Brilliant U's Capital joy

Crystal Palace 1Colchester United 3THIS season just keeps getting better and better! Colchester United are up to eighth and they're still rising.So lethal at home, the U's have now rediscovered the knack of picking up points on their travels.

By Carl Marston

Crystal Palace 1

Colchester United 3

THIS season just keeps getting better and better! Colchester United are up to eighth and they're still rising.


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So lethal at home, the U's have now rediscovered the knack of picking up points on their travels. The Championship does not seem such a daunting division after all.

Crystal Palace were the latest in a long line of former Premiership clubs to be soundly beaten by Geraint Williams' men. The Eagles swarmed all over their Essex visitors in the first-half, but without a killer instinct, and they were made to pay during a blistering last half-hour.

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Palace had been unbeaten in their previous four matches, and had won their last two at Selhurst Park. Yet their confidence remained brittle and, once they fell behind, they capitulated in a manner not unlike that of Hull City (5-1) and Southend (3-0) before them.

A blend of poor finishing, excellent goalkeeping and a pinch of good luck had kept the U's on level terms until skipper Karl Duguid popped up with the deadlock-breaker on 62 minutes.

The hard-working Jamie Cureton did not add to his 10-goal tally but he was the master behind Duguid's opener. It was Cureton's deflected cross from the right flank that caused substitute keeper Scott Flinders to fumble.

Flinders, who had appeared as a first-half substitute for the injured Iain Turner, could only palm Cureton's delivery into the air and onto the bar. The ball dropped at the feet of an onrushing Duguid, who managed to force it over the line for his third goal of the season.

With their noses in front, Colchester never looked back. And despite only being a goal-down, Palace were more than just wobbling - they appeared a spent force.

It was inspirational substitute Richard Garcia who provided the knock-out punch. Garcia's appearance as a 60th minute substitute for Johnnie Jackson gave the U's a new attacking thrust. He certainly enjoyed himself against the Eagles' tiring defence.

Garcia's stunning goal on 70 minutes was the best moment of this memorable away day in south London.

The Australian picked up possession near the half-way line and ran at the home defence before unleashing a stunning left-footed shot from 20 yards out that flew past a bewildered Flinders and into the bottom corner of the net.

It was a cracking goal from Garcia, his third of the season. And it was a welcome sight to see the ex-West Ham front-runner back in a U's shirt after an eight-game absence with an ankle injury.

He is a handy player to have up your sleeve for a final half-hour!

Palace may have been shell-shocked, but they did grab themselves a lifeline by halving the lead on 87 minutes. Defender Mark Hudson flicked on Danny Granville's free-kick, and Clinton Morrison stooped to head home from 10 yards out.

Yet this was only a consolation for Morrison, who had squandered a couple of similar chances earlier in the game. Both he and his strike-force partner, Shefki Kuqi endured an afternoon that they would rather forget, and in a hurry!

The out-of-sorts Kuqi, who had been so effective in the previous home game against QPR (3-0 win), had been replaced by fellow former Ipswich man James Scowcroft shortly after Garcia's wonder strike.

And it was Garcia who was instrumental in the U's third goal in the last minute of normal time.

He was brought down in the box by Michael Hughes, presenting Chris Iwelumo with the chance to net his 10th goal of the campaign.

Iwelumo did not disappoint. The Scotsman sent Flinders the wrong way with a confidently-dispatched penalty, his fourth successful spot-kick of the campaign.

The U's celebrations could therefore begin in earnest. This was their second away win of the campaign, following a 2-1 success at Burnley three months ago.

It was also the Essex club's first victory at Selhurst Park for 43 years, since Peter Wright scored in a 1-0 victory on March 27, 1963, a tremendous achievement.

Although all the damage was done in the final 30 minutes, great credit must go to Dean Gerken, who kept Palace at bay while the hosts were in the driving seat.

The 21-year-old thwarted danger man Jobi McAnuff with a couple of smart saves inside the first 10 minutes, and then pulled off a breathtaking save on 58 minutes, diving to his right to claw away Morrison's goal-bound shot on the turn.

Aidan Davison will not find it easy to regain his place, once he has recovered from his chest injury.

The future looks bright, both for Gerken and Colchester United!

carl.marston@archant.co.uk

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