Colchester United on the wrong end of a goal feast at Preston
Preston North End 4 Colchester United 2
Colchester United came off second best in a goal-feast at Deepdale this afternoon.
Rhys Healey and Alex Gilbey both scored their second goals in a Colchester shirt, in the 17th and 37th minutes, as the U’s were level pegging at 2-2 at half-time.
But Preston proved too strong in the second half.
Scott Wiseman and Alan Browne had capitalised on defensive errors in the first period, to score in the 21st and 25th minutes, before Paul Gallagher (47) and Chris Humphrey (57) wrapped up the points.
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It was an afternoon of superb attacking, and yet dismal defending, from both sides.
Healey’s goal was a close-range finish, but was the culmination of a very good move.
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Sanchez Watt made an impact down the left-edge of the penalty area, before finding Alex Gilbey in acres of space, inside the box.
Gilbey’s deflected goal-bound drive was blocked by the legs of keeper Jamie Jones, but Cardiff City loanee Healey was on hand to bundle home the rebound.
However, Watt turned from hero to villain as his powder-puff challenge enabled Wiseman to burst through to equalise just four minutes later.
Wiseman evaded the half-hearted challenge of Watt and advanced a few yards before drilling an 18-yard shot past Walker. It was a clinical finish from the Lilywhites right-back.
Worse was to come, as a mistake by Ben Gordon enabled Preston to take a 2-1 lead on 25 minutes.
Gordon dithered, instead of clearing his lines on the end of the penalty area, and Paul Gallagher got in a vital block which enabled team-mate Brown to sweep home the loose ball from 15 yards out.
But a wonder strike from Gilbey enabled the U’s to level at 2-2 in the 37th minute.
George Moncur and Sean Clohessy combined to good effect on the right, but there seemed little danger when Gilbey controlled the ball, 25 yards from goal.
However, Gilbey suddenly let fly with a stunning shot that beat Jones all ends up as it flew into the far corner of the net. It was his second goal in a U’s shirt.
It was 2-2 at the break, but Preston regained their lead inside two minutes of the restart, via Gallagher’s speculative strike.
Certainly, Walker will be very disappointed to have allowed Gallagher’s 25-yard shot, an effort out-of-the-blue, to fly past him into the net. The bounce of the ball possibly deceived the U’s keeper, but he should still have saved it.
Walker was beaten again in the 57th minute, as Preston added a fourth to go 4-2 up.
Humphrey latched onto Gallagher’s excellent pass and homed in on goal. He tried to squeeze his shot beyond Walker, who only half-blocked, allowing the winger to slot the loose ball over the line from a couple of feet out.
The afternoon had begun with U’s boss Tony Humes making one change to his starting line-up. He gave teenager Healey his first start, with Craig Eastmond the man to drop out.
Preston, beaten just once in the league this season, should have taken the lead inside the first two minutes.
A mistake by Tom Eastman allowed Joe Garner to slide a ball through for an unmarked Gallagher, who had just Walker to beat from inside the penalty area. But he dragged his shot wide of the far post.
The U’s threatened first in the seventh minute. Freddie Sears benefited from a defensive lapse, pouncing on a stray ball inside the box and squaring across the face of goal, only for defender Wiseman to turn behind for a corner.
But 10 minutes later and the U’s were ahead, thanks to Healey’s close-range finish for his second goal in a Colchester shirt.
At that point, it was looking good for the visitors, until two defensive lapses from Watt and Gordon respectively enabled Wiseman and Browne to score on 21 and 25 minutes.
The U’s came close to an equaliser, just after the half-hour mark. Sears floated over a teasing cross from the right, and Watt’s downward header was on target, only for Jones to block with his legs.
Gilbey did equalise, with an absolute stunner, to make it 2-2 in the 37th minute, although Preston were agonisingly close to regaining their lead just four minutes later – leading scorer Joe Garner’s shot whistled inches wide of the upright, with Walker flat-footed.
In first-half injury-time, Sears tried his luck with a 20-yarder that ballooned only a foot over the bar.
But it was Preston who drew first blood in the second half, thanks to Gallagher’s 25-yarder on 47 minutes.
It was end-to-end entertainment, and Moncur ran half the length of the pitch before screwing a shot wide of target. The West Ham loanee was infuriated with his poor finish.
The Lilywhites stretched their lead to 4-2 in the 57th minute, thanks to Humphrey’s tap-in after his initial effort had been parried by Walker.
And Humphrey nearly added his second, and Preston’s fifth, just after the hour mark when his close-range header cannoned back off the bar.
Sears had a goal-bound shot charged down by Bailey Wright, in front of the near post, as the U’s searched for a way back into the game on 70 minutes, while at the other end substitute Callum Robinson rattled the bar with a thunderous shot.
In the 83rd minute, Watt bundled the ball over the line after Sears’ initial shot was blocked, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the ex-Arsenal winger.
Sears and Gilbey were then denied twice, by keeper Jones, in quick succession as the U’s tried in vain to mount a late rally.
PRESTON: Jones, Wiseman, Clarke, Wright, Buchanan, Kilkenny, Browne, Humphrey (sub Robinson, 68), Brownhill (sub Reid, 58) Gallagher, Garner (sub Ryan, 90+1). Unused subs: Stuckmann, King, Huntington, Hayhurst.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Clohessy, Kent, Eastman, Gordon, Gilbey, Moncur, Massey, Sears, Healey (sub Drey Wright, 65), Watt. Unused subs: Lewington, David Wright, Eastmond, Lawrence, Bonne, Lapslie.
Referee: Stephen Martin (Staffs)