I had always been intrigued by Colchester United and I’m not sure why. Well it is in Essex so I guess that could be a reason, and we all like the friendliness of Essex folk. I also remember they had beaten the Cherries 3 out of the four times in the recent seasons, with the other a draw only thanks to a late Jamie Hayter overhead kick. They had played some good football, also destroying us 3-1 at Dean Court one day in the Dorset sunshine of September 2004. So it was about time we got revenge over them, and we chose the away match in October 2005. This has brought back the memories of a fantastic day out watching the Cherries bate the Colchester and put a 1-0 defeat into a team which were everything but lightweight. The date was 15th October 2005 and there were 5 of us.
I had been out on a late one in London the night before and crawled out of bed in South East London at Neil’s place where his brother Owen would drive myself, Neil, James and Austin all the way to Layer Road and back. Or at least that was the plan. Owen was a car mechanic at the time and had the same type of car as me – a Hyundai Accent. This was always a reliable car for me, but Owen’s older model was already showing signs of breaking down, as we passed the Dartford Bridge from Kent to Essex for the big match. Twenty minutes later we had broken down and no sign of recovery. We were on our way to Colchester, just outside Chelmsford on the main road and low and behold we had come to a complete halt. Owen and I tried to revive the car but it was impossible. WE danced and sang at the side of the road as cars wizzed passed, I even showed them my bum to add comedy to this tragic situation. Then enter Mark: Neil and Owen’s stepdad Mark is a quality guy however. The sort that always has time to help you out and spend time with you, as long as he likes you. I think he must like us, as he drove all the way in his white van to the middle of nowhere to give us a lift to Chelmsford train station. Four of us were rammed into the back of the van with no windows. We banged off walls here and there and through graciousally bruised bones and limbs, we got to Chelmsford station. A big thanks to Mark Hollands for doing that – Owen’s car was later picked up and taken away. We were still hoping to make kick off – with two hours to go.
We got to Chelmsford station and Owen livened the spirits yet again with his youthful inspiration. His mobile phone did ringtones and he played this song which went “I’ve got this feeling inside of me, deep inside of me”. I think it was by Doctor Pressure featuring some girl on vocals, in fact I cannot remember. All of a sudden we were really looking forward to a few beers and a football match. The feeling inside of me was that Bournemouth could take home the 3 points. Everything had gone wrong, but now we could enjoy a proper lads football Saturday. We got on the train at Chelmsford which went directly to Colchester, so that was great for a start. Then on exiting the station we decided to walk to Layer Road, which was a fair distance, via a few pubs. The first we found was the Norfolk, which we had some relaxed bitters in and enjoyed a quick game of pool. We then headed more central and found a bar situated half way up a hill…
Another quick beer and we were at the main bus station in Colchester town centre. This is Britain’s Oldest Town. Not that there was any chance I was there to savour culture on this occasion. Although for many of us, football and beer is culture. The people make the culture. Colchester United is also the team of choice for Radio DJ Steve Lamacq, and rock band Blur also hail from Colchester. All this was irrelevant as the five of us caught a bus towards Butt Road, which in turn leads into Layer Road. What strikes you first about Colchester’s tiny Layer Road stadium is that the pitch is hilariously close to the road. You kick the ball too high over the bar and a car driving by could just end up with a broken windscreen. It reminded me of Northern Ireland’s Bangor FC, whose stadium identically falls onto a main road (Clandeboye Road). Comparisons ended there though. Bangor would sell 500 tickets for a match at a push. Colchester would shift 5,000 no problem. This Colchester team was also getting some good reviews, but they had played below themselves at this stage of the season, and found themselves below AFC Bournemouth before the match started. They were notorious battlers and we noticed this just after the match began.
We got our tickets, match programmes and took our position in the tiny terraced area behind the nets. The Bournemouth players seemed fired up for the match. Early on, it was obvious that Colchester had some quality with Neil Danns and Greg Halford impressing. However Brian Stock and James Hayter had created some danger for us and finally, just before half-time we got a penalty. James Hayter stepped up and put the ball on the spot ready to take, but then all of a sudden the referee decided it wasn’t a penalty. Before we knew it, it was 0-0 still and half-time beckoned. A quick piss wasn’t accompanied by a half-time pint – they didn’t sell alcohol at the stadium to away fans (incidentally I have since been back to Layer Road in the home end with the South of England Northern Ireland fans and been in the cosy CUSA bar). We had to be content with watching the second half hoping we could sneak a win, or at least a draw in a tough place (Bournemouth had managed to lose there about 5 times out of the previous 6). The match reached a climax and odds on to finish 0-0, when James Keene (on loan from Portsmouth) popped up in the box at the far end and grabbed a last minute winner for us. As Cherries fans we went ballistic, it was a great moment as we knew the three points were ours. A quiet dander out of the stadium and we then headed into the Wetherspoons pub for some food and drink before the trip back home. We had got 3 points, but more significantly were just outside the play-off places while Colchester were looking down towards the bottom of the table. As it turned out, the U’s were a great team that season and this turned out to be a kick in the teeth for them as they went on a massive run, not losing many more matches all season, before they lost to Chelsea in the FA Cup, lost to Swansea in the JP Trophy Area Final and to top it all off, came second and won promotion into the Championship. Soon the mighty U’s were in the second tier for the first time in their history. On the day though it was great to take three points off them…
Who went – James Condron, Owen Macey, Neil Macey, Austin Sheppard, Jonny Blair
Pubs we visited – The Norfolk, Pub on Hill, Wetherspoons.
Final Score – Colchester United 0-1 AFC Bournemouth (Keene, 90)