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🔎 The Opposition: Colchester United (A)

Jed Penberthy takes a look at Tuesday night's opponents

23 February 2021

Exeter City return to action with a 7pm kick-off against Colchester United on Tuesday evening.

Keen to do the double over Steve Ball’s side, here is an outlook of City’s midweek opponents…

  • Founded: 1937
  • Nicknames: The U’s
  • Honours: Conference (1991/92), FA Trophy (1991/92)
  • Home Kit: MACRON Blue shirt with faded Eagle graphic, blue shorts, and white socks
  • Away Kit: MACRON Olive green and black shirt with camo-style sleeves, black shorts and socks.
  • Form: DLDDL (20th in League Two)

Colchester United formed in 1937 when a number of enthusiasts of the much older Colchester Town F.C. decided to establish a new professional club in the area. The new team decided they would stay at Layer Road, the original home of Town since 1909.

The town itself lays claim as the oldest recorded establishment in Britain. It was also the first founded Roman outpost in England after Emperor Claudius’ invasion in 43AD. It served as the Roman Capital of Britain for 20 years until Boudica’s rebellion in 61AD which destroyed the town. In a more modern setting Colchester is regarded as one of the country’s fastest growing towns, after a considerable rise in population since the turn of the 20th century.

It took 13 years after the Clubs formation to join the football league, gaining promotion to Division 3 (South) in 1950. After bouncing between tiers 3 and 4 for the best part of 30 years, Colchester were relegated back into the Conference ahead of the 1990/91 season. The U’s were unable to make an immediate return to the football league as they finished runners up to Barnet, but the season later would be regarded as one of the most successful in their history.

Under player/manager and top scorer Roy McDonough, Colchester won the Conference title on the final day of the season and beat Witton Albion at Wembley in the FA Trophy final (although they did lose to Exeter in the first round of the FA Cup).  

At the turn of the 21st century Colchester had stints in the second tier. Between 2006-2008 they were in the Championship, but after eight years in league one, the U’s were relegated back to the Football league basement tier. Last season, Colchester met City the play-off semi-finals when the Grecians triumphed to progress to Wembley.

The U’s have not reached the same levels as last year’s promotion chasing side. Ahead of Tuesday night, the Essex side are currently sitting lowly in 20th, though they’re just as far off relegation as they are the Top Seven.

The Manager

Steve Ball

The 51-year-old was assistant to John McGreal in last years play offs, but after the club’s loss to Exeter McGreal stepped down and Ball was promoted to first team coach. This is his fourth spell at Colchester.

Born in Colchester, Ball graduated from the Arsenal academy in the late 80’s but failed to make a first team appearance for the Gunners. He moved to Layer Road in 1989. After struggling for games at Norwich and Cambridge soon after, Ball re-joined the U’s in 1992 where he would make 64 appearances and score 7 goals, before moving to Sudbury Town in non-league.

As a coach, Steve Ball has hopped from Leiston and the Colchester Academy and part-time managed Maldon and Tiptree. He briefly became caretaker manager of United in 2016 and has long remained in the Colchester dressing room. After four years being McGreal’s assistant, Ball got the top job on a permanent basis.

The Stadium

  • Name: JobServe Community Stadium (Colchester Community Stadium)
  • Capacity: 10,105
  • Year Opened: 2008
  • Address: United Way, Mile End, Colchester CO4 5UP

Colchester Stadium.JPG

Colchester played at Layer Road since it’s formation in 1937. After thirty years of talks between the club and the local council, the new site on Cuckoo Farm was announced as the new land for the stadium.

The £14m project began work in 2007 and was finished ahead of the ‘08/09 season. The pilot game was between Colchester and Spanish side Athletic Bilbao. Spanish international Aritz Aduriz had the privilege of scoring the first goal in the new ground.

The stadium has hosted a number of England Women’s games including a 5-0 win over Kazakhstan in 2017, as well as several men’s youth internationals such as the U19’s 1-0 win against Germany in 2008.

One to Watch

Kwame Poku

The Croydon-born youngster looks right at home in the Colchester squad after signing from non-league Worthing in 2019. The 19-year-old made his professional debut at the start of last season and impressed in John McGreal’s play-off ending campaign.

Poku scored his first goal for the club in September ’19 against Leyton Orient and has been a stalwart in the U’s matchday squad ever since. Poku was almost the matchwinner in the post-season semi-finals last year after his turn of pace had troubled the City back-line. Fortunately for the Grecians, Johnny Maxted denied what would have been Poku’s biggest goal of his already impressive Colchester career.    

One of the brightest young talents in the Football League, Poku will certainly be one to watch, not just on Tuesday, but in the years to come too

Head to Head

The two clubs have met a staggering 84 times since Colchester’s promotion to the Football league in 1950. There have been 226 goals scored between the two teams at nearly 2.7 goals a game.

City have had the lions share of the wins, but usually quite cagey affairs against the U’s means Tuesday’s visitors are always capable of a result. City go into Tuesday buoyant after the earlier season demolition job at St James Park.

  • Exeter wins: 33
  • Draws: 28
  • Colchester wins: 28 

Recent encounters

Exeter City 6-1 Colchester United | St James Park | 24/11/2020

City scored six goals in a game for the first time since 1993, after a hat trick from Ryan Bowman, two from MJ and another from Joel Randall sensationally swept away last years play-off hopefuls.

Exeter City 3-1 Colchester United (3-2 agg) | Play-Off Semi-Final 2, St James Park

Exeter City booked their place at Wembley for the third time in four years, with goals from Aaron Martin, Jayden Richardson and Ryan Bowman’s extra time strike.

Colchester United 1-0 Exeter City | Play-Off Semi-Final | JobServe Community Stadium

Cohen Bramall caught Lewis Ward napping, as the full-backs clever free kick gave Colchester the advantage in the Play-offs.

Exeter City 0-0 Colchester United | 25 January, 2020 | League 2 | St James Park, 

On a cold January night, Exeter maintained their brilliant home from but neither side could provide the finishing touch.

And Finally…

Colchester United’s home FA Cup tie against Leyton Orient in December 1990 was scheduled to be the first ever Sunday night game broadcast live on television but was postponed because of a snowstorm. The game was rearranged to the following Wednesday and Orient progressed in the replay.

How to Watch

Whilst we would love you to be there, showing your passionate support for the Grecians, you can get the next best thing by purchasing a match pass at the cost of just £10 in the UK. The stream includes the live BBC Radio Devon commentary, score overlay and replays.

To purchase a match pass please click here.

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