I know we won there a couple of seasons ago (and had a game abandoned when we were 1-3 down), but on the whole that unprepossessing stadium has negative associations, particularly the sendings-off of our players!. Still, perhaps the presence of Warren Feeney in the starting line-up would change all that and we'd romp home comfortable winners – and with a full complement.
Like us, the hosts had been enjoying a good run and so the game promised much. However, it soon became apparent that we were not in for a footballing treat. Despite the immaculate surface, neither team showed much inclination to pass the ball accurately or really commit themselves. A rather sterile encounter ensued with very little to rouse the passions of the respective supporters. Our main threat came from Wade Elliott on the right, but his final cross invariably failed to find any of our players in the box. Feeney wasn't getting much in the way of service – usually high balls lumped in his general direction – and before long he wasn't even bothering to jump!
At the other end Moss had to be at his best, bravely diving at attackers' feet when our defence failed to clear the danger. The best chance fell to McGleish whose shot cleared the bar.
However, with half time approaching, the score nil-nil and the opposition looking a rather mediocre outfit, I was optimistic that we could get something out of this game. Then disaster struck! Well into injury time, Warren Cummings tangled with Duguid near the touchline and other players starting jostling. Stockley moved faster than he had in the entire half, running a good 40 yards to get involved. Then the linesman joined in the fun. The Colchester players claimed that Cummings had stamped on their man. The referee was persuaded and brandished a red card. Cummings was distraught.
I must have had my Arsene Wenger glasses on, because I couldn't see any sign of malice on Cummings's part. However, the view is so bad in the away end at Layer Road that I'll have to review the video evidence.
At the start of the second half, Brian Stock came on for Marcus Browning and we mentally prepared ourselves for a rearguard action over the next 45 minutes. However, the home side looked no more likely to break us down that they had in the first period. In fact, we looked pretty comfortable, with the U's failing to put us under real pressure and Moss dealing confidently with anything that got past our last line of defence.
Unfortunately, our counter-attacks we no more penetrating than our opponents' and we kept giving the ball away. Garreth O'Connor in particular was having an off-day in midfield and Feeney only looked lively in occasional bursts. Big Fletch was winning his share of headers, but his flick-ons were going nowhere in particular, and Wade Elliott was having to play a defensive role now. However, a Stock free kick forced Brown to save well at the foot of his right-hand post.
Just when it looked as if we would hold on, we allowed Colchester too much possession in the middle of the park and the ball eventually came to Duguid who curled in a magnificent shot from the left-hand edge of the area and we saw the net bulge.
With nothing to lose, SOD brought James Hayter and Deadly Derek for a final onslaught. And it nearly worked! Hayter latched onto a loose ball in the area and almost squeezed a shot inside Brown's right-hand post, the U's keeper just managing to get his fingertips to the ball. The resulting corner, like so many before it, was wasted.
A battling performance against the odds? You could say that. Defensively we did OK. The sending-off didn't help, of course, but we didn't do ourselves justice today. It was a dire game to watch and Colchester, apart from Duguid's excellent strike, were little better.
AFCB: Moss, Broadhurst, Maher, C Fletcher, Cummings, Elliott, Purches, Browning, O'Connor, Feeney, S Fletcher
Subs: Stewart, Holmes (for Maher, 83), Hayter (for O' Connor, 85), Stock (for Browning, 45), Thomas
Ellis Griffin, Chertsey