Snagged sweater and a rotten record at Layer Road - Carl Marston's Travels with Town
PUBLISHED: 19:00 12 July 2019
Football writer Carl Marston has visited 120 Football League grounds over the last 30 years, many of them reporting on Ipswich. Here he recalls Town visits to the old Layer Road
Every club has its share of 'bogey grounds,' and Ipswich Town are no different.
I think it's fair to say that Layer Road, the old, homely home of Colchester United, fell into that category.
I spent many-an-hour in the cramped quarters of the Layer Road press box, with its dirty windows which usually steamed up during a match and therefore needed constant wiping with either shirt-sleeves or grubby handkerchiefs.
I may not have always had the best view, but that's the type of view that visiting Town fans would have readily accepted, given the horrors that unfolded on the Layer Road pitch on the Suffolk club's last couple of visits.
Town won just twice in eight short trips to Layer Road (distance of 20 miles from Portman Road), a poor record when considered that the Essex minnows, with the exception of one of two seasons in the Championship (2006-07), have always been the poorer cousin.
I am not old enough to remember the landmark 1956-57 season, which effectively determined the destines of the two clubs for the next six decades.
Town and the U's vied for the Division Three South title throughout that campaign, and for a long time it looked as though the Essex club would win the league.
The U's were seven points clear of Town when the two met at Layer Road in February, 1957 in front of a then-record crowd of 18,559, with a further 4,000 spectators turned away and another 100 watching from the roof of one of the stands.
Town keeper Roy Bailey was the hero that day, saving U's player-manager Benny Fenton's penalty in a 0-0 draw. And in the end, the U's lost three of their last four games to drop to third in the table, behind champions Ipswich and second-placed Torquay.
It was the start of Town's domination over the U's, who didn't better that league standing for 59 years, until 2006 - the year spotlighted in this column.
Ground: Layer Road (demolished in 2008)
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Club: Colchester United
Town's first Football League visit: 3-2 win on November 5, 1950
Town's last visit: 2-0 defeat on April 5, 2008
Town's overall record at Layer Road: P8 W2 D3 L3
Quirky fact: One of striker Richard Cresswell's claims to fame was that he scored the last ever goal at Layer Road, in a competitive match, on April 26, 2008. The U's keeper that day was Dean Gerken, who earlier this month returned to his old club, from Ipswich Town.
Friday, September 29, 2006: This Championship battle ended in a 1-0 home win, in front of a capacity crowd. U's skipper Karl Duguid scored what proved to be the winner after just seven minutes, steering home the loose ball after Town keeper Lewis Price had only managed to parry Jamie Cureton's stinging low drive.
I still have a heavy sweater which bears the scares, or rather the snags, of my time in the Layer Road press box.
I paid more than 500 visits to that press box, and it was during the occasion of Town's 1-0 defeat, via Duguid's early goal 13 years ago, that I caught my sweater on the one solitary coat hook (actually just a nail) on the back wall of the box.
I still have that now threadbare sweater, and in a way it remains symbolic of that frenzied evening at Layer Road, when the tables were turned.
It was actually the first league meeting between the two clubs for 49 years, and Jim Magilton's Town had a big incentive to win - they would have gone second in the table.
Some games you forget quickly, even ones from only a few months ago, while others you remember like they were only yesterday.
I clearly remember Town's second-half onslaught that night, especially when Jon Macken bundled home early in the second half, only for the equaliser to be disallowed for a push on U's keeper Aidan Davison.
Davison played a blinder, pulling off wonder saves to deny Billy Clarke and Sylvain Legwinski late on. Town's second-half display merited a draw, but the U's were sensational in the first period.
It was one of the most memorable nights at Layer Road, and I don't think many Town fans shed a tear when the old ground was finally torn down in 2008.
The two clubs meet again, in a pre-season friendly at the Community Stadium next Friday.