U's triumph at The Den on way to Wembley

Colchester United correspondent CARL MARSTON recalls the U's triumphant trip to Millwall in 1997, which ultimately ended in a Wembley appearanceONLY the privileged few witnessed Colchester United's dramatic victory at Millwall in the Auto Windscreens Shield (Johnstone's Paint Trophy equivalent) on a Tuesday evening on January 7, 1997.

Carl Marston

Colchester United correspondent CARL MARSTON recalls the U's triumphant trip to Millwall in 1997, which ultimately ended in a Wembley appearance

ONLY the privileged few witnessed Colchester United's dramatic victory at Millwall in the Auto Windscreens Shield (Johnstone's Paint Trophy equivalent) on a Tuesday evening on January 7, 1997.

About 200 U's fans made the trip into south London for this southern area second round tie. I must confess that I wasn't holding out much hope of further progress in this competition.


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In fact, I was still cursing Steve Whitton's 89th minute winner in the previous round at Cambridge (1-0 win), which had led to this unwanted trip to the capital.

True to form, although Steve Wignall's Nationwide Division Three visitors outplayed their Division Two hosts for most of the evening, they still found themselves 2-1 down with the electric scoreboard showing just two minutes on the clock.

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But then, just as Whitton had popped up with a goal out-of-the-blue at the Abbey Stadium, so wily striker Tony Adcock netted with a surprise chip from outside the penalty area to force extra-time, and the dreaded golden goal rule.

It was no contest in extra-time. As I wrote at the time: “In the short break between normal time and sudden death extra-time, the U's looked like a side baying for blood, while Millwall's impatient supporters were baying for the blood of their team and manager Jimmy Nicholl.”

Midfielder Paul Buckle (who is now the manager of Torquay United) duly netted a spectacular 20-yard shot, which dipped over inexperienced keeper Andrew Iga, to wrap up a 3-2 victory. The U's players celebrated in the middle of the pitch, while poor Iga was jeered by the home fans.

It was a particularly special evening for two of Colchester's team - defender Tony McCarthy and keeper Carl Emberson - who had both been deemed surplus to requirements at Millwall.

The draw for the next round was not very kind, with the U's having to return to London for a quarter-final tie at Brentford. But three months later and United were back in London, for the final at Wembley.

It made that midweek journey to the New Den all worthwhile.

U's team (at Millwall in 1997): Emberson, Gregory, Greene, Cawley, Gibbs, Fry, Buckle, Wilkins, Abrahams, Whitton, Adcock. Subs: Locke, Dunne, Reinelt. Attendance: 2,759.

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