AS baptisms of fire go, I certainly felt the heat during my first solo outing in the press box at Layer Road.

It was January 8, 2000 and a match emblazoned in the memories of so many Colchester United fans as the U's slugged it out with, and eventually toppled, Bristol Rovers 5-4.

This was a contest every bit as dramatic, chaotic and breathless as the score suggests and pretty overwhelming for a 'cub' reporter like myself, desperately trying to fill the sizeable shoes of Gazette wordsmith Francis Ponder (taking a well-earned weekend off).

Steve McGavin and Karl Duguid both scored twice for Steve Whitton's troops but it was the introduction of mercurial genius Lomana Tresor Lua Lua, a second-half substitute, that truly lit the blue touchpaper in this Second Division showdown.

Seven of the nine goals came in a frenetic second half, not to mention a missed penalty, and off the pitch, behind glass and in the cubby hole press room, the action was similarly tasty.

Remember, this was before laptop computers - truly essential kit for all reporters nowadays. This was an era when notepads and pens were the tools of our trade.

With that in mind, as the goals rained in, it was proving an almost impossible mission keeping on top of the action.

In addition to being on Gazette duty, I had agreed to help a couple of other news outlets and both needed copy - my report - filed by phone (landline, of course) on the whistle.

I wish I still had the notes I made that afternoon.

They'd make me chuckle (if break out in a sweat) because I kept scribbling a report - only to have to rip it up and start again as the goals flew in.

Each changed the context of the match, making the report I'd hastily cobbled redundant.

Now, with more experience and a laptop in front of me, I'd cope far better.

Back then, though, starting out and trying to make a name for myself, wanting to prove I was a safe pair of hands to cover future matches, it was the most stressful moment of my entire career.

Even when I'd jotted something I was remotely happy with, it had to be painstakingly dictated to a copy-taker on the other end of a phone line, so often (annoyingly) someone with little interest in football and therefore unfamiliar with the rich and varied language of sports reporting (not that there was anything rich or varied about the fruits of my labour that afternoon).

All player names had to be slowly, carefully spelt out - and all with one eye on the tunnel area, waiting for the managers and key protagonists to emerge and do their post-match interviews.

You can imagine my dismay when, with more than a hint of impatience in my voice, I had to spell out 'Lua Lua' for the umpteenth time - only to see the wing wizard emerge and speak to other gathered hacks. Thankfully, it worked out well in the end and I didn't miss out on an interview.

As for events on the pitch (the match was shown on the U's website on Saturday), many will remember that Colchester spent much of the afternoon playing catch-up, equalising three times thanks to McGavin's brace and Duguid's opener.

Jamie Cureton, later to become a goalscoring machine in these parts, scored Rovers' third and missed a penalty that would have made it 4-2.

Instead, Duguid's second put the U's ahead, Nathan Ellington equalised late on and then that man Lua Lua - a substitute for Jason Dozzell - popped up with an outrageous winner in the 89th minute. Wow.

It was the final act in the most absorbing, draining of matches - for the players, for the supporters and certainly for those of us in the press box.

U's: Simon Brown, Joe Dunne, Joe Keith, David Greene, Aaron Skelton, Titus Bramble, Gavin Johnson, David Gregory, Steve McGavin, Jason Dozzell, Karl Duguid

Subs: Lomana Tresor Lua Lua (for Dozzell), Andy Arnott (for Bramble), KK Opara (for McGavin). Unused: Andy Walker and Jamie Moralee.

Attendance: 4,482.