Colchester's poor home run continues

Colchester United 2 Sheffield United 2By Carl MarstonCOLCHESTER United's poor home run continued as they collected just one point from a topsy-turvy Championship encounter against Bryan Robson's Sheffield United.

Colchester United 2 Sheffield United 2

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's poor home run continued as they collected just one point from a topsy-turvy Championship encounter against Bryan Robson's Sheffield United.

The U's have now failed to win any of their last nine Layer Road fixtures, and it is this dismal record that is leaving them deep in the relegation mire at the foot of the table.

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It was an improved performance in front of their home fans, but although they got their noses in front at 2-1 ahead, they could not hold on to their advantage.

The U's suffered a blow on the stroke of half-time, when lightning quick striker Luton Shelton managed to deceive Kem Izzet and charge through to sweep a low shot past keeper Dean Gerken.

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But there as hardly time to blink at the start of the second-half before Kevin Lisbie smashed a wonderful shot past Paddy Kenny and into the top corner of the net. It was his tenth goal of the season.

It looked as though luck would be on Colchester's side, when Johnnie Jackson's 63rd minute free-kick took a wicked deflection off striker Jon Stead to completely wrong-foot keeper Kenny.

But the U's lead only lasted for three minutes. David Carney was given too much space inside the box to turn and ram home the equaliser.

It was the Blades who looked the more likely to steal a late winner, so the U's remain rooted in the relegation zone.

Both sides struggled to make an impact in the opposition penalty areas during the opening half-hour. Izzet scuffed a 20-yarder wide of the post, and Chris Coyne then headed over the top from a free-kick routine.

But the U's came desperately close to scoring on two occasions around the half-hour mark. It needed a goal-line clearance to prevent Chris Coyne from celebrating his first goal in a Colchester shirt. His firm header, from Johnnie Jackson's corner, looked destined for the net, only for Stephen Quinn to head the ball to safety from beneath his bar.

Just a minute later and Kenny performed heroics to keep out Yeates' sweetly struck free-kick. The Dubliner's 25-yard firecracker appeared to have deceived Kenny, only for the Blades keeper to stretch out an arm and somehow scoop the ball to safety.

The game was warming up and John White did well to divert David Carney's goalbound shot wide for a corner. The visitors nearly broke the deadlock from the ensuing corner, only for Phil Ifil to head away off his goal-line, to prevent Gary Speed's header from soaring into the net. Keeper Dean Gerken had ventured out of his six-yard box, without getting close to the cross.

The Blades grabbed the lead in the first minute of injury-time, thanks to a fine solo goal from SHELTON.

The goal ironically came from a Colchester corner routine. The Blades cleared their lines and Shelton managed to shrug off the challenge of Izzet, near the half-way line, and so head for goal.

Both centre-halves, Virgo and Coyne, had gone upfield for the corner, allowing Shelton to charge uncontested inside the box and slide a low shot beyond the reach of the advancing Gerken.

It was a super cool finish from the Jamaican international, giving the U's no time to respond before half-time.

It took the U's just 24 seconds to fashion an equaliser at the start of the second-half, courtesy of LISBIE'S tenth goal of the season.

Izzet made amends for his mistake that led to Sheffield's goal by sending Lisbie in the clear with a neat flick. The U's striker still had much to do, but he gave Kenny no chance with a spectacular first-time shot that flew into the top corner of the net.

Yeates had disappeared into the dressing room, clutching his shoulder, and he was unable to continue, so new signing Scott Vernon came on as a 56th minute substitute.

It didn't take long for Vernon to make an impact, because it was he who earned the free-kick for JACKSON to put the U's into a 63rd minute lead.

Vernon was dragged back by Morgan, just outside the box. Free-kick specialist Yeates had already been substituted, so it was Jackson who took on the responsibility.

The former Tottenham midfielder's shot took a wicked deflection off striker Jon Stead, completely wrong footing Kenny and rolling into the corner of the net. That goal might eventually go down as an Armstrong own goal.

But it took the Blades just three minutes to find an equaliser, as slack marking enabled CARNEY to sweep home his second goal of the week - Carney had scored against Watford on Tuesday night.

The U's defence was caught cold from a free-kick, and Carney had the time and space to turn and lash home a shot past a dazed Gerken from 12 yards out.

Keeper Kenny and striker Lisbie then squared up to each other, following a U's corner. Tempers were frayed and referee Mr Hill showed both players a yellow card for that off-the-ball incident.

Jackson headed wide in the second and last minute of injury-time, so the U's have still not won at home since beating West Brom on October 20.


COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 6, Ifil 7, Coyne 7, Virgo 7, White 7, Yeates 7 (sub Vernon, 56), Izzet 7, JACKSON 8, Duguid 7, Platt 8, Lisbie 7. Unused subs: Watson, Sheringham, Balogh, Cousins.

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Kenny 7, Geary 6, Morgan 7, Ehiogu 7, Naysmith 7, Carney 7 (sub Beattie, 72), Speed 6 (sub Armstrong, 46, 6), Quinn 7, Martin 6 (sub Tonge, 81), Stead 7, Shelton 8. Unused subs: Kilgallon, Gillespie.

Referee: Mr Keith Hill (Hertfordshire)

Attendance: 5,695

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