Bantams dispatched by unstoppable U's

BRADFORD City were the latest opponents to be torn apart as rampant Colchester United, thanks to a blistering second-half display, smashed a club record at Layer Road on Saturday.

By Carl Marston

BRADFORD City were the latest opponents to be torn apart as rampant Colchester United, thanks to a blistering second-half display, smashed a club record at Layer Road on Saturday.

The U's are simply irresistible these days. Another brace from man-of-the-moment Richard Garcia, and a third from leading marksman Chris Iwelumo, ensured a 19th win from the last 21 matches and a place back in the top two of League One.

Furthermore, this comfortable 3-1 success over mid-table Bradford, who had taken the lead through veteran striker Dean Windass, set a club record of nine successive victories, a remarkable achievement.


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The U's had strung together eight wins on the trot at the back end of 2005, only to be denied the club record outright by a 1-1 draw at fellow high-fliers Swansea City. Neil Danns missed an 85th minute penalty that day.

It seemed likely that the Essex club would have to wait a few more years to threaten the original record, set in 1987, but instead Phil Parkinson's men immediately set about embarking on another unstoppable run.

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Having lost to an injury-time goal at Swindon Town on Boxing Day, the U's have since powered from one win to the next, whether it be in the league, LDV Vans Trophy or FA Cup.

Win No. 8 was achieved at the expense of Championship visitors Derby County the previous weekend, so securing an exciting FA Cup fifth round tie at either Chelsea or Everton (their fourth round replay is on Wednesday).

But the U's showed that they will not let this huge cup fixture, which is to be televised on Sky, interfere with their bid for promotion.

Manager Parkinson was not worried about setting a new club landmark. His only concern is inspiring the U's to a top-two finish at the end of the season, when it really matters.

Win No. 9 has propelled United three points clear of third-placed Swansea City, and to within two points of leaders Southend. They have two games in hand over both clubs, and will regain top spot if they can beat visiting Scunthorpe tomorrow evening.

Once again, there were so many plus marks to come out of Saturday's encounter. First choice keeper Aidan Davison was back in the side after a strained hamstring, and midfielder Kevin Watson made a quicker than expected return to action following his knee injury.

Watson was not planning to resume training until this week, but his deputy Kem Izzet turned his ankle in training on Friday, which prompted Watson's shock recall. The U's midfield maestro came through the full 90 minutes unscathed.

Centre-halves Liam Chilvers and Wayne Brown are also set to rejoin training this week, following their respective operations, but there is no guarantee that either of them will go straight back into the side - Garry Richards and Pat Baldwin have both been in imperious form at the heart of defence.

Neither side registered a shot on target during a rather mediocre first half-hour on Saturday. Passes went astray, although it was clear even early-on that Garcia had the potential to be a match-winner.

Garcia had a goal ruled out for offside, after latching onto one of Iwelumo's trademark headers, and was then denied a goal-scoring chance by Richard Edghill's superb tackle on 36 minutes. Unfortunately for wing-back Edghill, he incurred a serious injury while at full-stretch to thwart Garcia. The former Manchester City defender was stretchered off to hospital with a suspected broken ankle.

Bradford were not seriously affected. In fact, they grabbed the lead in the 37th minute, thanks to Windass' 15th goal of the campaign.

Davison half-punched away Steven Schumacher's corner, but Mark Bower floated the ball back into the danger zone for skipper David Wetherall to nod on, and for Windass to sweep home on the turn.

It took Colchester just four minutes to respond. Greg Halford outfoxed substitute Jake Wright, who had replaced the injured Edghill, before crossing with the outside of his boot. The alert Garcia threw himself forward to head Halford's cross low into the net from six yards out.

It was Garcia's fifth goal in the last four matches, but there was more to come after the break.

First, though, there was time for Davison to prevent Windass from restoring Bradford's lead. He clawed away Windass' attempted chip in the 43rd minute, while at the other end keeper Donovan Ricketts was at his best to divert an angled drive by Mark Yeates around his post.

Giant keeper Ricketts also performed wonders to palm away Halford's cracking shot early in the second-half, but the Jamaican was on a hiding to nothing as Garcia nudged the U's in front in the 56th minute.

Neil Danns robbed Andy Cooke in the middle of the park, and Richards pumped forward the perfect lofted pass for Garcia to head over the advancing Ricketts. It was his eighth goal of the season, and his seventh since the turn of the year.

The Australian was close to celebrating a hat-trick on 62 minutes. His rising shot was tipped over the bar by the agile Ricketts.

However, a minute later and Garcia's strike-force partner Iwelumo did chalk up the third goal, which gave United a two-goal cushion going into the last quarter of the game. An unmarked Iwelumo met Watson's corner with a right-footed volley that screamed into a gaping net. It was his 15th goal of the season.

Bradford never looked like mounting a late rally. The Yorkshiremen are still in the top half of the table, but they are only five points clear of the drop-zone, and their star-man Windass will start a five-match suspension later this month.

It will be interesting to see how the Bantams perform without the ex-Hull and Leeds hit-man in their ranks. They have relied heavily on Windass' prolific goalscoring for the last couple of years, so they might struggle.

By contrast, the U's season just gets better and better. If they can continue their tremendous winning run against Scunthorpe tomorrow evening, and record a 10th win on the bounce and a 12th successive home victory, then they will again be table-toppers.

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