Defensive lapses cost U's dear

COLCHESTER United's new manager, whoever that may yet turn out to be, will look back on footage of Saturday's defeat to Leeds and make it is his first task to hammer home to his defence the importance of concentration.

Stuart Watson

COLCHESTER United's new manager, whoever that may yet turn out to be, will look back on footage of Saturday's defeat to Leeds and make it is his first task to hammer home to his defence the importance of concentration.

Caretaker boss Joe Dunne bemoaned his side's bad luck but, while it is true that there was an element of fortune in both of Leeds' goals, had his defence been fully alert then both could have been easily avoided.

Yes, the referee's decision to award the visitors a free-kick in the build up to the opener was baffling, and yes, the ball did fall kindly to the opposition for the second, but on both occasions Pat Baldwin and Alan Maybury could, and should, have cleared.

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And if we're talking about who had the rub of the green then the travelling Leeds fans, who made up almost a third of the 8,810 crowd, will rightly point to their two goals chalked off for offside in the first half - one of which looked sneakily on.

Such are the margins between winning and losing in football, but U's fans should keep things in perspective.

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Leeds and MK Dons will almost certainly be in the top six come the end of the season and Colchester, with their manager and skipper having departed, have run them both all the way.

There is also the fact that Colchester's defence won't have to face Jermaine Beckford every week too.

The home side had to weather the storm for the first quarter of an hour as the league's top goalscorer Beckford twice had goals ruled out for offside. The first was four or five yards offside, but there were just inches, if any, in the second when a smart first time ball around the corner from Argentine strike partner Luciano Becchio allowed Beckford to tuck the ball away again.

Minutes later the 25-year-old almost created something out of nothing. A long ball over the top was initially won by towering centre-back Magnus Okuonghae but Beckford, at the tightest of angles, hit the dropping ball with venom and keeper Ben Williams was forced to stop the ball finding its way into the bottom right-hand corner.

Leeds fans will be desperate for the transfer window to shut before someone makes an offer for the in-form hitman that is too good to refuse.

Having been relieved to have reached the break still on level terms, Colchester gifted Leeds the opener within seconds of the restart. Okuonghae and Robert Snodgrass came together on the byline and, after appearing to initially give the free-kick Colchester's way, the referee inexplicably signaled that it was Leeds' kick, the only possible explanation being handball.

Still miffed at the decision, Colchester switched off for the resultant set-piece and it was all too easy for Bradley Johnson to beat Pat Baldwin to the ball and head home Snodgrass's delivery. Colchester could have folded after such a set-back, but instead they came roaring back in their best spell of the game. Soon after Simon Hackney's superb free-kick from just outside the box was turned over when heading for the top corner, Colchester deservedly equalised thanks to a piece of magic by Kevin Lisbie. In one smooth movement the on-loan Ipswich striker brought the ball down from high in the box, turned inside Rui Marques before being dragged to the ground. Lisbie then emphatically converted the spot-kick into the top right corner for his fourth goal of the season.

It was a brilliant reaction from the resilient U's, but all their hard work was undone in the 63rd minute though another piece of slack defending. A routine ball into the box was headed tamely by a diving Maybury, allowing on-the-spot Beckford to poke home from six yards in front of his delighted fans. It was his fifth league goal in as many games.Platt, then Perkins, were introduced as Colchester once again chased the game, but Leeds' defence, led by the excellent Patrick Kisnorbo, continued to hold firm.He may have lost two of his three matches in charge, but Dunne's success as a caretaker boss shouldn't be measured on results. Colchester could have collapsed spectacularly following recent events, but instead they have faced up to the adversity and become tighter as a unit.

And for that Dunne should take great credit.


Colchester: Williams 6, Maybury 6, Okuonghae 6, Baldwin 6, Tierney 7, Vincent 6 (Perkins 74), Izzet 6, Hackney 6, Fox 6 (Wordsworth 83), Lisbie 7, Vernon 6 (Platt 67). Unused Subs: Cousins, Thomas, Holt, Lockwood.

Leeds: Higgs 7, Crowe 6, Kisnorbo 8, Doyle 6, Marques 6 (Michalik 85), Beckford 8, Becchio 7 (Showunmi 88), Howson 6, Johnson 7, Hughes 6, Snodgrass 6 (Prutton 79). Unused Subs: Ankergen, Kilkenny, Grella, Robinson.

Referee: Mr D Phillip.

Attendance: 8,810.

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