A season that won't be remembered
SOME seasons are classics, the sort you will not forget in a long time. Unfortunately, this was not one of them for Colchester United.True to form, the U's again proved to be very effective on the road, bringing the curtain down on their campaign with an 11th away league success, at the expense of hosts Yeovil.
SOME seasons are classics, the sort you will not forget in a long time. Unfortunately, this was not one of them for Colchester United.
True to form, the U's again proved to be very effective on the road, bringing the curtain down on their campaign with an 11th away league success, at the expense of hosts Yeovil.
But the contrast with the U's last trip to Huish Park three years ago, for another end-of-season encounter, could not have been more acute.
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On that day, on May 6, 2006, Phil Parkinson's men capped a pulsating season with a nervy, gritty goal-less draw to secure an unbelievable promotion to the Championship. Thousands of U's fans made the journey into Somerset to see this history-in-the-making.
But it was only a diehard few hundred U's fans who saw out the 2008-09 campaign on Saturday. This season will not live long in the memory.
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However, at least they were rewarded with a comfortable victory, courtesy of quickfire goals from Ashley Vincent and Mark Yeates in the 13th and 15th minutes. It meant that the Essex club finished the season in the top-half-of-the-table, in 12th spot.
A few years ago, finishing in the top half of the third tier of the Football League would have been considered a major success for Colchester. But two things have changed: firstly, the U's have had a taste of Championship football; and secondly, they are no longer just a selling club, thanks to the money and ambition of owner and chairman, Robbie Cowling.
The expectations have therefore been raised. The club record transfer fee has been broken on numerous occasions, with the arrival of players of the calibre of Clive Platt, Chris Coyne and Steve Gillespie, in addition to other expensive signings like Mark Yeates, Phil Ifil, Dean Hammond and David Perkins.
Success is now demanded, both by the fans and the management. The U's are no longer the minnows. They have a wage bill, and a size of squad, which are bigger than most of their rivals in League One.
Much will therefore be anticipated for next season. And if the U's can improve their dreadful home form, while maintaining their superb away record, then a promotion bid could be on the cards.
Yeovil were the perfect hosts, especially keeper Chris Weale, who effectively gifted the U's both their goals.
No one at Huish Park seemed to mind - the Glovers had guaranteed their League One safety the previous weekend, by holding play-off hopefuls Tranmere Rovers to a 1-1 draw at Prenton Park. They had already reached the magical 51 points tally, so the atmosphere resembled that of a last day at school.
Any other day and Weale would have been chastised for his feeble attempts to keep out shots from Vincent and Yeates inside the first
Amazingly, he had been crowned a hero in the previous home game, by dint of scoring an injury-time equaliser in a 2-2 draw against Hereford - the Bristol City loanee had advanced into the Bulls' penalty area to head home a corner.
For that alone, he will be a legend at Huish Park. But he probably wished that the ground would have swallowed him up after allowing Vincent's innocuous shot to squeeze under his body for the opening goal.
Man-of-the match Yeates, who reserved his best football for on the road this season, set up the chance with an elusive run down the left and a pass along the face of the box. Vincent connected with a goalbound shot, although the ex-Cheltenham front-runner would have been surprised to see Weale allow the ball to roll into the net.
It was Vincent's first goal in a U's shirt, in his sixth appearance. He officially arrived on loan from Cheltenham, although that move will be made permanent this summer.
Three minutes later and United were two-up, again due to a combination of Yeates' mastery and Weale's misfortune. The Dubliner slipped but recovered to control Kem Izzet's pass and then beat a stunned Weale with a surprise shot that flew in at the near post.
The rest of the first half ambled along without too much goalmouth action. The U's were sitting pretty, and Yeovil didn't have the urgency to mount a serious comeback.
Dean Gerken had far more to do after the break. He saved smartly from striker Jonathan Obika and defender Craig Alcock, and even when Tottenham loanee Obika finally beat him with a rasping shot just before the hour mark, the ball cannoned back off a post.Yet the U's always looked comfortable.
Yeovil fans were still in good spirits at the final whistle, despite this defeat. Their main aim of staying in the division had already been achieved.
Ironically, although the U's had finished the season on a high note, their fans could be forgiven for thinking about what might have been.
Roll on next season.