On this day in 2000 the U’s enjoyed one of their most enthralling Layer Road fixtures
Thirteen years have now passed since the U’s disposed of Bristol Rovers in one of the most thrilling games I can recall at Layer Road.
Indeed, Ian Holloway brought his Rovers side to north Essex on this day in January 2000, with his side sat in third place in the Division Two table, just four points behind leaders Wigan and two points behind Preston in second.
Rovers were spearheaded by the lethal partnership of Jason Roberts and Jamie Cureton, who would later become a Layer Road hero of his own, and the U’s sat in 20th, just as they do today, two points above Reading who occupied the final relegation spot.
In front of a healthy crowd of 4,482, Rovers opened the scoring after just twelve minutes when Jason Roberts pounced on a defensive error to bear down on goal and slot the ball past Simon Brown.
The scores were level by the break though as Steve McGavin pulled the U’s level ten minutes before half-time.
The second-half, however, simply escalated in excitement right from the off, with Jason Roberts burying his second of the game moments from kick-off to restore the visitors’ advantage. That advantage was doubled just before the hour as Jamie Cureton hit home a penalty to make the score 3-1 and, immediately after, a foul by loanee Titus Bramble awarded Rovers a second penalty of the half.
Again, Cureton stepped up but, firing the ball in the same place as before, it crashed into the woodwork and gave the U’s hope.
Indeed, straight up the other end and McGavin crashed home his second from long range, bending one into the far corner past Lee Jones and setting up an enthralling final half an hour under the Layer Road lights.
As the game entered its final ten minutes the U’s remained a goal adrift, until Karl Duguid fired home twice in three minutes to turn the game on its head, running up the Clock End steps with the corner flag to celebrate in a season where the U’s current player-coach was frequently deployed as an out-and-out striker.
Four minutes later and the U’s hearts were cruelly broken, as substitute Nathan Ellington brought the scores level to four-apiece and made a draw look most likely.
Supporters in the old ground would have been forgiven for expecting further excitement though, and that duly arrived in the final minute of normal time as the enigmatic Lomana Tresor Lua Lua shimmied on the edge of the box and fired home a late, late winner for the U’s in front of the Clock End, running over to the seated Rovers fans and cupping his hand behind his ear.
It was the highlight of a tough season for the U’s in which survival wasn’t assured until mid-April under Steve Whitton.
Other Notable Events Today:
2005 – The U’s progress in the FA Cup thanks to an impressive 2-0 win at Hull City’s KC Stadium, with goals from Gareth Williams and Craig Fagan sealing the U’s place in Round Four and a trip to Blackburn Rovers.
2010 – The U’s crash out of the FA Cup at Swansea City in a 4-0 defeat, that sees Paul Reid and Simon Hackney make their final U’s appearances.
With thanks to Col U Day By Day for supplying these dates.
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