Colchester show they can last the course
COLCHESTER United are making a habit of blasting out of the blocks and setting a red-hot pace before holding on grimly during the dying minutes.That was again the case on Saturday as the U's, inspired by a first-half display of terrific energy and a cutting edge, heaped more woe on hapless Queens Park Rangers.
By Carl Marston
COLCHESTER United are making a habit of blasting out of the blocks and setting a red-hot pace before holding on grimly during the dying minutes.
That was again the case on Saturday as the U's, inspired by a first-half display of terrific energy and a cutting edge, heaped more woe on hapless Queens Park Rangers.
Two goals inside the first 20 minutes from Chris Iwelumo and Richard Garcia proved sufficient to earn Geraint Williams' men their third victory in the last four matches.
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Not even a bizarre own goal from Wayne Brown, with 14 minutes remaining, could save basement dwellers QPR. The west Londoners were simply awful!
These are heart-warming times at Layer Road. Having lost their first four games in the Championship, the U's have now collected 10 points from a possible 12 to rise to the “heady heights” of 16th in the table. They certainly have what it takes to establish themselves in this division.
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Three weeks ago, a blistering first-half display against visiting Derby County secured a first ever win at this level, although United were clinging on as the Rams scored two late goals in a 4-3 thriller.
Similarly, the U's coasted into a two-goal lead inside the first hour at Burnley, before soaking up the pressure to sneak a 2-1 win. And the Essex visitors were under the cosh during the later stages of a battling 1-1 draw at Luton last Tuesday night.
QPR were never so dominant late-on, but it would have been a crying shame if Gary Waddock's beleagured troops had somehow managed to scramble a point. Once again, though, the U's managed to close out the game, just.
They were irresistible in a pulsating first-half. Iwelumo had converted a couple of penalties against Derby and Burnley, and he finally chalked up his first goal from open play to put the U's in the driving seat after only nine minutes.
It was Iwelumo who actually earned the corner from which he scored. Kevin Watson's corners caused Rangers all sorts of problems all afternoon, and when the ball broke to Brown, his ferocious shot thudded into the midriff of Marc Bircham. The QPR midfielder was lying winded on the ground as Iwelumo controlled the loose ball and beat keeper Jake Cole with a crisp low drive from eight yards out.
The inexperienced Cole was to have a torrid first-half, left exposed by his disorganised defence. The 20-year-old was only starting his second league match, after first choice custodian Paul Jones was laid-low by an illness in the team hotel. Likewise, keeper Dean Gerken had enjoyed a late call-up for the U's. Aidan Davison, the man-of-the-match at Luton in midweek, had failed to recover from a tight groin, sustained in training. But whereas Gerken had a relatively quiet afternoon, Cole had his hands full.And Cole was picking the ball out of his net for a second time in the 18th minute. Again QPR failed to deal with a set piece, this time from Greg Halford's long throw. There was some head-tennis in the box, with Iwelumo and Brown both involved, before Duguid headed on for Garcia to lash home an unstoppable volley.
It was a cracking finish from the Australian attacker, who tormented the visitors with his strong running throughout the first period. In fact, he was unlucky not to notch his second and the U's third in the 21st minute.
Keeper Cole blundered with a scuffed clearance that dropped at the feet of Garcia. The ex-West Ham man, spotting that Cole was hopelessly out of position, instinctively rammed a shot goalwards. The ball was heading for the net, until it took a deflection off team-mate Jamie Cureton and flew wide of the far post.
Rangers were run ragged. Cureton had fancied his chances of scoring his landmark 150th league goal, appropriately against his old club, but he squandered a couple of good opportunities, as did skipper Karl Duguid.
It was never likely to be as one-sided after the break. The QPR team were on the pitch five minutes early for the restart, no doubt chastened by some strong words from their manager Waddock.
They improved marginally, but not enough to capitalise on their tiring opponents. Teenager Shabazz Baidoo should have pulled a goal back in the 70th minute, but he hooked his shot wide with just Gerken to beat.
Six minutes later and a rare error from Brown ensured a nervous finale. Big Danish target man Marc Nygaard executed an accurate lob over the advancing Gerken, and although the back-tracking Brown looked capable of diverting the ball wide, his header merely helped it over the line.
Rangers had dropped to the bottom of the table, following Hull City's win over Sheffield Wednesday the previous evening, but they sensed the possibility of a quick escape from the bottom rung.
Substitute Scott Donnelly nearly surprised Gerken with a long-range shot on 87 minutes, which the U's keeper bundled behind for a corner, and Pat Baldwin denied Nygaard an injury-time equaliser with a good defensive header.
It all made for an entertaining afternoon, rounded off by the right result. The U's are on a roll.
Several national newspapers had predicted that the U's would be the whipping boys of the Championship this season, but there's no sign of that. In fact, it was QPR who were feeling sore on Saturday night!