A day to forget for U's

WHAT could go wrong, did go wrong. Colchester United were left cursing their misfortune as their sensational winning run came to an abrupt end at promotion rivals Huddersfield Town.

By Carl Marston

WHAT could go wrong, did go wrong. Colchester United were left cursing their misfortune as their sensational winning run came to an abrupt end at promotion rivals Huddersfield Town.

The U's had two goals disallowed, hit the woodwork on three other occasions, were undone by a wicked deflection for Huddersfield's first goal, and had defender Garry Richards sent off in controversial circumstances.

It all added up to a 2-0 defeat, via a goal in each half from Jonathan Worthington (who knew nothing about it!) and David Graham. The result was cruel in the extreme.

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The U's reverse was made all the worse by the news that both Swansea City and Brentford had won difficult away games at Nottingham Forest and Bristol City respectively, so reducing the gap between themselves and second-placed Colchester.

The Swans are now three points behind Phil Parkinson's men, and the Bees are four with a game in hand. In fact, it is all very tight with just nine points separating the top six teams.

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Yet the U's are still in an excellent position, and they should not feel too distraught after what is only one hic-cup. They have a great chance to bounce back against managerless Walsall at Layer Road tomorrow evening.

The loss at the Galpharm Stadium was only United's second defeat in their last 24 matches. It brought their club record run of 10 successive victories to an end, a run that had followed the Boxing Day defeat at lowly Swindon Town.

Ironically, whereas the Essex club had clung on to a 1-0 scoreline against visiting Scunthorpe last Tuesday, without ever playing well, they produced a vastly-improved performance for no reward at Huddersfield.

The sense that Saturday might be one of those days when Lady Luck deserted them arrived after just two minutes. Richards flicked on Greg Halford's long throw and Chris Iwelumo connected cleanly with a low drive that thudded back off a post.

The woodwork denied the U's for a second time in the 12th minute, as in fact did an offside flag. Mark Yeates, who endured a frustrating afternoon, watched as his shot beat keeper Phil Senior, only to bounce back off the far post. Leading scorer Iwelumo tucked home the rebound, but his goal celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.

Instead, it was Peter Jackson's men who were celebrating an opening goal on 15 minutes. Gary Taylor-Fletcher let fly with a shot from the edge of the box that was sailing wide, until the ball hit team-mate Worthington and ricocheted into the net, completely wrong-footing keeper Aidan Davison.

Terriers skipper Worthington was excellent all game, thwarting U's players with a number of last-ditch blocks and timely tackles, and yet the defensive midfielder could have known very little about what was his third goal of the campaign.

Five minutes later and Colchester had a strong claim for an equalising goal.

There was a mad scramble in the Huddersfield box, before Neil Danns swept home a loose ball from point-blank range.

However, referee Mr Salisbury had already blown his whistle for a foul by Richard Garcia on Senior, although the home keeper did appear to have a lost a grip of the ball before Garcia nipped in.

The shots continued to pepper Huddersfield's goal before the break. Yeates should have scored in the 37th minute, when smashing over the top from an excellent position, and Danns lifted a similar shot over the bar on 44 minutes.

Despite trailing at the break, the U's must have been confident of converting their superiority into goals during the second half. Alas, that prospect was severely dented by Richards' dismissal in the 49th minute.

It was a harsh decision. Front-runner Graham, on loan from Sheffield Wednesday, took a tumble as he and Richards chased a long through ball. There was minimal contact, and no real threat of a scoring chance, but referee Mr Salisbury ruled that it was a foul, and that Richards was the final defender.

The 19-year-old was therefore flashed the red card, for a professional foul, and suddenly the U's task was made doubly difficult, down to 10 men for the final 41 minutes.

The Yorkshiremen took advantage by bagging the decisive second in the 68th minute. Livewire Graham made it three goals in just three appearances by bursting clear of the defence and slotting a low shot beyond the despairing dive of Davison.

United's winning run was over, but there was still time for them to hit the woodwork for a third time, with Halford's close-range shot thudding back off the near upright on 82 minutes. Worthington scrambled the rebound away.

Parkinson's men should not dwell on this rare defeat. They did not play badly, and they have another quick chance to cement their top-two position against visiting Walsall tomorrow evening.

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