LATER this month will mark the 12th anniversary of Colchester United's final-ever game at Layer Road.

The Gazette's Jon Waldron, who was in the press box that day to report on an emotional day for the U's, looks back on a memorable occasion.

THE end of an era.

That was the headline on the back page of the Gazette, following Colchester United's final appearance at the beloved Layer Road.

I was among the capacity 6,300 crowd on that memorable day in April 2008, as the U's waved a fond farewell to their old ground after more than seven decades of football there.

Tears were shed at the final whistle and it was an emotional day for everyone, with Colchester United favourites past and present in attendance to give the ground a fitting send off.

On the pitch, Colchester were unable to sign off on a winning note.

Promotion-chasing Stoke City played the role of party poopers, after coming away with a 1-0 victory in the U's penultimate game of the 2007-08 Championship season.

Layer Road had been the backdrop for excitement, thrills and spills in its rich 101-year history.

But in the final-ever league encounter at the venue, Colchester's contest with Stoke rather paled into significance.

With 71 years of memories to celebrate, the U's certainly ensured that they gave their old home an almighty send-off with fireworks, dancing girls and samba bands the order of the day.

It was just a shame that their game with the Potters failed to reach the same heights.

Richard Creswell's bagged the visitors' winner on the stroke of half-time with a close-range strike.

Colchester hugged and puffed in the second half, desperate to leave Layer Road on a high.

But not even the arrival of substitute Teddy Sheringham - playing the penultimate match of his illustrious career - could conjure a goal.

The Colchester starting line-up that day was: Gerken, White, Coyne, Virgo, Ifil, Duguid, Jackson, Elito, Vernon, Lisbie with Balogh, Sheringham, Platt, Izzet and Cousins on the bench.

I gave Dean Hammond my Gazette man of the match award that day for his 'courageous and workmanlike' performance.

"We wanted to say goodbye to the old ground," said U's boss Geraint Williams, following his side's 1-0 defeat.

"All we could was to try to put in a performance so that we could give people some happy memories.

"We knew what we had to do to beat them but actually getting that done is the hard part.

"We worked all week on switching play quickly and getting up the other side but we couldn't manage to do it until later on in the game."

Williams decided to afford Karl Duguid the applause of the Layer Road crowd one final time, taking off his captain near the end of the Potters defeat.

"I think the manager wanted me to get a bit of applause which was very nice," said Duguid.

"I didn't expect it and I really appreciated it and it just shows you what a great man the gaffer is.

"I've been at Colchester since I was 16 and it's been an honour to captain the football team there.

"There's a lot of memories at Layer Road - but we're now moving on to a new ground.

"We have to create our own history and new memories and that's what we want to do.

"It was disappointing to go out with a defeat but the day was more of a celebration of Layer Road, the fans and the memories at the ground."

It was a day to remember for Colchester, despite the final outcome and U's chief executive Marie Partner said: "It was the result of two or three weeks of preparation.

"The staff have worked really hard behind the scenes, just to make sure that every minute on Saturday, there was always something for someone to see.

"It was a carnival atmosphere and the weather held out for us, which was important.

"We wanted to make sure that everyone remembered where we have come from and take those good spirits into the new ground."