Away fans were at the end of the stand opposite to the tunnel & dugouts; adjacent & to our right, an empty end apart from 4-5 ball-boys. The meagre crowd was not as surreal as at Darlo, but little more than a quarter-full. My seat was level with the pen. spot. Bradbury again on the right; Feeney wide-left with Pugh alongside Ings.
Boscombe k.o. to the home end; Jalal had a shot bounce off his chest then saw a shot hooked over, with the home side neat & organised. Very soon, “Supa Fletch’s Barmy Army” rang out; the king is dead, long live the, er… Feeney went on some quick runs & formed good triangles with various colleagues. Wiggins was fast, and tackled strongly. Robinson & Hollands were solid. A poor away free allowed Colchester to break; Jalal went to the edge of his area, down at the striker’s feet & palmed the ball away. Superb, but if the forward had decided to fall, the nearby ref. would probably have awarded a pen even though subsequent T V replays showed no contact; good on the striker.
Hollands sent Feeney away with a superb ball, but the cross ended up near the corner flag. His next attempt went to the keeper. Ings & Pugh were well-covered. Colchester had a free at inside-right; left-footed, it hit Jalal’s left-hand post. Then he went down feeling his right ankle, allowing both teams to approach the technical area. Feeney had swapped with Pugh; a Boscombe throw led to a tip-over & away corner. Hollands was in the thick of it, very strong, and Feeney came away from a situation superbly. This led to a crowded home area, and from an angle on the right, Bradbury could (should?) have shot but passed in to Ings to allow him to side-foot his 1st goal. It was instead scuffed, & cleared off the line. Robinson was sharp, reading well, anticipating; very nearly a master-class with Hollands his equal apart from occasional distribution lapses. Ings caused problems with his speed. Pearce was yellowed on 44 more for his reaction to the foul being awarded, than the foul itself. The next day, the local “Green’Un” reckoned Colchester had shaded the half; parochially I’d give it to the away side. HT 0-0
Fletcher came on at the restart for Bradbury; as we learned in due course, the caretaker manager-elect giving way to the caretaker assistant manager-elect. So Feeney went right, Pugh left. A superb Boscombe break ended with Pugh crossing just too high, then Bartley had to be last-ditch, conceding a home corner. Colchester had 2-3 more in short order but the away defence had little problems. By now, all Boscombe players were being double-teamed, until the ball broke away from the home area with Pearce up; he retrieved brilliantly from the by-line, back to Feeney. Onto his left, a lovely cross, Fletcher rose like the proverbial & headed it back across the keeper & down to the keeper’s left. 0-1, 54. No more than merited. In response, Colchester shot over. Feeney was near running riot, but his marker, on debut from non-league, stood up well. There was a lot of pushing, not all by the home side; the latter found itself pinned back as the 2nd goal seemed imminent. A Pugh corner saw Peace head over, then Colchester shot over. Home subs began to change the game’s dynamic, but Ings was still harrying. Jalal had to be sharp, down well by the goal line.
Nonny, sitting right behind me, was in splendid voice. Colchester kept huffing & puffing; Pugh was yellowed on 68. But what a John Ward side will always give you is shape & perseverance, so Jalal had to tip over from a cross. Hollands put in a thundering header, but a neat left-wing move, by-passing Smith, led to a low cross that Pearce might (although facing his goal-line), & Hollands possibly could, have cleared, but the sub came in from the right & slid in the equaliser. 1-1, 76. Straight away, the ball was in the Boscombe net – but offside, very poor Colchester play. But there was too much hit-it-anywhere from the Boscombe defence. Fletcher’s header allowed Ings to turn & shoot for a corner, then Fletcher was just wide. Pinball in the away area saw the same sub jump with Pearce; both fell but the sub was up first & - very aware – lobbed it over Jalal. 2-1, 84. Frankly, Boscombe had allowed them in both times.
A Boscombe free from inside-left was too long; this heralded a double substitution on 85. Ings had been blowing since before the first goal, and really needs a rest; Taylor took his place. Cooper came on for Hollands, going to central defence with Bartley moving into midfield. The final Colchester sub, Cheltenham reject Odejayi, shot across then on his next move fell over. The home side scented victory, with Boscombe relatively asleep, but 5 mins added time was indicated. A Boscombe free from deep left came in too far; good work by Taylor allowed Robinson to shoot over. FT 2-1
The players came over slowly, clapping the fans. Then the huddle, longer than usual, including Howe & Tindall. Then the break towards us, mutual but restrained applause. Howe moved away slightly and, in a possibly slightly embarrassed manner, took & gave a brief ovation before turning and walking away to the tunnel. Whatever one’s views of the manner of his leaving, he gave Boscombe 2 astonishing years, especially within the financial constraints. The Legend of Eddie Shoestring… Wembley ’98, in the hospitality suite after the game, I noticed Howe was alone briefly so I took Claire over to him &, in front of him, said to her, “This guy doesn’t know how good he is”. We’ve seen how good in one context in the last 2 years; now he’ll prove to himself how good. TV pictures the next day of him & Tindall going into Turf Moor with a beaming Burnley chairman, then in the stands for his new charges’ home game, drew the line and signalled the end of an era.
So – the first double over Boscombe of the season. As to the immediate future, the caretaker partnership has to address the “last 20 minutes” syndrome that returned so alarmingly, and the players must show it’s about them at least as much as about Howe & Tindall. And then – how many will be tempted to follow the Turf Moor trail? The old Chinese curse/proverb – may we live in interesting times.
AFCB: Jalal, Smith, Bartley, Pearce, Wiggins, Bradbury, Robinson, Hollands, Feeney, Ings
Subs: Stewart, Cummings, Arter, Symes, Fletcher (for Bradbury, HT), Cooper (for Hollands, 85 mins), Taylor (for Ings, 85 mins)
Peter Wicks, Bulford