U’s vs Blues has always been a fascinating clash

Danny Haynes heads the ball past Colchester goalkeeper Aidan Davison
during a 3-1 win in 2007

Danny Haynes heads the ball past Colchester goalkeeper Aidan Davison during a 3-1 win in 2007

Colchester United entertain Ipswich Town tonight, in a pre-season friendly. Carl Marston recalls the days when both clubs were arch rivals in the Championship.

Karl Duguid celebrates scoring the winner in 1-0 triumph over Town on September 29, 2006

Karl Duguid celebrates scoring the winner in 1-0 triumph over Town on September 29, 2006

It is now a distant eight to 10 years since Ipswich Town and Colchester United were plying their trade at the same level.

Since those heady days – for the U’s at least – there have been some lean times for both clubs.

While Ipswich have been largely treading water, stuck in the Championship, their Essex neighbours down the A12 have suffered a couple of relegations.

The two clubs meet this evening, in a pre-season friendly at the Weston Homes Community Stadium (kick-off 7.45pm), an ever-popular close-season clash.

New Colchester boss John McGreal

New Colchester boss John McGreal - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

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For the U’s, now managed by new boss John McGreal, the former Town centre-half, it is their biggest test of the pre-season campaign following wins over Maldon & Tiptree, Needham Market and Airbus UK Broughton in their first three friendlies.

Town, meanwhile, have beaten Shelbourne and lost to Barnet.

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I recall those two seasons, when the U’s and Town were battling it out in the second tier, with great fondness.

Established Championship outfit Town – they are currently preparing for their 15th consecutive season at this level – locked horns with the new boys on the block, little old Colchester United, during both the 2006-07 and 2007-08 seasons.

They were contrasting seasons for the U’s, especially, although there was a common thread – the U’s shocked Town in both Layer Road fixtures, in 2006 and 2008, while Town reigned supreme in the corresponding matches at Portman Road, both in 2007.

When Geraint Williams’ Colchester side – Williams was of course another former Town favourite, a gritty central midfielder – entertained Town for a Championship fixture on September 29, 2006, it was the first time that the two clubs had met in a League match for 49 years, since the pair were vying for promotion from Division Three South in 1957 (Town won the title and so promotion that season).

Despite winning promotion to the second tier, for the first time in their history, under former boss Phil Parkinson in 2005-06, not many people gave the U’s much hope against a powerful Ipswich side, with Jim Magilton at the helm, when the two met at a packed Layer Road for an evening clash.

And yet the U’s played out of their skins to record an historic 1-0 victory, following a pulsating Championship duel, thanks to Karl Duguid’s ninth-minute winner.

I remember the goal clearly. Town keeper Lewis Price parried Jamie Cureton’s stinging low drive, and Duguid reacted smartly to steer the rebound into an unguarded net

Magilton’s men would have gone seciond in the table, with a win, but they struggled to live with their hosts in the first half. Of course Town did rally strongly in the second half, and they were unlucky not to equalise on 48 minutes when Jon Macken’s goal was ruled out for a foul on Aidan Davison.

Later that season, Town gained revenge with a 3-2 win at Portman Road. Again Duguid was on target, to give the U’s a 1-0 lead, only for Alan Lee (penalty), and then Sylvain Legwinski (56) and Danny Haynes (82) to secure the three points, despite Chris Iwelumo’s late penalty.

Even so, the U’s finished a remarkable 10th that season, and so 30th in the Football League pyramid, with Town in 14th and Norwich 16th.

It proved to be a one-off season for the U’s. They finished rock bottom the following year, to be relegated back to League One, and of course they might never return to those dizzy heights again.

Town again won at Portman Road, this time via a 3-1 score-line on October 23, 2007. Clive Platt’s 31st-minute opener was wiped out by three late goals from Jonathan Walters, Liam Trotter and Haynes.

And yet, in a way, the U’s did have the last laugh, because they again sprung a surprise at Layer Road, Scott Vernon netting a brace in a 2-0 win on April 5, 2008.

Those were the days!

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