Colchester United
The Colchester Community Stadium

Ground No. 175
Visited - Saturday 21st February 2009
Result - Colchester United 0-1 Southend United
Competition - Coca-Cola League 1
Attendance - 8651

There are many clubs who have given a great deal to football, and whilst Colchester probably aren’t up there in the achievements table, their victory over Leeds in 1971 gave the nation a good hearted laugh that still brings a smile to the face even now, nearly 40 years on. At the time it was a great shock, but these days the two sides are much more on a level, Colchester playing higher than Leeds last season, which probably says as much about their progress as Leeds’ demise.

Whilst Leeds fans will quite rightly bear a grudge, more random is that I do as well! After completing the 92 last season, it took Colchester no longer than a fortnight to start knocking my total back down by playing the final game at Layer Road. Inconsiderate so and so’s!

Jokes aside, along with Rotherham and the two sides promoted, I’d found myself back down to 88/92 at the start of August ’08, and so the quest was back on the road. I’d done Rotherham on the opening day, and Aldershot soon after. That left just Colchester and Exeter to get back to the magical figure, but no games were really standing out for either team, but when Wolves’ fixture with Cardiff was put back 24 hours, then it opened up a window for a visit to Colchester, and no less than the Essex derby to make my first trip to the new ground. I’d managed to tie up Exeter the week before, so it turned out that in addition to a local derby, the game would have a bit more spice to it, with it being the final venue needed.

Setting off, I was in a fairly good mood, and managed to get down to London with no trouble, but from there it became a bit of a nightmare, having to catch a train first to Billericay, and then a coach from there to Colchester, via Witham before finally arriving an hour or so later than planned.

Predictably, the new ground is an out of town location and it soon became clear that the dynamics of an away day at Colchester had been changed. Whilst Layer Road was never particularly central, it was the other side of the town centre from the station, making for more of a day out with a trip around and a few drinks there before going onto the ground. Now though, the station, a good 15 minute walk north of the centre sits on the same side of town as the ground, which is a further half hour away in the opposite direction. Despite this, I still found myself going there for a brief look around, before back up to the station and onto the free busses that take fans the last couple of miles up to the Cuckoo Farm site.

Since its design was first released, comparisons to Shrewsbury’s New Meadow had been endless, perhaps not unduly with pictures looking similar, but after arriving, this ground (The Weston Homes Community Stadium, to give it its official title), seemed a lot bigger, if just as much in the middle of nowhere! From the outside, whilst colours are a little bland, the exterior walls of the stands slope in at an angle with the roof on each sloping back downwards over them, making for an unusual, but impressive sight. The Main Stand has an imposing frontage, and it does seem like Colchester have spent a bit more money for effectively the same design brief, the club shop, easily five times larger than its counterpart in Salop and the electronic turnstiles initial signs of this. Once inside, the stands seem much steeper as well, adding to the effect. I’d chosen to sit in the North Stand behind the goal, and this offered a fantastic view, even from just half way up. After going in, then I had a brief look around. All stands are single tiered, and medium sized, however the Main Stand is a little bigger, with executive boxes running the full length of the stand and some sort of gallery above that (not accessible to fans). Two other differences to Shrewsbury is that cantilever supports are visible above the roofs, again making it seem a bit bigger, and there are four corner floodlight pylons, which even if they’re of the modern light-on-a-pole variety and not especially tall, still look better than those at the New Meadow which run along the roof.

Having had a look around, then I spent most of the time before the game in the concourse watching Villa-Chelsea, before it was eventually time to go back up. Crowds at the new ground, even accounting for the previous seasons relegation had been a little disappointing, but with this being a derby, then it was expected (and turned out to be) the highest gate so far. Colchester had filled their end, and the only majorly empty areas seemed to be the stand I was sitting in, so that was a good sign, although what played out probably did nothing to help convince the newcomers to return!

The home side started the brightest, and looked a real class above their neighbours, with faster movement, slicker passing and just general all round play being more intelligent, however what Southend lacked in skill, they made up for in desire and their strikeforce in particular, whilst clumsy, were causing problems for the U’s defence all afternoon. On thirteen minutes (obviously unlucky for Colchester!) the visitors took the lead, Franck Moussa tapping in from a low ball across the box which should have been dealt with better. There was a bizarre incident seven minutes later. With the ball having been chased out of play, Alan McCormack had clipped the home sides right back Alan Maybury. In view of everyone Maybury raised his hand to McCormack, causing a melee amongst the players. Once the ref had finally split them up, despite the resigned expectation to being down to 10 men early on, the ref produced just a yellow card to keep the sides even, much to the home fans surprise!

After that, the game petered out into a bit of a dull affair, with neither side really doing much to impress. Colchester had a few good chances inside the box both sides of half-time, but despite an additional six minutes of injury time at the end, they couldn’t break down the Southend defence, and the Shrimpers fans were the ones leaving the ground in a better mood.

Afterwards, the club were letting fans back into the Main Stand where one part of the concourse was kept open and serving. I hung around to say hi to the groundsman who I was thankful for giving me a tour of Layer Road and is a fellow fan on the road to the 92 (Hi Steve!), before eventually making my way back, walking instead of waiting in the queues for the busses. Once there, it was back on the coach to Billericay and through London on to home, arriving late, but fairly happy.

Overall, it had been a pretty good day out. The ground, whilst too far out of town and without the character of Layer Road, wasn’t quite as bad as I’d expected it to be, and is certainly far better than Shrewsbury’s New Meadow. It is a shame to lose Layer Road, however it’s difficult not to forget that the facilities and views there left a lot to be desired (or to put it more accurately, they were shocking!), so this is certainly a step up in that area, and will no doubt help the club themselves progress from where they were when they famously beat Leeds back in ’71, to the much less mentioned victories in their last two encounters.

On a personal level, it was good to get back up to 92 again. Everyone I’ve spoken to has said that it’s never quite the same as doing it for the first time, but I’ve ended up feeling quite the opposite. When I’d first finished it at Bury last season it never really seemed to sink in, but this time around I felt/feel it a lot more. One tip I’d give for any prospective 92’ers is to try and finish it in the middle of the season, because you’ll have far longer to enjoy it, certainly a plus point this time I think, so until next season it’s Rugby and non-league reviews only from now on!

Welcome to the Community Stadium

Rear of the Main Stand

The Club Shop

Rear of the South Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the North Stand

The Main Stand

The South Stand

The East Stand

The North Stand

The Main Stand

The South Stand

The East Stand

Sunset on the Main Stand

Time to go home!

The Colchester Community Stadium Panoramic 1

The Colchester Community Stadium Panoramic 2


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