Archive for February, 2009

Game 18 – Hartlepool

28 February, 2009

img_1589_webFor the second time in as many seasons  we see an away strip that blends nicely with the stewards.  At times it seemed as though there were twenty or more Hartlepool players but it was clear that the extra numbers were fairly static – a bit like our defence at one stage this afternoon.  Come to think of it, for the Hartlepool goal it looked like we were heavily outnumbered in our own penalty area, so I can only imagine that there were a few stewards in the mix as well.  For the rest of the game Reid and Baldwin held them at bay quite well.

img_1596_webThe full backs battled well too but the midfield, despite being marshalled well by ‘skipper-for-the-day’ Izzet, never really settled into a good passing rhythm like in recent games.  They missed Perkins, who was having a well earned rest.  Talking of having a rest, I expect the fans will be glad of a week and a half without another home game after having to fork out for three games in 8 days.  The lucky ones amongst us saw that coming and bought a season ticket.  The sneaky ones only attend the ‘kids for a quid’ games and today was one of those occasions.  It helped to push the published attendance figure above 5,000 and that’s quite amazing for a home match against Hartlepool, especially as they could muster barely a couple of hundred.  They had quite a distance to come I think.  It must have taken some effort getting down here, and for the first half you wouldn’t have known they were there.  It didn’t help them that they are also ‘United’ and when they did start up in the second half they were easily drowned out by the kids in the North Stand.

img_1600_webUp front we were quite dreadful at times.  Only Yeates, who now plays as part of the team instead of on his own, seemed to be making any sort of effort throughout the whole game.  Although he got our only goal vernon lacks any amount of oomph (I can’t think of another word for it), while Gillespie looks and acts so fragile that we are constantly wondering if this frail figure will stand up to it all.  Taking of frail figures, there’s a new structure emerging in the North East corner (it’s not yet sponsored by anyone, so get your bids in quick).  I’m told it’s for the new, improved, larger, brighter, more visible, more expensive video screen.  I wonder if they will be able to incorporate a clock that can count beyond 45 minutes?  It’s funny really that they think the rest of us don’t wear watches or have clocks on our mobile phones.  I don’t really see the problem with letting the fans know how much of the ‘time allowed’ has elapsed.  Perhaps they think we will plague the officials with whistles.  Perhaps we ought to give them the bird – how about we start chanting a few ‘cuckoo’ calls when we want the whistle to blow?

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Game 17 – Stockport

24 February, 2009

img_1571_webSecond home game this week and still another one to come on Saturday.  It was make or break today after three consecutive losses it was a test of character tonight.  It’s a time to test the nerve and fitness of anyone, but tonight would show who was prepared to stand up and be counted.  Who can face the music after some disappointing results and still make their presence felt?  Well, I’ve come to accept that nothing is certain in this game, but the club were perhaps expecting a little too much from their stalwarts tonight. I’m actually talking about the supporters.  Unless you’ve got a season ticket it must be financially disastrous to attempt three visits to Cuckoo Farm in a week.  As it happens it’s clear we have a hard core of support of around two and a half thousand.  There weren’t many from Stockport but as usual they huddled together at the back of the South Stand, and they made a valiant but futile attempt to rouse their team.

img_1574_webIn some respects we just about matched the away support in terms of numbers in one place.  We had pockets of fans in E8 and the family enclosure, a couple of small groups in the North Stand and a few dribbles in West.  At times however there was some near success in getting a combined chant going but not for very long.  Obviously the game’s only goal got us cheering together but not much else.  The crowd noise dynamics were quite interesting tonight.  It was quiet one moment and you could hear the players talking as though this was a reserve team game, and a cough could echo round the stadium.  The next moment the scattered few mustered a hearty growl and could sound like 5,000.

img_1580_webThe best emotion of the night was scoring an early goal.  It makes such a change to the atmosphere when we do that, and the warmth it brings on a cold evening is very welcome.  One set of circumstances did bring the whole crowd together in amazement.  In these technological days we have got used to the substitute and ‘added time’ display board being held aloft by the fourth official.  What took us all by surprise was the small piece of paper with the number 3 that was presented to indicate three minutes added time in the first half.  In the second half we looked on eagerly to see how the substitutions would be handled.  Well, it was a bit like an ice dance contest with the dancer’s score on display.  Perhaps we should bring our own cards to show the ref how we feel.  How about red and yellow cards when we feel the man in the middle isn’t sure what to do?  They have 4s and 6s in cricket – why not something for soccer?  Perhaps we need a picture of a cuckoo to hold up when we plant a goal in the other team’s nest.  Hmm,  food for thought perhaps?

Game 16 – Southend

21 February, 2009

img_1562_webYou could tell that today was a bit different.  On the approach to the stadium you could actually see large numbers of fans walking in the direction of the ground.  Even the authorities were expecting something else today, as the presence of the police horses showed.  (I wonder if anyone cleared up after them?)  The away section was packed solid with support for the opposition, and as expected there were pockets of infiltrators dotted around the ground – including directly behind me in the West Stand.  For the most part they were anonymous but one unfortunate event (and that was all it took to spoil the afternoon) ‘outed’ them as them couldn’t restrain themselves from cheering the solitary goal that graced this hard fought local derby.

img_1564_webAn unexpected event happened after just 12 seconds when the match ball was liberated from the stadium over the East Stand.  I don’t recall losing a ball that quick at Layer Road.  Later in the game there was an attempt to clear the West Stand, which is a good deal higher, but it didn’t quite make it to the TV camera gantry.  Perhaps we need to consider using the beach ball that was being tested out in pre-match entertainment?

img_1568_web2The crowd (8,651) made this a memorable afternoon.  Clearly the biggest crowd for a club game and only eclipsed by the Under-19 international last year.  There was noise throughout the game atmosphere was terrific and you couldn’t hear the ref’s whistle at times – neither could some of the players and more than once a segment of play continued after a ‘blow’.  Mind you the ref was hardly in control of much today.  He didn’t take a lot of notice of his assistants and was clearly influencing their decisions before appearing to go along with them.  He did allow an extraordinary 6 minutes of added time at the end  of the second half, but that probably reflected the blatant time-wasting yet again by a visiting team, from as early as the 14th minute when they scored their goal.

img_1570_webThe bigger crowds do bring other problems.  First one for me was finding someone sitting in my seat.  His justification was that someone was sitting in his seat and perhaps I’d like to deal with that little problem for him!  Get lost!  Then there was the little tantrum in the 7th minute between Southend’s captain and the whole of E8 when two balls collided (see the club’s match report for more details).  That caused a bit of a stir for a while.  Later on I spotted a man with a knife in the crowd.  OK it was a pen-knife and he was slicing an apple for his half-time refreshment, but with some Southend fans sitting quite close behind him, anything could have happened.  A few rows behind him a lady fell when emerging onto the staircase while trying to make a hasty exit before the car park got busy.  I thought the North Stand looked quite empty in places but on closer examination it there was a large contingent of schoolchildren wearing invisble shirts, so that the seats showed through and you could only see their heads!

img_1568_web1Even though we lost it was a great atmosphere which I know won’t be repeated for the visits of Stockport and Hartlepool in the coming week.  Bragging rights transfer to Southend temporarily until the final stages of the season and then we’ll see where we really stand.  The good news is that we are still ahead of them, we are still in the top half of the table, and thanks to other results we are still only 10 points from the play-off places.  All is not yet lost, but it does hurt when you lose a local derby at home.

Woeful in Walsall

14 February, 2009

img_1544_webThe downturn continues.  That’s nothing to do with the credit crunch.  It’s two games in a row that we’ve lost.  Once again, listening to the second half of the match through the eyes and ears of BBC Essex (ably assisted by the club’s Matt Hudson on this occasion), I was left to rue missed chances and hopes of yet another comeback after going a goal down.  It wasn’t to be and another goal sealed it for the Saddlers.  All credit to the commentary team for attempting to enthuse about a dreary game.  The fact that no cards were shown by the referee is a testament to this.  We now have to seek to secure our position against Southend next week.  Now there’s a match to relish!  It’s what we’ve been waiting for all season.  We have unfinished business from back in November.  That’s the game to turn things around and get back on the ladder towards the play-off places.

Game 15 – Tranmere

10 February, 2009

img_1543_webThe curse of the Manager of the Month award hit home tonight and there were several other omens along the way which heralded our reversal of fortune.   There were some blessings of course, like the fact that the groundsman did a fantastic job in getting the pitch fit for the game.  I really thought the cold weather would have been the main enemy but it seems the heavy rain was doing its best to see us off after other recent cancellations.  Earlier in the day the flood water outside the ground indicated the scale of the potential problem.  Thank heavens for cricket we all say!  The appearance of Essex Cricket Club’s water extractor was an inspired move and cleared any doubt that the match would be played.

img_1552_webClearly the fans were unsure as our lowest home attendance showed.  It was lonely on the approach to the stadium along Axial and United Way and, apart from that bright oasis of light that is Cuckoo Farm, there was no other indication of any sporting activity in the area tonight.     Another omen of things to come was the appearance of an almost full moon over the East Stand.  As it turns out that the was the only round object I was happy to see between a pair of sticks all evening.  It seemed as though the moon was casting its own influence on play while it moved through the same half of the pitch that Colchester were attacking in both halves.  It crossed the halfway line during the interval!  Spooky!

img_1553_webAny doubts about the playing surface were left to the playing staff who never seemed comfortable on a pitch that was perhaps a little hard under foot and there was a reluctance to get really stuck in.  I have to admit that Tranmere were probably on balance the better team on the night but it was a fairly unspectacular match.  Once again I applaud the travelling support (and I know we have similar stalwarts in CUSA) some of whom travelled into the deep south for an evening match in darkest February.  One thing I DO NOT applaud is the latest tendency for the club to allow certain sponsors the ‘privilege’ of nominating their ‘man of the match’ award.  Tonight we were treated to two such nominations from companies who are clearly desperate to get their own names heard in front of such a small gathering.  In fact ‘Who were they?’  They couldn’t even agree on their choices for man of the match so it’s all meaningless really.  Why don’t we have an announcement of MY man of the match at each game?

First Trophy

7 February, 2009

img_1173_webAlthough today’s game has been a victim of the mild wintry conditions affecting most of the country we do have the chance to sit back and reflect on our best run of form for some time and with it we have our first trophy of the season.  The Coca Cola League One Manager of the Month for January 2009 is …..  Paul Lambert.  About time too.  He has brought about a complete change of attitude by most of the squad (as well as a change of significant members of the squad) and our results have seen us rise from a miserable 23rd after the MK Dons home defeat to the current 11th place.  It’s a great foundation on which to build the rest of the season, and I’m already feeling that the tone of my postings in this blog is much more positive than at any other time in the last two seasons.

img_0723_webIt is also worth mentioning that our former boss, Geraint (George) Williams has returned to football, taking the vacant post at Leyton Orient.  I hope we give him a miserable day at Easter when we visit him in his new home, but apart from that I wish him all the best for the rest of the season.  His results there will be a testament to his true ability and I hope he is afforded a level of loyalty that he deserves.  I’ll be watching their results with interest for the remainder of the campaign.