All’s well that ends well
- Credit: Archant
COLCHESTER United escaped relegation on the final day of a difficult season. U’s correspondent Carl Marston casts his eye over the campaign in this review of the year.
SOME seasons just come and go, without any danger of them lingering in the memory for more than a few weeks.
That has been the case at Colchester United for a few years now, with a succession of respectable if uninspiring top-half-of-the-table finishes in League One.
The play-offs have always been tantalisingly out of the U’s reach, since they suffered relegation out of the Championship in 2007-08, the season before they moved to their spanking new home at the Weston Homes Community Stadium – when Geraint Williams was the manager and Teddy Sheringham graced the Layer Road turf.
Roll on five years and the 2012-13 season was the least successful of the U’s recent campaigns, with a never-ending struggle against relegation and first round exits from all cup competitions.
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And yet, ironically, it will live longer in the memory than any of the previous campaigns under Paul Lambert, Aidy Boothroyd and John Ward.
There was, apart from a small window when new boss Joe Dunne’s regime started off like a house-on-fire, never any thoughts or hopes of gate-crashing the play-offs this year.
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It was all about one burning question – would the U’s be relegated into the fourth tier of the Football League, a place they had last vacated in 1998, or would they cheat the drop?
It was the fear of the unknown that will ensure U’s supporters, and certainly rookie boss Dunne, will never forget the class of 2012-13.
And the fact that Dunne’s men did finally avoid relegation, thanks to a 2-0 win at distant Carlisle United on the final day of the season, ensured a happy ending.
Safeguarding that League One status, so far from home (320 miles into Cumbria), with the club’s chairman and owner Robbie Cowling cycling all the way there for charity, made the achievement even greater, and that more satisfying.
The U’s avoided relegation, against the odds – that is for certain. Any club that goes on a nine-game losing streak, not knowing when or where their next solitary point is coming from, should expect the worst.
And combined with a terrible start to the campaign, when former boss Ward failed to guide the U’s to any wins from their first nine fixtures, the U’s really had no right to stay up.
But stay up, they did.
Dunne deserves huge credit for this, as does his largely youthful squad.
The likeable Dubliner tasted victory in five of his first six league games, to propel the U’s out of the bottom four and into the top half of the table, for a very brief few days, at the end of October.
Having risen to a season-long high of 12th spot, the U’s then nosedived in spectacular fashion, prompted by a humiliating FA Cup exit at the hands of Essex rivals Chelmsford City.
There seemed no light at the end of the tunnel, when Dunne’s men slumped to their ninth defeat on the bounce, a 2-1 home defeat at the hands of relegation rivals Scunthorpe on January 12.
But in the final analysis, and on the final day, it was Scunthorpe, rather than Colchester, who suffered the heart-ache of relegation to League Two.