ALAN ESSEX watched as One Flew Into the Cuckoo's Net

Colchester 3 - Pools 1

Well by now you are probably all tired of me describing that Colchester’s ground is built on an ancient Roman burial site and brings us nothing but bad luck an old Asylum named Severalls. The area is officially known as Cuckoo Farm which was an area farmed by the ‘inmates’ (they’d be called ‘Service Users nowadays) to provide both occupation and fresh fruit / vegetables for the many within the asylum. At one stage there were over 2000 ‘inmates’. In the days it operated people could be put away for what would now be considered the norm, for example unmarried mothers who were in poverty, people with personality problems who would these days be left in the community albeit with a care plan and medication and those that didn’t look right or conform to local expectations. Severalls opened in 1913 and remained open until 1997 although in a much reduced state towards the end.

Still, enough of that, David and I were there to see a football match not dwell upon the vagaries of mental health care.

Colchester were without a win this season and we were not far behind with just the one. Colchester had just sacked their manager and we must now be preparing to do the same. Colchester had just signed 3 new players on loan and with one of them being Jabo Ibehre, a player who I have always rated since his days at Leyton Orient, I did fear the worst. I said to David before the kick off that I thought Ibehre would be good for 2 goals, that Peter Hartley is overrated and will make several errors and that Howard is a poor shadow of his former self. David has now insisted that we visit Ladbrokes on the way to our next game so that he can put a ‘few quid’ on my pearls of wisdom!" It’s interesting that scoring for Pools seems to mean the player is then dropped or substituted – see Poole, James, Walton, Monkhouse and now Lynch."

During the warm up David was very impressed with Franks' shooting ability and to be fair he did find the net regularly whilst others struggled. I had to remind David that the warm up didn’t actually count towards the result. He was most disappointed, as I imagine Franks was as he was pretty anonymous post warm up.

Pools lined up with a strange formation, Baldwin at right back Austin in midfield along with Murray, Sweeney, Franks and Lynch and Howard the lone striker. To be honest the team had no real shape throughout the game. Austin was lost in midfield when surely the better option would have had him in his usual position with Baldwin in midfield. The style of play bypassed Sweeney completely, Murray looked tired, Franks had peaked in the warm up leaving Lynch as the most potent midfield force.

Fortunately Colchester looked even worse keeping a player wide on either wing throughout the whole match and also playing a strange system that their caretaker manager must have invented. They looked no threat and Pools grew in confidence. After 5 minutes a great misplaced pass from a Colchester player found Lynch who drove into the box and finished with a great curling shot across the keeper. This looked easy as Colchester offered no threats and this is how it remained for the first half an hour.

Now, I’ve read the official site and it says that Howard was dominant – I’m afraid this is utter tosh (other, stronger language is available), he was poor, didn’t win a header, had one long range speculative shot and didn’t hold the ball up. I was disappointed as I had rated him, mostly for his time at Luton and then, mostly playing against us but he was poor today. I realise the official site is just that and they follow the ‘company code’ but their description of the match was not just biased it was incorrect and gives the wrong impression.

Colchester began to gain in confidence as is so often the way as we cannot seem to apply a killer punch. Flinders had to make a great save pushing the ball away for a corner and you could see the tide turning. Following another build up, a simple through ball beat our two central defenders to leave Massey a relatively easy shot beyond the helpless Flinders who quite reasonably was furious with our defenders. Still half time was only about 10 minutes away and we could then surely regroup. No. Five minutes later Hartley attempted a header back to Flinders under no pressure. The header was woefully weak and Ibehre nipped in and beat Flinders who was again not to blame and again rightly furious.

The second half was a different story and Colchester were now confident, Pools were like rabbits in the headlights, the fact that the headlights were on an old lumbering Morris Minor made little difference. There was no discernible shape, players were arguing with each other and it was all a bit despairing. Flinders made another couple of excellent saves just after the break keeping us in the game but we offered little in the way of an attacking threat. By now the midfield were deep defending and even Howard was back at times. When we did get the ball there was no outlet as players were pinned into their own half.

It was inevitable that Colchester would get a third and Ibehre obliged, surrounded by our defenders he got a shot away that beat Flinders – game well and truly over.

After nearly an hour Monkhouse replaced Lynch, for me a strange decision as Lynch was the pick of a bad bunch. Monkhouse did little (nothing) to improve our attack. It’s interesting that scoring for Pools seems to mean the player is then dropped or substituted – see Poole, James, Walton, Monkhouse and now Lynch.

With a quarter of an hour left Poole came on for Murray. He actually won a couple of attacking headers, showed some enthusiasm but when in a goal scoring situation kept the ball far too long and had to play it back where the threat was long gone.

Now if you are thinking that there must be a ray of light, a glimpse of a recovery or at least one heroic display I’m afraid you would be mistaken. In the old days of struggle at the wrong end of the 4th Division we had some local lads, young wannabe’s and some journeymen, they were not the most skilful or the fittest but they played with a passion that I’ve not seen in the last few seasons. Maybe professionalism has changed the game in this way but today’s squad seemed indifferent and lacking any passion. It was embarrassing watching them at times.

There were just over 120 Pools supporters there and from their accents they were, like us, mostly exiles. I’m not surprised; the price of travelling and tickets plus programme, pies, drinks etc. makes it an expensive day, especially to see such a lacklustre display. There were less than 3,500 supporters in the ground which made it look empty despite it officially being able to hold just over 10,000.

So what of the future? Will we follow Colchester’s lead and sack the manager and if so who will be the replacement, Barron or a big name manager? Will they have the backing to get 3 players on loan especially one with the pedigree of Ibehre? And if so, why hasn’t Cooper been given that support. IOR appear to me to have taken their eye off the ball and seem to be more interested in buying the ground. However it’s their money and they have their goals to achieve. I just wish the team could achieve a few goals of their own.

Player’s ratings – purely subjective!

Flinders: 7. The only player who can come away from the game able with any credit

Baldwin: 4. Not a right back and I don’t think he has the stature to be a centre back either. Undoubtedly a talent and I’d play him as a midfielder in the Liddle role. He’d require expert coaching, which I’m afraid he’d not get at Pools.

Collins: 4. It must have been difficult playing as a lone central defender.

Hartley: 1. I’m being kind to him, the 1 was for getting his jrsey on the right way around. I’d not have him in the squad let alone the starting 11.

Horwood: 3. Pretty anonymous and compared to the oppositions left back was woeful.

Franks: 2. That was just for his good warm up, another anonymous player.

Murray: 4. Tried to keep things together, failed, looked tired.

Austin: 3. Looked out of place in midfield and unsure of his role.

Lynch: 5. The only player with any ideas or skill to try and put them into practice, great goal.

Sweeney: 3. The game passed him by, little opportunity to play his natural box to box game. Must be regretting not going to Huddersfield last year.

Howard: 2. Again, I’m being generous here. Won nothing in the air, painfully slow only one long range shot, seems to be shorter than I remember him (probably not his fault).

Monkhouse: 2. Added nothing when he came on, lacked passion probably his reaction to how he’s been managed.

Poole: 5. Only on for a quarter of an hour but showed some enthusiasm and a little skill.

Cooper: 1. Desperate, Invercockieleekie Thistle beckons.

For Colchester,
Ibehre: 8. Man of the match – 8,

Michael Rose: 7 Another good game against us. Colchester supporters hate him, and Turner wanted to sign him for us at the time we got Horwood.