Derby despair for United
FOR about a quarter-of-an-hour, Colchester United fans were dreaming of an historic league double over East Anglian rivals Ipswich.Still buzzing after Karl Duguid had crashed home the winner in a 1-0 win over Town at Layer Road last September, it was Duguid again who sent the U's supporters into dream-land with his deadlock-breaker after 15 minutes.
By Carl Marston
FOR about a quarter-of-an-hour, Colchester United fans were dreaming of an historic league double over East Anglian rivals Ipswich.
Still buzzing after Karl Duguid had crashed home the winner in a 1-0 win over Town at Layer Road last September, it was Duguid again who sent the U's supporters into dream-land with his deadlock-breaker after 15 minutes.
The U's skipper gleefully swept home Hogan Ephraim's low cross, just seconds after Town had appealed in vain for a goal at the other end - Garry Richards appeared to hook the ball away, but only after it had crossed the goal-line.
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United had broken with deadly precision, to shock Portman Road's biggest crowd of the season. But alas, it did not last.
A third away win of the season was beyond them, and in the end they could have no real complaints about the 3-2 scoreline.
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This was United's first visit to Portman Road, for a league match, for 51 years, so the U's fans were always going to enjoy their day out.
They will be disappointed to have seen their side lose, but the Essex club have come a very long way in a very short space of time. And they remain in the top half of the table, six points clear of Town.
It was never going to be easy for the U's, not least because they were without joint leading scorer Jamie Cureton for the first time this season.
Cureton had failed to shrug off a tight hamstring, sustained during the 1-1 home draw against Leicester City the previous weekend. That meant the break-up of the trusty Cureton/Chris Iwelumo partnership in attack, that had yielded 28 goals in 30 matches.
However, an even bigger loss was that of centre-half Pat Baldwin, who was also not in the squad for the first time this campaign. That meant the disruption of the Baldwin/Wayne Brown pairing at the heart of defence, putting a lot of pressure on deputy Richards, who was starting his first match since August.
The U's were under the cosh for much of the afternoon, but they created a number of good chances themselves in the first period.
Before Duguid's memorable 15th minute opener, the U's skipper had an earlier opportunity when slamming a low drive straight at keeper Lewis Price, following Kem Izzet's lay-off.
Duguid's fourth goal of the campaign ensured that this was going to be a lively local derby, packed with incident.
Midfielder Kevin Watson was narrowly adrift with a 20-yarder that took a slight deflection on 22 minutes, and from the ensuing set piece, Richards lifted a shot over the bar from Watson's cracking low delivery.
Iwelumo was obviously missing his old strike-force partner Cureton. Too often there was too much space between the Scotsman and Ephraim, for them to make a telling contribution together.
Target man Iwelumo did manage to sneak behind full-back Dan Harding on 25 minutes, but his angled drive did not find its way past Price.
Then came Town's equaliser, after Richards was rather harshly penalised for climbing over Alan Lee. Gerken dived the wrong way as Lee slid home the 29th minute equaliser from the spot.
The U's survived until half-time, and actually started the second-half brightly, but their inability to defend a corner led to Legwinski nodding Town into a 2-1 lead.
Ephraim was eventually replaced just after the hour mark, by substitute Jamie Guy. The West Ham loanee had set up Duguid's goal, and was always eager to run at Town's defence. Hopefully, he will have benefited from this first start of his career.
For one sweet moment, the U's thought that they had equalised when Iwelumo headed home Richard Garcia's cross on 70 minutes. But those celebrations were cut short by an assistant referee's flag - Iwelumo had been standing in an offside position.
The writing was on the wall when substitute Danny Haynes burst clear of the U's tiring defence to net a third with nine minutes remaining.
Iwelumo did slide home an injury-time penalty, to notch his 15th goal of the season and so set up a nervous finale. However, there was to be no fairy-tale ending for the visitors.
But remember - this has still been a fantastic season!