Dream evaporates

28 March, 2009

home_emptyThis was probably the game that sealed our fate for this season.  At a time when we needed to gain ground on the teams above us and with only a few games left it’s unlikely that we can make the play-offs.  I have difficulty accepting the radio commentator’s view today that Colchester had the best of the game.  We lost 3-0!  In my book that means Scunthorpe had the best of it.

I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that the other teams won’t win any more games, even if we win the rest of ours. Anyway it’s a been a great recovery from a poor start and on the back of last season’s disappointment it’s something to celebrate.

I’d like to be able to say we have a settled squad on which to base our future but as I said in the last entry here there have been so many players in and out it’s been difficult to know who our ‘first eleven’ are.  For instance, Chris Coyne is still writing a regular column in the matchday programme as club captain, but he hasn’t skippered the team on the pitch since, … whenever.

New Faces

21 March, 2009

img_0427_webHardly a week has gone by without some change in the squad.  This week we see three new players join us and one depart on loan.  Two of the new boys started today, Karl Hawley and Neal Trotman, (and the third, Ashley Vincent is already injured) while Scott Vernon departed on loan to Northampton and promptly scored a goal on his debut!  We nearly stole all three points at the Walker Stadium today but let Leicester back into the game for a draw.   I guess that we might have settled for this result before the game but after hearing how many chances we squandered it leaves you feeling that we dropped two points.

I feel the need to jot down a few notes on the comings and goings so far this season.  Since the first game we have seen:

img_0428_webGary Borrowdale (appropriate name!) on loan from Coventry (5 games then called back).

Sam Williams – on loan from Aston Villa – (3 games then called back).

Lee Hills – on loan from Crystal Palace (2 games – then injured).

Jermaine Easter – on loan from Plymouth (5 games – then injured)

Jimmy Walker – on loan from West Ham (15 games then called back)

Mark Tierney – on loan from Shrewsbury  – then signed.

Alan Maybury – signed after trial.

Jamie Guy – back from loan at Oxford – then loaned to Daggers after one game.

Sunday-Akanni Wasiu – loaned to Luton – and came back.img_0428_web

Lewis Gobern – on loan from Wolves.

Dean Gerken – loaned to Darlington – and called back.

Simon Hackney – signed from Carlisle.

Matt Lockwood – out on loan to Barnet.

Matt Heath – out on loan to Brighton.

Ashley Vincent – on loan from Cheltenham – already injured.

Neal Trotman – on loan from Preston.

Karl Hawley – on loan from Preston.

Scott Vernon – out on loan to Northampton.

img_0431_webThat’s 18 changes in about 6 months (12 in and 6 out).   Add the managerial changes, the Chief Exec’s departure, the injuries and suspensions to Gillespie especially (as well as  many others), and international duty for Coyne,  it shows that this has been little more than fantasy football.  No wonder the crowds have been so variable as well.  We can’t expect a consistent attendance until we get consistency in the team.

Game 20 – Crewe

14 March, 2009

img_1640_webI felt confident about today’s game.  We were due a real cracker and Crewe were going to feel the  force of a team in full flight.  This was going to be a good day at Cuckoo Farm. Even the new scoreboard made the place feel brighter and the first ten minutes of play suggested that we were going to get a hat full of goals. Flowing play from back to front.  Intricate team passing.  Dangerous crosses from both wings.  Oh yes, the scene was set and we were in for a treat.  Even the weather was better than it has been since, … well since Layer Road I reckon.  Here endeth the dream!

img_1636_webOh yes – the new scoreboard.  I was going to call it a video screen but I can’t recall seeing much in the way of moving images on it.  Certainly the score didn’t move much, and on the one occasion that it did we weren’t too happy about it.  Never mind, the club got their advertising revenue from the goal sponsor!  Can you imagine that?  The club gets paid when the team lets in goals!  Well it’s a bigger screen than before and I’m sure we’ll see some innovative creations on it in time.

img_1634_webThe standard of play was so desperate after we went  the goal behind that I think Paul Lambert was even considering whether he ought to make a comeback himself.  He probably wouldn’t do much worse than a few of our lot did today.  The old bad habits creeping back towards the end of the game.  Lack of passing between team mates.  Running the ball into nowhere.  ‘Hoofing’ the ball upfield in the hope that it will find one of ours. The confidence drained away as soon as we conceded the goal really.  The effect it had on the crowd was much the same.  With 20 minutes left a steady dribble towards the exits – maybe if we could harness the discipline of that dribble and teach it to the players?

Game 19 – Swindon

10 March, 2009

img_1622_webNot so long ago Swindon were in the Premier League conceding 100 goals in a season. I was looking forward to a few Colchester goals today, and I wasn’t disappointed.  Unfortunately, while it made for an exciting game it meant that we had to lose the lead twice before bagging the winner.  I wouldn’t describe it as a 5-goal thriller as it has been hailed in some places, but at least WE scored most of them.  It helped that we were never behind, and it helped that we scored in the first couple of minutes.

img_1628_webWhat didn’t help was the pitch.  It’s getting bad in places.  Nowhere near the mud baths we used to see at this stage of the season many years ago but after being spoiled by the lush carpet at Layer Road this one is beginning to look a little threadbare.  Still, only a few more home games and the ground staff can get to work on it during the few days that are now called a ‘close season’.  In cricketing terms we are also experiencing ‘unpredictable bounce’, a term that could also describe Colchester’s fortunes over the last few seasons.

img_1643_webTalking of unpredictable, who would have thought that Clive Platt would score in the opening two minutes two games in a row?  It gets worse.  He scored two today.  The purists among us might say that since today’s goals were both with his head that we are at last beginning to see the benefit of having a 6’4″ striker.  Only half the story in that I’m afraid.  I’d swear that for both goals the man was falling backwards and the ball managed to rebound off his head towards goal and into the net.  I know I should be more loyal about our team but my son and I seem to be the ony ones who are totally frustrated at Platt’s lack of energy, lack of movement and lack of control.  After today’s performance it’s been suggested he needs to be drug tested.  I think they’ll find nothing.

img_1617_webThe new scoreboard is nearly ready for use.   That means bigger adverts for local companies.  Does anyone else find it annoying that there is a need for a company to sponsor corner kicks?  It gets worse!  Now we have local businesses sponsoring goals scored by the opposition!  Why?  Don’t they want our business?  Why on earth would I want to spend money with a company who gets their kicks by being shoved in my face when the U’s concede a goal? I know these are desperate financial times but the club need to think seriously about where their own loyalties lay.

Cracking Result!

7 March, 2009

img_0412_webNow this is the sort of performance that’s needed at times like this.  A 1-0 away win, against a team above us in the table, that moves us up two places and ever nearer an end of season finish we hadn’t even dreamed about at one stage.  An early goal and then hold on to the lead.  Can’t say I could have predicted that result being achieved in this fashion, but it’s another indication of the immense change in attitude of the team as a whole under the current manager.  How many times have we seen the reverse of this happen to us at home this year?  Now Oldham and their fans know what it’s like as well.   The trouble with results like this is that you start to speculate unreasonably about the team’s chances and it really is the old cliche of ‘one game at a time’.  As we enter the final quarter of the season it’s very much like the final quarter of the football pitch.  We mustn’t lose our nerve with goal in sight.  Let all those around us display the nerves and we can calmly, but assuredly, head on through and achieve the results we now deserve.

What if … … forget it!

3 March, 2009

Night viewIt’s fortunate that our recent run of bad form didn’t see us drop much in the table.  12th place is a good position from which to launch a positive push to the end of the season.  The win against Stockport pushed us up to 11th for a few days but the subseqent draw against Hartlepool and today’s draw against Huddersfield have seen us consolidate in 12th place but with Southend breathing heavily down our necks.  Strangely we seem to be getting closer to the play-off places, in terms of points difference, even when we don’t win.  It’s something to do with the fact that the teams above us are also having a season of mixed fortunes.

Not all the games are going our way and in discussion with others there’s a the temptation to speculate about missed chances and near misses, and of course those lucky breaks for the opposition.  If only the ball had run in our favour.  What if Platt had been able to trap the ball?  If Yeatsey’s cross had been a bit lower.   What planet was the ref on, how could he miss that?  The fact is that these emotions aren’t exclusive to the U’s fans.  Every team, every fan will have moments like this in every game and if we want to change our current position on the basis of ‘what might have been’ then we also have to accept that the same has to be true for every other team, and maybe it will turn out that they’ve been even unluckier than us – although I doubt it.

Anyway the bottom line is ‘forget it’ and get on with creating new chances for us and bad luck for the others.  Accept the bad refereeing decisions in our favour with good grace.  What is most important is that the players don’t forget to keep on trying to the end of the game.  This proved our saviour today with the skipper’s late free-kick equaliser in added time.  Who’s next?

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?

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?