Baggies end U's proud home run

COLCHESTER United suffered their first home defeat since last August as visiting West Brom powered into the top two of the Championship last night.The U's had been unbeaten in their previous 14 fixtures at Layer Road, with 12 wins and two draws.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United suffered their first home defeat since last August as visiting West Brom powered into the top two of the Championship last night.

The U's had been unbeaten in their previous 14 fixtures at Layer Road, with 12 wins and two draws. But the Baggies struck twice early in the second-half to end this proud record.

In fact, all three goals came within a breathless five minutes.

Right-back Paul McShane squeezed home the opener from Robert Koren's corner in the 50th minute, and two minutes later Diomansy Kamara left the U's defence trailing in his wake with a superb second goal.

However, Geraint Williams' men refused to go down without a fight, and Johnnie Jackson nodded home his first goal for the club to halve the deficit in the 55th minute.

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Jackson's close-range header, after Wayne Brown had flicked on Kevin Watson's corner, set up an exciting last 35 minutes, during which both sides had countless chances.

But the U's could not fashion an equaliser. Joint leading scorers Jamie Cureton and Chris Iweloumo both had an off-night in front of goal, and the Baggies just about deserved their success.

Last night's win completed a league double for the Midlanders. They are up to second in the table, while the U's remain in eighth.

U's boss Williams named an unchanged side for the fourth successive game, while Baggies manager Mowbray recalled veteran striker John Hartson up front, to give Kevin Phillips a rest.

He also made a switch in midfield, with Darren Carter coming in for Jason Koumas, who was named amongst the substitutes.

As is usual at Layer Road, the U's began brightly and Matthew Mills pumped forward a second-minute free-kick which was just a fraction too strong for the awaiting Chris Iwelumo.

West Brom, though, were also soon in their stride. Midfielder Richard Chaplow lashed in a 20-yard shot that was deflected wide for a corner, and from Robert Koren's ensuing delivery, Zoltan Gera headed over the bar from the near post.

Diomansy Kamara was a striker in form, sitting second in the Championship leading scorers with 17 league goals, which is why there was a big cheer from the home faithful when the Senegalese striker blasted a wild shot high and wide on 10 minutes.

Kamara had a shout for a penalty in the 16th minute. He appeared to be pushed in the box by Wayne Brown, following a one-two with Hartson, but referee Martin Atkinson was not convinced.

West Brom continued to force the pace, and a spell of pressure ended with Carter rifling in a long-range shot that was gathered at the second attempt by Dean Gerken. It was the game's first effort on target.

The U's were holding on a little. Kamara capped a superb run with a fierce shot that Brown did well to block in the 27th minute. The follow-up corner from Carter actually hit the near post, with Gerken left surprised, but the U's keeper then recovered well to palm away the ensuing shot from Paul McShane.

With the exception of the first couple of minutes, Mowbray's men had been in charge during the opening half-hour. United had not recorded a shot either on or off target.

However, Jamie Cureton put the record straight in the 33rd minute. The U's striker found room for himself on the edge of the box and cracked in a shot that whistled narrowly wide of Dean Kiely's far upright. A few seconds later and Kiely dropped down to his right to smother a low drive from Johnnie Jackson.

Kem Izzet was the first player to be booked, for his late tackle on Carter in the 44th minute. Referee Mr Atkinson allowed play to continue before flashing Izzet the yellow card when the ball drifted out of play.

In truth, the U's were relieved to get to half-time with the score-line still blank. Karl Duguid did have a half-chance in stoppage time, but he scuffed his shot and the ball barely reached Kiely.

The visitors nearly broke the deadlock within a minute of the restart. Gera ran at the U's defence down the right wing and when the ball broke to Hartson, the big Welshman was not far adrift with a slick shot on the turn.

But West Brom did take the lead in the 50th minute, thanks to a close-range effort from McShane. Defender Brown did well to intercept a cross and concede a corner, but the U's could not defend the set piece.

Koren whipped over a vicious cross to the near post, where right-back McShane bundled the ball home from inside the six-yard box.

Two minutes later and West Brom were 2-0 up. This time is was a marvellous solo effort from danger-man Kamara, who ran at the U's over-stretched defence. The Baggies striker breezed past Mills and beat the onrushing Gerken with a thunderous low drive. It was his 19th goal of the season, and his 18th in the Championship.

However, the Midlanders were rocked back on their heels by Jackson's first goal for the U's, which halved the deficit on 55 minutes.

The goal came from United's first corner of the evening. Brown flicked on Watson's accurate cross and there was Jackson to nod home from close-in.

Suddenly, it was Baggies on the rack. Manager Williams made an attacking substitution just before the hour mark, by replacing full-back John White with attacking winger Richard Garcia.

And Kiely was called into action on 63 minutes, arching back to claw away Cureton's terrific curling shot from 20 yards out. From the next corner, Cureton had a close-range shot blocked by a defender at the far post.

Encouraged by his goal, ex-Tottenham man Jackson teed up Cureton with another shooting chance in the 70th minute. The 31-year-old striker had time on his side, but he chose to shoot straight away, and his effort flew wide of the far post with Kiely untroubled.

West Brom weathered the storm and centre-half Curtis Davies should really have put the game beyond doubt in the 77th minute. Skipper Davies exchanged a one-two with Kamara and was clean through on goal, only to shoot straight at Gerken, who heroically blocked.

Kiely came to the Baggies rescue with the save of the game in the 84th minute. Iwelumo let fly with an 18-yard volley that the ex-Portsmouth keeper managed to palm into the air. Cureton and Iwelumo steamed in to force home the rebound, but the assistant referee had already raised his flag for an infringement.

Two minutes later and McShane thought that he had scored his second goal of the game. He seemed to have squeezed home Carter's corner, but Gerken smothered on the goal-line.

It was an exciting finale, although the U's never really looked like netting a late equaliser. Instead, the visitors squandered several last-gasp chances, with both Kamara and Koren shooting wide. They were not made to pay for those glaring misses.

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