U's game of the century

COLCHESTER United will play their last ever game at Layer Road tomorrow, when Stoke City are the visitors. CARL MARSTON selects his favourite match from his last 16 seasons as the EADT's U's correspondentIAN Holloway, who was the manager of Bristol Rovers at the time, proved to be the master of under-statement following his side's dramatic 5-4 defeat at Layer Road on January 8, 2000.

COLCHESTER United will play their last ever game at Layer Road tomorrow, when Stoke City are the visitors.

CARL MARSTON selects his favourite match from his last 16 seasons as the EADT's U's correspondent

IAN Holloway, who was the manager of Bristol Rovers at the time, proved to be the master of under-statement following his side's dramatic 5-4 defeat at Layer Road on January 8, 2000.

Colchester United marked their first game of the new Millennium with one of the most amazing games of football ever staged at their famous old ground. It will always remain my favourite Layer Road match.


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The headline, in the following Monday's EADT, exclaimed - “United's new year epic!” - alongside the banner - “Nine goals and a last-gasp Colchester win.”

But beaten manager Holloway did not get carried away. “It was a good game for the neutral,” conceded Holloway, who is now the boss at Leicester City.

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Well, it was a GREAT GAME for everybody except the few hundred Rovers fans who had made the 200-mile trip eastwards, and for Holloway and his players. The new Millennium had peaked after just eight days!

And where to start? Steve McGavin and Karl Duguid both bagged a brace, each of them netting candidates for goal-of-the-season.

But it was Lomana Lua Lua who made this such a special day.

Lua Lua, already installed as the darling of Layer Road, leapt off the substitutes' bench to provide this Nationwide Division Two clash with one final twist, an 89th-minute winner.

For Rovers, Jason Roberts boosted his tally for the season to 18 goals with a brace, while a diminutive striker by the name of Jamie Cureton had a day to remember, and a day to forget!

Current Norwich City striker Cureton, who ironically made Layer Road his home last season (scoring 24 goals for the U's to win the Championship's Golden Boot), converted a penalty and missed another. His 65th-minute spot kick misery was to prove crucial, because if he had scored, then Rovers would have been 4-2 up and coasting.

Substitute Nathan Ellington halted a superb U's fight-back with an 86th-minute equaliser, to make it 4-4, but Steve Whitton's entertainers were to have the last laugh, thanks to Lua Lua.

It was 1-1 at the break, with little suggestion of what was to come. Blink, and you missed a goal.

All the goals were major talking points.

Roberts put Rovers 2-1 up, courtesy of a dreadful back pass by U's centre-half David Greene, and Ipswich Town loanee Titus Bramble's afternoon was summed up by his mis-timed tackle on David Pritchard in the box.

Bramble was booked for the challenge, which meant that he now faced a suspension, and Cureton dispatched the penalty to hand the visitors a 3-1 lead. Bramble later hobbled off injured.

The first goal-of-the-season contender arrived just after the hour mark, with McGavin curling a delightful long-range shot into the far corner of the net.

Cureton then struck the bar from his second penalty, and Duguid made him pay by firing home an 80th-minute equaliser for 3-3.

By now, it was end-to-end, thrills-and-spills. Duguid blasted the U's 4-3 up with a stunning right-footed pearler from just outside the box, only for Ellington to seemingly rescue a point for Rovers.

Cue for Lua Lua! The Congalese striker had hardly touched the ball before he somehow managed to deceive three defenders and squeeze a shot past keeper Lee Jones.

The noise was deafening.

In fact, it was later confirmed that the roars which greeted Lua Lua's winner, and then the final whistle, could be heard by shoppers in the town centre outside Marks & Spencer.

Details

Date: January 8, 2000

Score: Colchester United 5 Bristol Rovers 4

Goals - U's: McGavin (37 & 62), Duguid (80 & 82), Lua Lua (89). Rovers: Roberts (12 & 47), Cureton (59 pen), Ellington (86)

U's squad: Brown, Dunne, Keith, Greene, Skelton, Bramble (sub Arnott, 69), G Johnson, D Gregory, McGavin (sub Opara, 90), Dozzell (sub Lua Lua, 67), Duguid.

Attendance: 4,482.

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