Beaten U's climb a place in table
ALL good things come to an end. That was certainly true of Colchester United's unbeaten run, which came to an abrupt halt at Wolves on Saturday.Trailing to a 51st-minute goal from Wanderers leading scorer Jay Bothroyd, the U's searched desperately for an equaliser during the final half-hour.
By Carl Marston
ALL good things come to an end. That was certainly true of Colchester United's unbeaten run, which came to an abrupt halt at Wolves on Saturday.
Trailing to a 51st-minute goal from Wanderers leading scorer Jay Bothroyd, the U's searched desperately for an equaliser during the final half-hour.
And they were a shade unlucky not to secure a point. The Molineux faithful were kept on the edge of their seats as the visitors took the game by the scruff of the neck and there were sighs of relief more than shouts of joy at the final whistle.
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This was the U's first defeat in seven matches, stretching back to the 1-0 defeat at MK Dons in the Carling Cup on August 22.
Geraint Williams had lifted the Manager of the Month award for September on the back of this terrific run. He received this award more than a week ago but it was still the first match since that trophy presentation, so in a way the curse of the accolade did strike again.
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Yet, despite Saturday's narrow defeat, the U's actually moved up one place in the Championship table - with the exception of runaway leaders Cardiff City, the division is an extremely tight one.
Ipswich Town's heavy home defeat at the hands of West Brom enabled the U's to climb above their East Anglian rivals on goal difference.
In fact, this is the first time for 49 years that “little” Colchester have been above both Ipswich and Norwich in the Football League pyramid. It may not last, but it's an achievement that U's fans will boast about for a long time to come.
Whereas several teams below them, including Leeds United and Sunderland, were steam-rollered by the opposition on Saturday, the U's have still not been on the wrong end of a thrashing this term. In fact, all of their 12 league and cup games have been decided by no more than a one-goal margin.
Wolves looked a far superior team to United's last hosts, Leicester City (0-0 draw). Mick McCarthy's side were dominant in the first period, sparked by some excellent wing play from Rohan Ricketts and a powerful striker in Bothroyd.
In fact, only the woodwork denied the Midlanders an opening goal after 14 minutes. Former Arsenal trainee Bothroyd, who six years ago made a £1m move from Highbury to Coventry City, crashed a long-range free-kick against the foot of a post. The ball actually ricocheted off the inside of the upright, giving the U's more problems before Pat Baldwin blocked Jemal Johnson's goalbound header from the follow-up cross.
Right-back Greg Halford had his hands full trying to nullify the threat of Ricketts, while Nigerian international Seyi Olofinjana provided a cutting thrust through the middle of the park.
And yet Colchester had their chances in the first period, most notably following their first corner of the afternoon on 38 minutes. Halford nodded on Kevin Watson's delivery and Richards Garcia, at full-stretch, prodded wide with his left foot from 10 yards out. It was an agonising miss, not least because Jamie Cureton was lurking just behind Garcia, ready to shoot.
Keeper Matt Murray, who played in the Premiership for Wolves three seasons ago, proved a big obstacle for the U's to beat, but then so did Aidan Davison for the hosts. The 38-year-old palmed away Olofinjana's stinging drive in the last minute of the first-half and shortly afterwards McCarthy's men were appealing for a penalty when Halford appeared to push Gary Breen inside the box.
Any hopes of registering a third clean-sheet on the trot were dashed by Bothroyd's match-winner on 51 minutes. Halford was adjudged to have fouled Ricketts, and even though Ricketts rather mis-hit the ensuing free-kick, Bothroyd was the quickest to react as he steered the ball home at the near post. It was his fourth goal of the season since his move from Charlton over the summer.
U's boss Williams made a substitution, just after the hour mark, which had an effect on the game. Target man Chris Iwelumo had been short-changed by the commanding duo of Breen and Jody Craddock at the back, so he was replaced by winger Kevin McLeod.
Garcia moved infield to support Cureton up front, with McLeod patrolling the left flank and skipper Karl Duguid shifting to the right wing.
All of a sudden, the U's began to have some joy going forward. McLeod, signed from Swansea before the transfer deadline in August, was immediately in the action, whipping over one cross from which Izzet had a shot charged down by Jamie Clapham. There was just a suspicion that the former Ipswich defender had used a hand but referee Scott Mathieson was not convinced.
McLeod carved out another opportunity in the 64th minute. Unfortunately, his cross was just a little too deep for Cureton, who found the angle too tight as he headed into the side-netting from close-in. Cureton, much to his frustration, is still marooned on 149 career league goals.
The closest that the visitors came to an equaliser was with 12 minutes remaining. Watson's corner eventually dropped at the feet of Izzet and his 20-yard drive was destined for the corner of the net until keeper Murray palmed it around a post.
There were further chances. Substitute Jamie Guy, within seconds of his introduction, scooped a shot over the top from a good position and Garcia then bundled home McLeod's 88th minute cross with an outstretched hand, which merited the booking that he duly received.
Wolves are, therefore, up to fifth in the table but they had been made to work hard, as their manager McCarthy was quick to admit in the post-match press conference.
The U's excellent run might be over but their heads remain high. And it's not every day that you lose a match and still climb a place in the table.