Colchester pegged back at Vicarage Road

Watford 2 Colchester United 2By Carl MarstonCOLCHESTER United held league leaders Watford to a draw in a Championship thriller at Vicarage Road this afternoon.

Watford 2 Colchester United 2

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United held league leaders Watford to a draw in a Championship thriller at Vicarage Road this afternoon.

The U's were trailing after just two minutes, when Middlesbrough loanee Adam Johnson's intended cross sneaked past Dean Gerken at the near post.


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That set the tone for the afternoon, with both sides creating a flurry of goalscoring opportunities. And Colchester grabbed the equaliser in the 20th minute, with Clive Platt steering home the rebound after his initial header had cannoned back off the bar.

The visitors were ahead within the very first minute of the second period, thanks to Kevin Lisbie tucking home his sixth goal of the campaign with a precision shot from Kem Izzet's lay-off.

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Dean Gerken then saved Marlon King's 61st minute penalty, before the Watford striker made amends by netting the equaliser from an acrobatic bicycle kick on 64 minutes.

The Hornets went all-out for a winner, but the U's defended superbly and could have won it when Yeates had a free-kick turned onto the bar by keeper Richard Lee.

It was the U's third successive draw, and a valuable point going into the two-week break for internationals.

United were stunned by conceding a soft goal after just two minutes with what looked like a cross, but in fact turned into a killer shot from JOHNSON.

Watford were awarded an early corner, and there seemed little danger when King laid the ball off for Johnson near the right touchline. The Watford winger curled over a cross to the near post which looped over Kem Izzet and sneaked into the net beyond the reach of Dean Gerken's despairing dive.

It was Johnson's fifth goal of the campaign since his loan move from Premier League side Middlesbrough.

The U's were struggling to get out of their own half and front-runner King, with eight goals to his name this season, nearly netted a ninth when lashing in an angled shot that whistled only a foot over the bar with Gerken rooted to the spot.

The visitors finally threatened in the 10th minute. Kevin Lisbie made room for himself inside the box, getting the better of defender Danny Shittu and firing in a shot from 10 yards out. Keeper Richard Lee did well to divert behind for a corner.

Johnnie Jackson's delivery was half-cleared and the follow-up cross from Mark Yeates was caught by keeper Lee, under pressure from Lisbie.

Colchester were on level terms in the 20th minute, thanks to PLATT'S fifth goal of the season.

Izzet delivered a teasing cross which looped over left-back Jordan Stewart, enabling Platt to connect with a powerful header that cannoned back off the top of the near post.

Platt controlled the rebound and kept his cool before drilling an eight-yard shot beyond Lee and into the far corner of the net. It was a terrific finish from the big man.

Watford tried to restore their lead quickly and danger-man Johnson was again in the thick of the action. His goalbound shot on 24 minutes struck a U's defender and rolled to safety.

The visitors nearly took the lead on the half-hour mark. Platt headed on Duguid's free-kick and Lisbie was just a whisker away from prodding the ball past Lee. The ex-Charlton man stretched out a boot but could not reach Platt's intelligent flick-on.

There was a chorus of boos from several of the Colchester fans when Elokobi, one of the U's substitutes, began warming up on the touch-line in front of them. Elokobi had slapped in a transfer request on Thursday. There was also some applause for the Cameroon-born left-back, although the reception in general was quite hostile.

Watford had bossed possession for most of the first half and Duguid saved his side with a well-timed tackle on Johnson inside the box. Seconds later and King ballooned a long-range shot over the bar. But it remained 1-1 going into the second-half.

Colchester grabbed the lead just 38 seconds after the interval. Izzet was the creator with a slick pass out to LISBIE, who took his time before lashing home a shot from just inside the box that beat Lee and flew in at the far post.

It was Lisbie's sixth goal of the season, and his second of the week following his effort against Plymouth on Tuesday night.

Watford were awarded a penalty in the 61st minute, only for Gerken to come to his side's rescue with an excellent save.

Johnson was upended in the box by a rash challenge from Yeates, and referee Neil Swarbrick had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.

King took on the responsibility, but his rather tame penalty was comfortably saved by Gerken, down to his left.

It was one-way traffic and Henderson wasted a good opportunity when seeing his shot blocked by Balogh.

The Hornets were on level terms in the 64th minute, with KING celebrating his ninth goal of the season.

Jackson lost his footing down the wing and Smith burst forward, delivering a cross which the U's failed to clear promptly. King had his back to goal, but he tried his luck with a bicycle kick that reared up off the deck and bounced over Gerken.

Both sides were then denied by the woodwork. Smith conjured up a superb break for the home side, launching an inch-perfect cross for the onrushing Williamson to meet with a header that clipped the top of the bar.

Lisbie earned the U's a free-kick in the 71st minute, and from this set piece, leading scorer Yeates curled in a shot that Lee was at full stretch to divert onto his own bar. That was bad luck on the Irishman.

There was a lucky let-off for the visitors when Henderson's bullet shot on 87 minutes was blocked by Gerken with his legs. The U's keeper also managed to fall on the rebound.

There were three minutes of injury-time, and Gerken bravely held onto a corner kick in the second minute of added-on time, despite being fouled by Henderson.

This was a richly deserved, battling point for the U's.

Squads

WATFORD: Lee 7, Doyley 6, Shittu 6, Mariappa 7, Stewart 6 (sub Ellington, 85), Smith 8, Mahon 6, Williamson 7, Johnson 8, King 7, Henderson 7. Unused subs: Priskin, M Jackson, O'Toole, Poom (gk).

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 8, Duguid 7, Baldwin 7, Balogh 7, Granville 7, Yeates 7, Watson 7 (sub McLeod, 85), IZZET 9, J Jackson 8, Lisbie 8, Platt 7. Unsubs: Elokobi, Guttridge, Guy, Cousins.

Referee: Mr Neil Swarbrick (Lancashire)

Attendance: 16,069

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