Archive for December, 2008

Game 12 – Leyton Orient

28 December, 2008

img_1335_webDespite the early presents from the official at Elland Road a few weeks ago, some late presents arrived in our version of the Boxing Day fixture.  OK it wasn’t Boxing Day but we had our first home league crowd over 6,000 and I guess that’s a good enough present for the team.  The difference in having this size of crowd is that you could hear a low level murmur throughout the whole game, and despite the best travelling support we’ve seen yet we won the vocal battle with no trouble.

img_1346_web22We had a score to settle with Orient after losing in the FA Cup a few weeks back.  Well we did settle the score but we didn’t do it in style.  It was a scrappy game, but quite enthralling nonetheless.  Neither team stopped trying and although some easy chances were squandered it was a game of two penalties and a bit of nerve thrown in.  Walker clearly has no nerves and had a relatively easy save to make in the end, although he made it look more spectacular by jumping the wrong way first.  Congratulations to the Orient fans for winning the penalty in the first place.  Ironically they must have been the only people in the ground who couldn’t see what happened but their collective appeal after a a series of ricochets in the box was followed after a pause by a flag from the linesman and then a consultation with the ref and finally the wrong decision.  Justice was done in the end though.

img_1346_webIt made a change to see Colchester engaging in time-wasting activities towards the end but I don’t like this sort of thing as I’ve mentioned in several other posts here.  Neither did today’s match official who booked Jimmy Walker the first time there was a sniff of anything untoward.  Walker wasn’t the only name he collected today.  I lost count but there must have been ten players who got to have an intimate chat with him at some stage during the game.  At one stage the Orient players were queuing up to go in the book and one even resorted to time-wasting to get his moment alone with the man in yellow.  The ref was determined to stamp his authority on the game from the start and it was this that upset the rhythm of the play most of the time.  Occasionally he relented and let the game flow, but he soon made amends and interfered with some strange and very harsh decisions.

img_1331_webThe only thing that mattered today was that we won.  It didn’t matter how we did it and the result is not just the three points, but a rise to 11th place in the table.  That’s the bottom of the top half of the table.  Considering we were 23rd at one stage we can now start to dream of a play-off place which isn’t such an unrealistic aim now.  The best Christmas present of all is that thanks to other results that ‘other team from Essex’ are now below us and we enter the New Year in a better frame of mind than when we ended 2007.  I didn’t wave at the Southend fans as we went past them.  I’m not one to gloat – just yet.  There’s a gap of 4 points to the next position in the table and that’s the priority now.

Boxing at Brighton

26 December, 2008

img_2895_webAt last we move up a place this Boxing Day, but still not enough to overtake Southend who are sinking slowly and must surely pass us on their way down very soon.  Brighton aren’t having the best of times at the moment and it must have seemed like rubbing their noses in the ground with their former captain skippering us now.  Hammond has been something of a stalwart in recent games but we had two other heroes today.  The first is keeper Jimmy Walker whose experience is clearly showing and we can only hope the younger glovemen can learn something from him.  From the commentary I was listening to he kept us in the game more than once when scores were level.  We have to hope we can arrange something more permanent for him in the January transfer window.

img_2913_webThe other hero is Scott Vernon who snatched the winner in the last few minutes to give us yet another away win.  He deserves a longer run up front and I know I keep on saying this but he must be a better bet than the tall streaky fella in the long run.  He can control the ball and run with it at his feet – basic skills of course, but necessary for a professional footballer.  The other forward can’t – so I can only guess he is either playing for pennies or he’s paying back some of his wages to the manager.  Anyway a win is win is a win and that’s three more point sint he bag.  Oh how I wish this was last season and we were getting these results!

Game 11 – Scunthorpe

20 December, 2008

img_2911_webScunthorpe, having dropped with us from the Championship, are going well near the top of the table but we needed to avenge last season’s home defeat. As it turned out we shared the honours and we are STILL stuck in 16th place in the table for the fourth week in a row and after three different results. I’m getting worried about this. We are in a rut.  We need to get out of this before it gets too mucky and we slide deeper.

img_2973_webMind you it was an entertaining game and I have to give a certain amount of credit to Scunthorpe for this. This was probably the first time this season that a team has come to Cuckoo Farm with the intention of playing football. That doesn’t always make it a good match or a fair result but today I think we got both. Testament to this was the fact that there was plenty of singing around the ground and someone near me remarked that even the West Stand came alive. Compared to recent performances where we didn’t know what to do in the last third of the field, today we got a bit further and lost the plot on occasions in the final sixth of the field. Perhaps next time?

img_2994_webYou just knew it was going to remain goal-less early on when Plattypus flicked the ball away from Scott Vernon when the number 24 was on the verge of slotting one home. The jitters in the final sixth were affecting the opposition too – a young lad up front named Gary Hooper , who hails from Loughton as it turns out and has played for Grays and Southend, missed a couple of sitters throughout the game. Well done lad – you know where you hail from.

img_2999_webI was a bit worried about a helicopter that came by during the second half. The pilot chose to fly directly above the stadium – surely that’s a problem for the safety officer on the ground. It looked like it landed nearby. Maybe I was mistaken. I thought it was a chopper, but perhaps, just perhaps it was … No it couldn’t have been, it came from the South. At this time of year we look for our special arrivals to come from the North (Gillespie’s a scouser, Lambert’s a Scot, Vernon from Blackpool) although a few people may have been excited by the arrival of some santas at half time. What chance the chopper contained … a new player? One that will sign a long contract, remain loyal to the club, immediately link up with existing players, score goals, never get injured … OK, I’m wishing for too much. On that subject I have to commend the article by ‘carbon dioxide’ on page 33 of the U’s Review today. I wholeheartedly agree with what’s said about supporting the smaller teams.

img_2970_web2Towards the end of the match the fourth official showed a bit of inspiration when he held up a sign that indicated my preferred strike pairing, but the management seem to think they can’t play both of these together. I’m not sure the officials should be this intelligent but it does show how desperate we are getting in that department. We can’t keep them, we break them when they arrive, we don’t give the better ones enough match practice and we pair them with a tall geezer who can’t trap, shield or hold the ball.

So, how do we get out of 16th place? It’s easy really. Home goals, home wins, string a few together and what have you got? 15th, 14th, 13th, 12th, 11th, 10th, 9th, 8th, 7th, … who knows where it will end.

Cups Run Dry

16 December, 2008

cup_brokeThat’s the end of the cup stuff for another season.  Yet another one-nil result, but the wrong way round this time.  In the words of the singer/songwriter Slaid Cleaves, ‘Broke down, cracked and shattered, left in pieces like it never even mattered’. Yes, that’s the Paint Pot Trophy for you.  Now that we are out of the competition it’s easy to say it wasn’t worth winning anyway, and there’s always the old cliché – we can concentrate on the league.  How we need to concentrate on the league. Hang on though, we’re still in the Essex Senior Cup.  In reality we should win that every year if we field our first eleven players, except that we use it to give match practice to the subs bench and walking wounded on their return to fitness.  We’ve reached the quarter finals, where we have been drawn at home to Hornchurch.  Perhaps I’ll stick the cup back together for that campaign.

Now for the really exciting news.  This Saturday will bring a great opportunity if results go our way.  We just need Hartlepool to beat Southend on Friday evening and then a win for ourselves at home to Scunnie will put us above the South Essex outfit on goal difference.  Now that woud be something to shout about.  Something to get excited about even.  It would raise the stakes on the whole season so far.

Good luck to Luton in the Trophy.  They need something to raise their spirits this Chrsitmas.

Elland Back

13 December, 2008

img_0533_webAway to Leeds and another new name in the starting line-up – Alan Maybury a former Leeds player, although his first team appearances amounted to a meagre 14 times in 6 years. The history between the two clubs won’t be lost on many people but it seems it was too much for a lot of the Leeds supporters who stayed away in sufficient numbers to drop the attendance below 20,000 for only the second home league match this season. Christmas shopping while Colchester are in town must be the order of the day. Judging by the radio commentary the referee decided to play the role of Santa for us today. He held a Leeds player off the pitch just before half-time while we scored our equaliser, and then showed a second yellow card for an innocuous tackle which then gave us a free kick in Yeates’ territory which he converted in typical fashion.

img_1149_webIt was great to hear the Leeds fans in the background on the radio broadcast reacting just as we do at Cuckoo Farm when things aren’t going well. We’ve had plenty of opportunity to practice the ‘aahs’ and ‘ohhh’s and groans and ‘no’s and it’s good to know that we don’t have the monopoly on those reactions. Perhaps we’re luckier than Leeds since we only get around 4,000 moaning and groaning while Leeds can get around 20,000.  One of the biggest differences I sensed in this game was that Colchester were always trying to go forward and create more chances. Teams visiting Cuckoo Farm expect to experience the intimidation of Layer Road and generally play for a draw at every opportunity. The amount of time wasting I’ve seen this season is appalling. You’d think we would have learned a lot from our opponents in this respect but no, we go for broke and lay ourselves bare when perhaps we don’t need to.

img_0423_webI couldn’t hear the singing myself but the commentator on BBC Essex could clearly hear ‘Ring of Fire’ being belted out by the travelling Col U faithful. At the final whistle the celebrations were drowned comprehensively by 10,000+ Yorkshire boo-boys. Who says Leeds are in the wrong League? Actually it’s Colchester that should be back up in the Championship. Come on lads, give us the same at home.

Has anyone else noticed that a very strange thing is happening. Last week we lost and remained 16th in the table. Today, despite winning we remain 16th in the table. Work that one out!

Game 10 – Hereford

5 December, 2008

img_1282webWe started today looking for a continuation of the winning run.  Sadly it wasn’t to be.  The players were back in the rut of failing to find each other in the bright shiny new stadium.  Maybe they were dazzled by the sunshine?  Perhaps the glare from the (empty) seats put them off.  But then again perhaps they just aren’t good enough.  The new players, Tierney and Walker, looked quite sharp for most of the game and we can’t blame them for the loss.  Walker seems to get a good kick upfield.  I think he kicks it flatter than Deano, so it goes the same distance but quicker.  It’s all about  trajectory.  He got the ball into the final third of the field time and again, direct to a team-mate, only for the players to run out of ideas.  That was the story of the game.  Other reports will say how Colchester pressured the Hereford defence for long periods.  Actually we never really looked like penetrating them.  The players just didn’t know what to do.

img_1283_webAnother poor attendance although the travelling support of around 50 may have helped to influence that.  I noted that the Hereford fans spread themselves quite thinly across the South Stand and only started to huddle together when it got colder and then again when they scored their goals.  It looked like a few from E8 might have emigrated to the North Stand.  We did get a chance to ventilate our lungs when Easter scored his customary goal and that raised spirits around the ground for a while.

Throughout the game it was clear from the crowd reaction that at times we know more about tactics and strategy than our beloved team.  We spot good passes and moves across the field.  On one occasion several people around me roared in unison at Hammond to switch the ball to the other wing but he ran it into trouble the other way, followed by a collective groan.  Sometimes it’s so damned obvious what to do but Yeates has to run it into a brick wall and hope for lucky deflection.  The best he gets most of the time is a throw-in.  There’s a distinct contrast in ability between Easter and Platt.  Easter can trap the ball.  Platt can’t do it for toffee.  Easter shapes his body to meet the ball and it sticks to him and he is able to keep possession.  The ball just hits Platt and bounces off in some direction or other out of his reach usually to an opposing player.  Are you reading this Paul Lambert?  This is free coaching feedback.

I’d really like to say something positive about the team but this week’s Essex Senior Cup win against Romford was a walkover purely because our fringe first teamers finally got a full game.  Perhaps they should be playing a full game when it really matters.

img_1284_webComing out at the end my son and I spotted two bright stars.  Not footballing stars.  These were in the sky, millions of miles away, just like our chances of winning a match with a performance like we gave today.  How much would it take for Venus and Jupiter to come down here and get us  out of the hole we are in?  Venus would be hot, that’s for sure, so she can play up front with Easter.  Jupiter’s a giant, so he can be the rock in defence  and captain of the team.  Perhaps they’ll bring their mates along too.  Saturn can run rings round any opposition, including Uranus.  Mercury can operate on the wings, like quicksilver.  Mars, the God of War, and will add some backbone to the team and provide the energy in midfield.  Neptune, with 13 moons, has some options for  substitutions for late in the game and Pluto can take care of the long balls.  It sounds like there are some possibilities here, but in reality  – what planet am I on?