Blowing hot and cold is no help to U's

COLCHESTER United blew hot and cold before eventually slumping to another home defeat, at the hands of super-confident Bristol City, despite taking the lead and looking poised to escape the relegation zone.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United blew hot and cold before eventually slumping to another home defeat, at the hands of super-confident Bristol City, despite taking the lead and looking poised to escape the relegation zone.

A win was there for the taking. The Robins are flying high this season and are now nestling in second spot with promotion to the Premiership a realistic proposition.

But United really let them off the hook on Saturday. The visitors were second best for 50 minutes and staring down both barrels when Clive Platt slid home his eighth goal of the season.

Keeper Adriano Basso could not cling onto Kevin McLeod's rip-roaring low drive from Karl Duguid's lay-off and Platt pounced to sweep the rebound into an unguarded net.

The U's had worked so hard to get themselves in front, but they undid all that endeavour with an awful 10 minutes that allowed City to snatch all three points.

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It's no wonder, then, that U's boss Geraint Williams was an angry man at the final whistle.

Within 90 seconds of Platt's deadlock-breaker, City had poached a morale-sapping equaliser.

Powerful target man Dele Adebola, making his third appearance since his switch from Coventry, headed home Jamie McAllister's cross. It was a clinical finish from the big man.

And the game was won and lost in the 58th minute. United fell asleep as City took a quick free-kick and Michael McIndoe's opportunist 20-yarder took a wicked deflection as it ballooned over Dean Gerken.

It was a slightly fortuitous goal, but the U's can have few complaints. They themselves had scored from a couple of deflected Johnnie Jackson free-kicks in recent weeks, at Burnley and Hull.

What was most disappointing was that the U's, so refreshingly positive up until the point that they scored, should then become so negative and defensively-minded.

Ruthless Bristol City made them pay and are now eying up a second successive promotion.

While Gary Johnson's men are vying with Stoke, Watford and West Brom for the two automatic promotion slots, the U's are in deep trouble at the other end of the table.

They have slipped to second-from-bottom, ahead of basement club Scunthorpe on goal difference, after Saturday's round of matches.

More importantly, they are now three points adrift of safety, due to Sheffield Wednesday's 1-0 home win over Cardiff. Fourth-from-bottom Wednesday also have a game in hand.

Only eight points separate the bottom 10 teams, between Scunthorpe and Sheffield United. All 10 are in the relegation mix, so there is still plenty of scope to avoid the drop.

However, the U's will be especially frustrated not to record a rare home win (just three wins from 16 Layer Road games), or even extend their unbeaten run to five games.

They created the better of the scoring opportunities in a very tight first period, most notably when Scott Vernon missed a couple of chances in the 32nd and 36th minutes.

The first of these was a bad miss. Kem Izzet back-heeled into the path of Vernon, who miscued his shot wide from just eight yards out.

The ex-Blackpool front-man also lifted a shot over the bar from Platt's fine header, although he was a little off balance at the time.

Two injuries to John White and Chris Coyne certainly did not help. Left-back

White was stretchered off with a dislocated elbow, and centre-half Coyne failed to appear for the second-half after feeling groggy following a challenge towards the end of the first. The defence was therefore reshuffled. Johnnie Jackson switched from midfield to left-back, and substitute Danny Granville partnered Adam Virgo in the heart of defence.

The balance of the team was disrupted, and yet Platt's goal should have inspired them to greater things. Instead, though, it merely prompted an abrupt response from City, and the U's could find no answer themselves.

Even the dismissal of right-back Bradley Orr, for two bookable offences with 11 minutes remaining, failed to spark a late Colchester rally.

The pressure is now on to beat visiting Wolves next Saturday.

The U's cannot afford too many more slip-ups.

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