10-men no problem for U's

EVER-improving Colchester United are getting used to playing against 10 men!

Carl Marston

Colchester soccer (with fact-file)

By Carl Marston

EVER-improving Colchester United are getting used to playing against 10 men!

Remarkably, the U's ended up playing against 10 men for the fourth time in the last five matches in Tuesday night's 2-1 home win over Northampton.

It's often considered a difficult test to play effectively against 10 men, simply because the opposition tend to shut up shop and sit back. But United appear to have mastered this skill.

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The U's were trailing 1-0 when Cobblers right-back Paul Rodgers was sent off for two bookable offences, in first-half injury time. Second-half goals from Mark Yeates and Scott Vernon turned the game on its head.

Paul Lambert's side have benefited from the plight of other teams as well over the last month.

Cheltenham Town, the previous visitors to the Community Stadium, were drawing 1-1 when their substitute and club captain, John Finnigan, was sent off for two reckless challenges after just seven minutes on the pitch. The U's then powered to a 3-1 victory.

Just after Christmas, Leyton Orient's chances of cancelling out a 1-0 deficit against the U's were effectively over when midfielder Sean Thornton was sent off for two bookable offences.

And a couple of weeks earlier, hosts Leeds United were on the rack following the dismissal of their tenacious midfielder, David Prutton, again for two yellow cards.

Leeds were drawing 1-1 at the time, but the U's took the lead from the ensuing free-kick, thanks to Yeates' delightful strike, and then held on for a 2-1 victory.

However, it can also work the other way. MK Dons, visibly spurred on by the dismissal of their wide-midfielder Jason Puncheon, seemed to step up a gear against visiting Colchester on January 12.

The Dons were trailing 1-0 and looking unlikely to peg back the U's, until they became incensed by Puncheon's red card for serious foul play on Dean Hammond. Four minutes later and Aaron Wilbraham rescued a point for the hosts.

More often than not, though, having a numerical advantage has helped the U's this season. They themselves have picked up only one red card all campaign - Steven Gillespie at Crewe on September 13.

U's boss Lambert was naturally delighted with his team's rally to beat Northampton on Tuesday night, and so move to within one point of the top 10, although he admitted that his side did struggle at times against the 10 men.

Lambert said: “We sat back too much for my liking, and Northampton put us under some massive pressure in the second half.

“But we're going really well at the moment, and for me the lads were colossal again. We had to get a goal back quickly in the second half to stand a chance, and that's what we did.”

The U's boss has a few problems in attack, ahead of this Saturday's long trip to Carlisle. Club record signing Steve Gillespie is likely to be out for a fortnight with his calf injury, while fellow striker Clive Platt will serve a one-match suspension for accruing five bookings.

But Jamie Guy impressed in his first appearance of the season for the U's, as a 77th minute substitute against Northampton.

“Jamie (Guy) did great when he came on. I was delighted with his contribution to the game,” confirmed Lambert.

“He scored a few goals in the Championship a couple of seasons ago, and although he may have lost his way a bit, he has another chance that he can take.”

Fact-file

The early baths

FIVE of the last eight matches, and four of the last five, have seen the opposition reduced to 10 men against the U's:

Dec 13: v Leeds (David Prutton, 65), 2-1 win

Dec 28: v Leyton Orient (Sean Thornton, 82), 1-0 win

Jan 12: v MK Dons (Jason Puncheon, 61), 1-1 draw

Jan 17: v Cheltenham (John Finningan, 72), 3-1 win

Jan 27: v Northampton (Paul Rodgers, 45+1) 2-1 win

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