Date:Monday February 19 2007
Dissecting the exact nature of Colchester United`s recent loss to West Bromwich Albion would be pointless as all those dispatches on the England team, because it`s easy to see that that over-analysing one football result can be bad for your health.
But never mind, since any post-mortem examining the probable death of an idea - the one that so-called 'Col Ewe` might limp into the Premiership - has got to be better than digesting yet another analytical dose of last month`s Spanish Inquisition.
Forget England Vs Spain for a moment and, in the sprit of our nation`s probing press-pack, join in a lament of Colchester United`s lost home record, which stretched over a period of 14 matches and six months. It was re-set to zero when they went down 2 -1 against Albion last Tuesday, the day before St. Valentine`s.
Football is a fickle mistress so - although there was no massacre - the result seemed to mark the end of Colchester`s honeymoon-period in the Coca-Cola Championship. On a cold night, the U`s lost two quick-fire goals within the space of sixty seconds.
With that loss went their winning streak, lost to a superior opposition who, ironically, have one of the worst away records in the division.
The reason the heart still bleeds after the event is that Colchester contrived to lose, in some part, due to circumstances beyond their control. These included inconstant referring - culminating in a dramatically late U`s equaliser being ruled out.
A failure to call upon Hogan Ephraim`s potentially lethal injection of pace from the bench in the final fifteen minuets, which lead to one season-ticket holder describing United manager Geraint Williams as "an idiot," was also frustrating, although it only looked bad at the time.
Ephraim, the man whose goal a fortnight ago sealed a 3-0 rout at Barnsley, was left kicking his heals, while United were busy exploding under the lights of the Layer Drome auditorium.
No number of excuses, though, could disguise the fact that West Brom stroked the ball around with nonchalance and skill; their retention was superb.
In the words of Geraint Williams, as he reflected on a rare home defeat: "We will learn from this and move on. The players are very down after losing but should be proud of their home record.
"We were disappointed to concede from a set-piece and then go 2-0 down but the response was magnificent and that says a lot about the players we have."
As Johnnie Jackson hit the string in the second half, with his first Colchester goal, the midfielder became the 13th different player of the Layer Road ranks to score this season. A season, don`t forget, that has seen the U`s hailed as, among other things, "the most remarkable team in the Football League" by one journalist.
"It has been a long time since we`ve had the feeling of a home defeat," added Williams, reviving as he spoke the words of opposing manager Tony Mobray.
Mobray, before the game, expressed the truism that number-crunched statistics can sometimes overshadow the actual footballing event that they endeavour to describe.
The arrow of this unfortunate loss might still prick the spirit, but it is not a signal to put a torch to the bonfire of trust that has developed between players and fans during the run of victories.
It`s far too early, in the wake of just one home loss, to cut the umbilical link of respect that now runs between those on the field and those the community they have come to represent.
If in need of personal reassurance, just look at the league table - and wrap yourself again in the comfort blanket of statistics, if you must. Colchester still lie in 9h place, which is mighty high for a club who are still experiencing a first ride on the roller coaster of football`s second tier.
With 12 games of the season remaining, and a possible 36 more points up for grabs between now and May, the idea that the play-offs are beyond reach could only spawn from the mind of a serial-pessimist.
As those in the flat lands of Essex must know by now, after the unprecedented rise of the past two seasons, following Colchester United guarantees as good a return on the emotions as it promises on the betting coupon.
Gone are the days of mediocrity, where the club`s mantra would be along the lines of: "No pessimism, please, we`re Col U."
Now, with fighting spirit ingrained, winning has almost become second nature. To typify that never-say-die attitude, we lift the words of the small screen`s inspirational hero, Rocky Balboa, who has recently returned for another sequel.
"It ain`t over," as he says, "'till it`s over."
Date:Monday February 19 2007
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