Colchester pay price for poor start

Colchester United 1 Crystal Palace 2By Carl MarstonA DREADFUL start cost Colchester United dear as they slumped to defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Crystal Palace at Layer Road this afternoon.

Colchester United 1 Crystal Palace 2

By Carl Marston

A DREADFUL start cost Colchester United dear as they slumped to defeat at the hands of fellow strugglers Crystal Palace at Layer Road this afternoon.

Clinton Morrison netted the first of his two goals after only six minutes, when neatly sweeping home a low cross by James Scowcroft.

And it became a mountain to climb just two minutes later. Defender Pat Baldwin was sent off for a professional foul on Paul Ifill, who was clean through on goal.

Down to 10 men for the last 82 minutes, the U's responded well and they seemed to have rescued a point when Johnnie Jackson charged onto Mark Yeates' through ball to fire in the equaliser in the 69th minute.

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But Palace grabbed what proved to be the winner just five minutes later, with Morrison heading home from close range, although keeper Dean Gerken seemed to be impeded while attempting to cut out the cross.

This result has left the U's deep in the relegation mire. They have difficult away trips to come over the next week, at Wolves on Wednesday and then Sheffield Wednesday next Saturday.

The U's were soon rocked by a double blow, which saw them go a goal down and then be reduced to 10 men.

Palace broke the deadlock in the sixth minute. Scowcroft benefited from hesitancy by Balogh to sweep over a low cross from the right flank, and the onrushing MORRISON calmly slotted home from six yards out.

It was Morrison's fourth goal of the season, and his 101st goal in a Crystal Palace shirt. He brought up his century in the previous match, a 1-1 draw against QPR.

It went from bad to worse for the U's just two minutes later, when centre-half Baldwin was dismissed for a professional foul on Ifill.

Ex-Millwall front-runner Ifill was through on goal before he was felled by a challenge from Baldwin. Referee Paul Taylor had no hesitation in flashing the U's centre-half a red card, forcing the hosts to play the final 82 minutes with just 10 men.

Williams responded to Baldwin's sending-off by making a tactical substitution in the 11th minute. Midfielder Kem Izzet was the player to be sacrificed, with substitute Matthew Connolly coming on to partner Balogh in central defence.

Despite going down to 10 men so early in the game, the U's had several quick chances to snatch an equaliser.

Danny Granville headed wide at the far post from Johnnie Jackson's 13th minute corner, and Jackson himself then rifled a shot just a foot over the bar from the edge of the box, following Kevin Lisbie's lay-off.

Lisbie was desperately close to poaching his seventh goal of the season in the 25th minute. Mark Yeates swung over the U's second corner of the afternoon, from which Lisbie headed inches over the top from five yards out.

Palace keeper Julian Speroni came to his side's rescue twice in quick succession, both from Lisbie around the half-hour mark. Firstly, Lisbie scampered onto Kevin Watson's exquisite through ball and cut inside two defenders before cracking in a shot that Speroni turned around for a corner.

And Lisbie threatened again from the ensuing corner routine. The ex-Charlton striker met Yeates' cross with a goalbound header that Argentine keeper Speroni managed to fingertip over his bar.

The U's had played well in the first half, but once again they had given themselves a mountain to climb with such a disastrous start.

Into the second half and Jackson was narrowly off target from long range as 10-man Colchester continued to search for a way back into the game. At the other end, substitute David Martin lifted a shot over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.

The U's were deservedly on level terms in the 69th minute, thanks to a deadly finish from JACKSON.

Yeates was the creator, as he has so often been this season, and Jackson raced onto the Irishman's pass to drill in a low shot that rolled in off the far post. It was a crackling finish from the ex-Tottenham midfielder, who now has two goals to his name this season.

Palace tried to respond quickly, and Gerken was in the right place to safely scoop up a long-range shot from midfielder Derry.

Ben Watson then nutmugged Balogh to set up a chance for himself. Karl Duguid was back to intercept and concede the corner, but the Eagles regained the lead from this set piece.

MORRISON obliged with his second goal of the match. The U's only half-cleared the initial delivery, and Derry headed back into the danger zone, where Morrison nodded home from six yards out, although Gerken seemed to be impeded when trying to get to the ball.

The U's never looked like fashioning another equaliser during the closing minutes.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, Duguid 6, Baldwin 5, Balogh 5, Granville 7, YEATES 8, Watson 7, Izzet (sub Connolly, 11, 6), Jackson 7, Platt 6 (sub Guy, 77), Lisbie 7 (sub Sheringham, 77). Unused subs: McLeod, Cousins.

CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni 8, Lawrence 6, Fonte 6, Hudson 7, Hill 6, Derry 7, B Watson 7, Kennedy 6 (sub Soares, 75), Ifill 6 (sub Martin, 51), Scowcroft 7, Morrison 8 (sub Butterfield, 80). Unused subs: Freedman, Scannell.

Referee: Mr P Taylor (Hertfordshire)

Attendance: 5,856

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