman are out for a few weeks. It is never ending. With Andy Bond returning, it looks unlikely that we will be able to keep hold of Matt Taylor, which could prove disastrous, as we do not have anyone to come in and replace him!

The U’s also have to sort out the second half performances as are continually coming out second best.

Hands on head for the U’s boss Joe Dunne as the injury crisis continues © greenun24.co.uk

Questions are being asked of Dunne at the moment and boos rang around the stadium last time out. I think Dunne is stuck between a rock and a hard place at the moment as he has no budget to replace the bodies on the sidelines.

We also have to find out why so many players are out injured. I think we will be a much better side once everyone is fit, but only time will tell when that will happen.

That said this is a results business and the U’s need to start turning these draws into wins. The home form has been poor this season, which is where most of the clubs income comes from. Poor performances drives away fans. Nevertheless I am hopeful things will pick up soon. One positive is that we’d have lost most of these games last season, so at least we are picking points instead of none!

Another positive is the likes of seventeen year old Sammie Szmodics, coming into the team and grabbing the opportunity with two hands and looking at home. It’s refreshing to see the youth system producing a few gems.

The U’s have some really tough fixtures coming up and it is imperative we all keep together and cheer the U’s on to victory.

 

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A week in the U’s


It has not been the easiest week for the U’s and Joe Dunne. The Irishman saw his side lose their unbeaten start of the season against table topping Leyton Orient and the U’s also crashed out at the first hurdle of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Dagenham.

The past week also saw the end of an era as stalwart midfielder, Kemal Izzet, left the club before the transfer deadline day.

Izzet in his early days at the U’s © football-league.co.uk

Izzet joined the U’s in 2001 as a 19 year old, after his release from Charlton Athletic. It may be hard to believe for some of the younger U’s fans, but Izzet, despite his diminutive stature was more of an attacking midfielder in his early days at the U’s.

He scored his first goal to rescue a point for Colchester in a 2-2 draw at Layer Road against Peterborough. He raced onto a through ball from Micky Stockwell and smashed the ball passed Mark Tyler in the Boro net.

It was a sign of things to come. I never forget sitting by the radio as the U’s travelled to First Division, Portsmouth, in the League Cup and Izzet scored the winner at the start of the 01/02 season. He was an ever present member of the side in his first full season at the club, notching five goals.

Izzet’s best goal scoring feat came in the 02/03 season. Despite an opening day win against Stockport (a Thomas Pinault thunderbolt), the U’s under Steve Whitton started the season disastrously, going eight games without victory until Izzet became the hero in a 2-0 victory over Chesterfield at Layer Road. The second goal will probably be one of my favourite Izzet goals as he latched onto a Pinault pass and burst forward on goal, unleashing a sweet drive into the corner of the net to give the U’s a vital win. I never forget him running around with a wrist support and being the busy industrious midfielder that made him my favourite player.

Things worsened for Colchester on the pitch and Whitton was relieved of his duties after a 2-0 home defeat against Blackpool in January 2003.

Izzet celebrating the U’s Promotion to the Championship © gazette-news.co.uk

Phil Parkinson took over the reigns, guided the U’s to safety, and took the side to new levels on the pitch.

Despite better players coming into the team, Izzet still played a big part (except the 04/05 season, which the midfielder missed owing to an ankle injury). Izzet returned a different player after injury, becoming more of the tough tackling midfielder that fans of today are used to.

With Neil Danns departing to Birmingham on the eve of the U’s first foray into the Championship, the midfielder slotted into the side and become an ever present under Gerraint Williams as the U’s took the Championship by surprise. Izzet scored his first goal in a couple of years, to give the U’s the lead against Birmingham, in a 1-1 draw at Layer Road.

Izzet became the mainstay of the team and stayed with the club after suffering relegation in the 07/08 season. With Gerraint Williams’ departure, Izzet still stayed in the side under Paul Lambert, with a slightly different role, sometimes playing on the right of midfield. Lambert came and went, but still Izzet stayed in the side under Aidy Boothroyd.

Kemi was the mainstay of the side for the duration of his stay © cu-fc.com

It is amazing to think, that up until last season under Joe Dunne, Izzet had been a key influence in the U’s midfield. He did the all the dirty work and nitty gritty. Izzet was always one of those marmite players that you either loved or hated. It always used to make me chuckle when someone shouted “F**K SAKE IZZET” as a pass went wayward. Passing was never one of the strongest assets Izzet had, but putting his body on the line and his tracking runs in midfield (some people called him a headless chicken for this amazingly) was simply first class. His passion was epitomised a couple of seasons ago, against Rochdale when he threw himself in front of a Gary Jones rocket, which hit him in the extremities. It was one of those wincing moments, which would make every bloke feel uncomfortable. Izzet, despite his visible discomfort, got back up and waddled on, his voice probably a whole lot higher!

Kem made 473 appearances for Colchester in his 12 year stay and will always be one of my favourite players and is rightly, a U’s legend. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2011, his 10th year with the club. I do hope he continues in football as I believe he still has what it takes to play league football. All the best Kemi!

Now onto the recent games I have not blogged on recently. The Orient game was always going to be tough up against the form team in the league and a red hot strike force of Lisbie and Mooney, two fella’s we know fairly well.

I thought the first half was some of the poorest football we have played this season. The movement in the midfield was just not there and David Wright just slowed us down. We needed quick movement and slick passing. There was only a couple of occasions where this occurred and we caused trouble to the Orient back line.

Former U’s loanee Mooney opened the scoring © newhamrecorder.co.uk

Orient is a well drilled outfit and knew what we were going to do and combated us well. The opening goal was a catalogue of errors from the U’s defence as Eastman misjudged the flight of the ball and nodded the ball straight to Dean Cox. Olufemi was nowhere near his man, which meant Magnus had to cover the right back and centre half positions. It was an easy ball to play to Mooney, who with acres of space found time to control the ball and lash it home. Fair play to Mooney for not celebrating.

The U’s never really got going, but did get themselves back into it after a foul on Eastmond in the box (would have been a penalty), found its way to former O’s man, Jabo Ibehre, who picked his spot and put the ball into the net past Jamie Jones. 1-1, the U’s back in the game before half time.

Unfortunately, for Colchester they just did not come into the game second half. Super Kevin Lisbie got into the old pals act by scoring a header at the back post after a sloppy Eastmond pass to no one and the U’s just struggled to get themselves going.

Drey Wright was a bright spark in the second half © cu-fc.com

Sears, Watt and Massey had been ineffectual as a forward unit, with David Wright slowing the U’s down, we needed to make the change. On came Gilbey and Drey Wright for David Wright and Massey. All of a sudden the U’s found themselves back into the game. Drey was terrorising the Orient right back, Cuthbert, and should have had a penalty after the Scotsman rugby tackled the U’s youngster to the ground. Ok, ok, Drey did make the most of the challenge, but with both hands on him, it should have been a pen. Annoyingly the idiotic referee gave a free kick, minutes later for exactly the same challenge, with Cuthbert and Wright being involved again!

Regardless of that, the U’s succumbed to defeat, the first time Orient had won at Colchester in the league for a number of decades.

Dunne said he was not afraid of dropping anyone and gave some of the fringe players their chance in the paint pot trophy at Dagenham.

Wilson’s free kick gave the U’s the lead at the interval at Dagenham © greenun24.co.uk

Colchester did well in the first half against a physical and pacy Dagenham side. The defence were relatively untroubled and when the U’s did get forward, the likes of Wilson, Olufemi and Massey were playing some dangerous balls into the box, which unfortunately evaded a U’s shirt each time.

It was not a pretty first half, but I felt the U’s were playing ok without really doing too much. Wilson gave Dunne’s men the lead with a sweetly struck free kick and it looked as if the U’s would go onto win the game and progress to the next round.

There was unfortunately a massive but involved. I have a feeling John Ward was invited to do the half time team talk, as the U’s came out of the second half, well second best to put it politely. Gavin Massey was unfortunately substituted due to a hamstring problem and Clinton Morrison followed with an injury too.

It was unlucky to lose the two attacking players with no real experienced attacking players available to Joe Dunne on the bench.

Dunne’s mood would not have improved after what happened next, with Magnus Okuonghae, returning to the club that gave him an opportunity of League football for the first time since his move to the U’s, was shown a second yellow card.

A minute after the dismissal, the Daggers dismantled the U’s with Brian Saah poaching from close range, with Walker stuck on his line.

Ex Arsenal trainee Abu Ogogo got in on the act to make it three after more shocking defending from Wilson and then Walker hugging his post, rooted to his line.

The fourth was painful again as the frightening pace of the Daggers frontline allowed Louis Dennis time and space to slot past Walker to give the home side a emphatic victory over their League One opposition.

There were so many pedestrian players playing that made the second half easy. Only Jabo, Gilbey and Olufemi could come out of the game with any credit as the rest were so poor.

Striker needed, could Dominc Samuel provide the answer? © cu-fc.com

When the loan window opens next week, I feel an attacking player in the mould of Dominic Samuel is needed to help the U’s forward line as we do not look like scoring more than one a game at the moment.

Colchester face a tough trip to free scoring Coventry at Northampton on Sunday, with a depleted side. Massey, Morrison, Sears and Watt are all attacking doubts, whilst Magnus Okuonghae is suspended after his red card at Dagenham.

Dunne is facing a selection dilemma and could see his side suffer their third straight loss against the Sky Blues. Certainly if the U’s play like they did against Dagenham, they will be like lambs to the slaughter.

 

 

 

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U’s held by Resolute Carlisle


Colchester United 1 – 1 Carlisle United – Match Report

The U’s returned to home soil as they took on lowly Carlisle United, under the lights, on Friday evening.

Colchester, unbeaten in the league and coming off the back of a point against Sheffield United at Brammall Lane last Saturday, were the overwhelming favourites, as the struggling Cumbrians have started the season in woeful form, not picking up any points so far this season.

Joe Dunne was forced into making a change from last weeks outing, with Ryan Dickson missing out through illness and young Tosin Olufemi stepping up to the first team to start his first game in professional football.

U’s ‘keeper made a howler at Sheffield last week © gazette-news.co.uk

It was the side from Cumbria, a bloody long way to come for a game of football, that started the brighter of the two teams. Carlisle pressed the U’s from the off and took an early lead when Matty Robson let fly from distance. His fizzing, low effort stunned the U’s faithful and beat Sam Walker at his near post. It has been a week to forget for the U’s on loan Chelsea youngster after his clanger at Sheffield United, and he’d have been disappointed with this goal too.

Not to be denied, the U’s picked themselves up and dusted themselves down. They looked to find an immediate reply, but Mark Gillespie in the Carlisle goal, showed Walker how to save low down at the near post, by pulling off a smart stop from Brian Wilson.

The visiting side had a super chance to double their lead in under ten minutes, as a whipped corner found the towering Lee Miller in the box. The big striker couldn’t direct his header on target and the chance went begging.

Straight down the other end, Sanchez Watt released Jabo Ibehre, who saw a shot parried away by the visiting goalkeeper.

It was end to end stuff at the Weston Homes Community Stadium and once again the visitors looked like they might nab a second. David Amoo completely outwitted Olufemi and sent a teasing ball across the face of the U’s goal, but there was not a team mate in sight to put the ball in the net and another excellent chance went to waste.

The stand in left back, Olufemi, almost capped a dream start for his blossoming career, when some intricate stuff from the U’s found the young full back on the edge of the box. He curled a sweet shot, that beat Mark Gillespie all ends up, but found the cross bar in the way and deflected clear.

Colchester began to up the ante with their possession football, however the Cumbrians looked happy to park the bus and defend their one goal lead. It was a tactic which almost failed midway through the first half as the busy Jabo Ibehre wriggled off the challenge of a defender and sprinted into the right hand side of the box. He unleashed a low drive from a difficult angle, which Gillespie had to parry clear.

The rest of the half saw Colchester try and play some nice football, but really failing to make all their possession count and all too often, trying to play one pass too many or lacking composure in the final third.

The first half soon passed with the visitors leading and the U’s having it all to do in the second half.

Into the second half, Joe Dunne’s side won an early corner, but Watt’s disappointing corner was easily cleared by the Carlisle giants.

Brad Potts announced Carlisle’s intentions early on with a low effort flashing wide, before Sanchez Watt danced his way through the midfield and unleashed a cannonball like effort at goal, which screamed past the post.

Lee Miller, a constant menace to the U’s back line, looked like he should have done better or pulled the ball back to the edge of the box as he neatly turned but shot from a ridiculous angle, forcing Walker into a point blank save.

The visitors thought they had doubled their lead when Liam Noble reacted quickest to poke the ball home from an Amoo cross, but the midfielder was well ahead of the U’s defence and the linesman’s flag cut short the celebrations.

Colchester continued to press forward, but a resolute defence, coupled by some good goalkeeping from Gillespie was keeping the visitors lead intact. Brian Wilson saw a great chance to bring the U’s level when he found himself totally unmarked at the back post. The full back elected to shoot, if you can call it a shot, rather than take a touch and the ball went miserably wide.

Sears scored his second consecutive goal to equalise for the U’s – © bbc.co.uk

It would not last for long as the U’s pressure finally told. A marvellous cross from Sanchez Watt, saw Gavin Massey break the offside trap. He dallied on the ball long enough to draw Gillespie off his line, before releasing the ball to the waiting Freddie Sears to rifle home the equaliser. It was the former West Ham striker’s second goal in as many games and sent the crowd into raptures.

The U’s continued to pour forward in numbers as the desperate Cumbrians held on with their fingernails. Substitute Alex Gilbey thought he’d given the U’s the lead, minutes after the goal, rising highest to nod the ball at goal, however Gillespie showed cat like reactions to stop the young midfielder notching his first professional goal.

Carlisle showed their professionalism with their time wasting tactics and tackles to stop the U’s in their tracks, which earned them a couple of yellow cards as they looked happy to try and earn their first point of the season.

The home side continued to press and looked to make their dominance count, but they were sadly lacking that final edge in the final third. Freddie Sears put a mouth watering ball across the face of the goal, but found no one to tap the ball into the net and it looked as it the U’s would have to settle for a draw as Ibehre dragged a chance wide, late on in the half.

Brian Wilson had the last chance at the death when Lee Miller fouled Craig Eastmond, from about 35 yards out. The U’s full back curled a neat effort, lacking any power to trouble Gillespie in the Cumbrians goal, who saved with ease under his own bar.

Gavin Ward, the referee, soon brought an end to the proceedings, with the visiting Cumbrians going home the happier of the two sides, but there was plenty of optimism for the U’s after their second half domination.

Teams

Colchester United
Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Olefumi, David Wright (Gilbey), Eastmond, Massey, Watt (Drey Wright), Sears, Ibehre.
Subs not used – Cousins, Thompson, Morrison, Bond, Bean.
Carlisle United
Gillespie, Butterfield, Livesey, Thirlwell, Black, Potts, Berrett, Noble (Guy), Amoo (Symington), Miller, Robson (Gillies).
Subs not used – Fleming, Feely, Campbell, Beck.
Att: 3,573

Match Stats

Colchester

Carlisle

Possession

51%

49%

Shots

22

11

On Target

8

5

Corners

14

5

Fouls

4

11

Yellow Cards

0

4 (Thirlwell, Noble, Potts, Berrett)

Red Cards

0

0

My Two Cents

Well it was certainly not a bad performance by the U’s, but a performance that missed that vital cutting edge in the second half. Carlisle came out of the blocks and got their goal early doors and after that looked happy to sit back, park the bus and put the kettle on.

We didn’t really threaten Carlisle in the first half and it was quite a disjointed display at times. We looked almost afraid to play a killer through ball to the runner at times, but other than that, we knocked the ball around beautifully. I just felt at times the movement was almost too clever for the likes of Magnus and David Wright.

I was really shocked at how pedestrian Carlisle were in closing us down and chasing runners. Our movement was far, far superiour in the first half hour, but we just got to within 30 yards of goal and gifted possession away, 9 times out of 10. Carlisle changed their tactics midway through the first half and began to work a lot harder in tracking men and actually attempting to stop us from passing it round them. With this we began to look a little clueless and played in to the visitors hands.

The second half we looked absolutely rampant, but again just lacked the edge to really trouble Carlisle. We were not stretching the game enough and not making use of our width. When we began to get Sanchez Watt more involved he really did make things happen and took the mick out of Carlisle with some of his ball skills. Sears was also getting in on the act too and looked like a real danger throughout the game. On the right side, Massey really struggled to get into the game and was almost anonymous at times. He was making some good forward runs in the channels but we didn’t use him enough to make a difference. That said, he did really well for the goal, drawing the ‘keeper out and having the brain to look up and pick out Sears.

Jabo Ibehre is a key member of the side © bbc.co.uk

I really like Jabo Ibehre. His hold up play is very, very good. But the one downside to Jabo is his movement in the penalty box to receive the ball. At times he was static and just lacks that killer instinct in front of goal. It made me wonder just how good we would be with Lee Miller, Carlisle’s main threat on the night. He won every ball in the air and looked like he would thrive in a team playing football the way the U’s are attempting. Jabo does so many things right, but when it comes to a strikers main job, scoring goals, he is sadly lacking. I’d like to see Sears play ahead of him in the future and have Jabo in the hole to do his link play. I would even contemplate introducing Morrison into the fold, because the one thing he possesses is an eye for goal and the clever movement in and around the box, which could be valuable. I guess you can not have it both ways as I feel we would be much weaker without Jabo in the team.

One real big disappointment for me was our corner routines. Watt’s corners were sadly woeful and caused no problems at all for Carlisle. Whilst Sears’ set pieces were slightly better, we just do not look like troubling any one with our routines. I really think it is something we need to work on, because it looks like we just aimlessly pump the ball into the box with no pace and no one looks close to getting their head on the end of the ball.

All in all, the way Joe Dunne is trying to play is a lot more exciting than the previous incumbent. We would have lost this game under John Ward. The passing football can be a little bit frustrating at times, but it is certainly quite pleasing on the eye and will see us gain admirers. It is all about patience and you can see the side are enjoying themselves on the pitch. The passing and movement was relentless at times and a real joy, but it just lacks that killer instinct, which hopefully will come. We are getting there slowly, but surely and I believe we will play a lot worse than we did tonight and win in the future. I am excited to see how this team progresses and I think when everything clicks, someone will be on the end of an almighty spanking.

You have to say fair play for Carlisle for taking their chance and defending stoutly, also to the hardy supporters who came to watch their team despite a poor start to the season. I was really impressed with the Carlisle fans last season and how humble they was when we won on the final day of last season to stay in the division, and will always remember those moments. They did look a side lacking in confidence and direction for a lot of the match tonight, pretty similar to how Colchester looked at the start of last season. I don’t really think the players are playing for the manager and I feel the longer he stays, the harder the season will be for Carlisle.

Player Ratings

Sam Walker – 6 – I haven’t seen the replays and not to take anything away from Matty Robson as it was a decent hit, but it looked like a goalkeeping error for the goal. He looked slow to get down to the ball and should not be getting beat at his near post. He looked comfortable enough for the duration of the match and had little to do.

Brian Wilson – 6 – Competant display from the right back. Looked good going forward and was not overly stretched in defence.

Magnus Okuonghae – 7 – Had a decent enough game against Miller, but did not beat him once in the air. Made a few vital interceptions.

Tom Eastmond – 6 – Also had not so much luck aerially against Miller, but looks so calm and composed on the ball at his feet and uses it well. Still have a question mark on his man marking from set pieces.

Tosin Olufemi – 6 – Got turned and shown a pair of clean heels on a few occasions against Amoo. Was a difficult game to come into and especially playing on his wrong side. Hit the bar and pushed forward well, just wish he had a little bit more confidence to run at players and take them on. Certainly wasn’t the worst performance ever, but there is a lot to learn for Tosin with the defensive side of the game.

Craig Eastmond – 7 – Looked so cool on the ball and uses it so well. His movement is brilliant at times and everything good seems to start with him on the ball.

David Wright – 6 – A good shield for the back four and was utilised to stand in front of Miller to try and put him off winning headers. Only trouble is that he slows the play down far too often and doesn’t seem to trust himself to pick out a good forward pass.

Sanchez Watt – 7 – Seemed to enjoy himself out there. Always wants the ball and looks to take players on at every opportunity. His defensive game could be better, but he was a real thorn in the Cumbrian’s side when he turned the pace on.

Gavin Massey – 6 – Great movement and assist for the goal, but struggled to really get involved for large parts of the game. Makes some clever runs into the channels and works hard. Needs to learn how to strike a ball when it is rolling too!

Freddie Sears – 7 – Played really well and was a terrific link man between the midfield and attack. Never stopped running and deserved his goal. He is beginning to add the goals to his game and looks to be full of confidence at the moment.

Jabo – MOTM © cu-fc.com

Jabo Ibehre – 7 – Man of the Match – Tireless performance from Jabo. His hold up play was really superb. He seemed to be all over the place at times and was a real handful for the Carlisle defence. If he could add goals to his game he’d play at a higher level than League One. His movement in the box needs to be worked on, but for sure we look a better team with him in it.

Subs

Alex Gilbey – 6 – Looked to get forward and get his foot on the ball all the time. Was unlucky with his headed chance at the end.

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