Golden-goal hero is backing U's

GOLDEN-goal hero Paul Abrahams, the man who blasted Colchester United to the final of the Auto Windscreens Shield in 1997, believes the current U's team can repeat the feat this evening.

By Carl Marston

GOLDEN-goal hero Paul Abrahams, the man who blasted Colchester United to the final of the Auto Windscreens Shield in 1997, believes the current U's team can repeat the feat this evening.

Winger Abrahams was the toast of Layer Road when he cracked home the crucial goal against Peterborough United, in the second leg of the southern area final on Tuesday, March 18, 1997.

Steve Wignall's men wiped out a two-goal deficit that evening, following the first leg at London Road. Goals from Chris Fry and Paul Buckle forced the tie into extra-time, before Abrahams smashed home a wonder goal in the 10th minute of sudden-death extra-time to wrap up a 3-2 aggregate win.


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Nine years on and Phil Parkinson's Colchester side have another chance to reach the final of this competition, which is now known as the LDV Vans Trophy. Although they suffered a defeat at Swansea in the first leg, they are only one goal down as they face the Swans in the second leg at Layer Road tonight (kick-off 7.45pm).

The U's reward in 1997 was an appearance at Wembley Stadium, where they lost a penalty shoot-out to Carlisle United after a goalless draw. It is Carlisle again who await the winners of tonight's contest, with the final to be played in Cardiff at the Millennium Stadium on April 2.

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“That was one of the highlights of my career. It was great to score the winner on the big occasion,” enthused Abrahams last night. The 32-year-old is still enjoying his football at AFC Sudbury.

“I will always remember that night. It meant that we could take 25,000 fans to Wembley for the final. We were two down from the first leg, and managed to turn it around, and I'm sure that the lads will be able to do a similar thing against Swansea.

“I remember my golden goal clearly. The ball must have moved about four yards in the air! The keeper (Bart Griemink) moved two yards to his right, and yet the ball swerved and ended up in the middle of the net, just below the bar.

“The only thing I can't believe is that it's nine years since that game!” added Abrahams.

The present-day U's trail 1-0 from the first leg in south Wales, due to Adebayo Akinfenwa's 40th-minute strike at the Liberty Stadium.

Just like nine years ago, when Wignall's men were pushing for promotion, so United are also gunning for promotion this term.

They have faltered of late, failing to win in seven league and cup matches. No Colchester player has scored a goal in 11 hours and 15 minutes of football.

But Abrahams is a big admirer of the current U's squad, and he feels that the club still has a great chance of achieving the double glory of LDV Vans Trophy success and promotion to the Championship.

“I reckon the current squad is the best that I've ever seen at Colchester,” said Abrahams.

“They have had a few big games in recent years, so they have the experience behind them. I was at Chelsea to watch the FA Cup match last month, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day out.

“I went to Stamford Bridge with my son Ethan. I thought it was a terrific game. Colchester were excellent in the first half and Chelsea had to bring on their big guns (substitutes Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Hernan Crespo) to turn it around.

“The current squad is a good mixture of youth and experience. I still keep in regular contact with Joe Dunne (current youth-team manager). He's the godfather to my children and he has done well to bring through so many good youngsters to the senior team.”

Colchester-born Abrahams began his career as a trainee at Layer Road. He played 55 league games for the U's, before moving on to Brentford for a £30,000 fee in 1995.

Just over a year later and the talented right-winger returned to his home town club to become a key member of Wignall's team, until a knee injury forced his early retirement from professional football in 1999. He made 144 league appearances for the U's.

He is now enjoying life at the top of the Ridgeons League Premier Division with AFC Sudbury.

“It would be great if Colchester could get to the final of this competition again,” said Abrahams.

“However, it's not just about getting there. We didn't enjoy the day out as much as we should, because it wasn't much of a game against Carlisle and we ended up losing a penalty shoot-out.”

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