Dismal day ends with U's cup exit

COLCHESTER United lost their fifth game on the trot after enduring some extra-time anguish in the Carling Cup at MK Dons last night.The U's dominated during normal time, against their League Two hosts, but could not fashion a goal - and they were made to pay in the fifth minute of extra-time.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United lost their fifth game on the trot after enduring some extra-time anguish in the Carling Cup at MK Dons last night.

The U's dominated during normal time, against their League Two hosts, but could not fashion a goal - and they were made to pay in the fifth minute of extra-time.

Super-sub Izzy McLeod secured the Dons' passage through to round two by lashing home a shot on the turn, from 10 yards out.

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He enjoyed a slice of fortune as his effort took a deflection off a defender's boot and ballooned over keeper Dean Gerken, before dropping in via the underside of the bar.

It was rough luck on Colchester, and their new manager Geraint Williams, who has seen his side slump to five straight defeats in their first Championship season.

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Richard Garcia struck the bar from point blank range in the 74th minute, and the U's had countless chances to equalise during extra-time. Garcia watched as his header bounced over the bar, while skipper Karl Duguid beat keeper Ademola Bankole with a delicate chip in the 108th minute, only for his effort to soar over the top.

All in all, it was another depressing day for the U's. It began with star player Greg Halford putting in a transfer request, and ended with an early exit from the Carling Cup.

Dons boss Martin Allen completely revamped his side, making 10 changes to the team that started against Bristol Rovers on Saturday, a match they won 2-0.

Defender Ben Chorley was the sole survivor. Star striker Izzy McLeod, who had top scored with 18 goals in each of the last two seasons, was named among the substitutes.

Williams was not quite so ruthless. He tinkered with his starting line-up, handing first starts of the season to keeper Dean Gerken, defender John White and striker Jamie Guy.

It was only Guy's second senior start. Ironically, his first was also at MK Dons, for an LDV Vans Trophy fixture last December. The 19-year-old scored his first senior goal at West Brom on Saturday, within seconds of appearing as a substitute.

United started brightly and they had a chance to break the deadlock after just two minutes. Richard Garcia's header, from a corner, was comfortably gathered by home keeper Ademola Bankole.

The Dons duo of Ben Harding and Sean O'Hanlon were both booked during the early stages, as the home side struggled.

And Halford was within a whisker of scoring the opener in the 16th minute. Kevin Watson floated over a free-kick to the far post, where an onrushing Halford headed agonisingly wide.

Guy was understandably keen to impress. The U's young striker ran at the Dons defence before eying up the target from 20 yards out. But his shot lacked venom.

The hosts did not threaten until the half-hour mark. Joe Howe whipped over a corner, from which O'Hanlon spooned a header over.

A minute later and Gerken had to be alert to scamper off his line and punch clear, before Harding could latch onto a bouncing ball on the edge of the six-yard box.

Otherwise, there was very little to stir either set of supporters. Garcia managed to skip past the challenge of left-back Joe Tillen, only for Bankole to gobble up his final cross, and Watson then lifted a free-kick disappointingly over the bar in the 37th minute.

The visitors had one more notable attack before the break, which yielded a 44th minute corner. Watson's delivery was met by the diving Garcia, who was unlucky to see his header drift wide of target.

The U's were homing in on goal within the first 20 seconds of the second period. Skipper Karl Duguid burst down the left and rifled in a low drive that Bankole diverted around his near post.

Duguid was in the thick of it again on 52 minutes. He ran half the length of the pitch, before being felled just outside the box. Halford's free-kick whistled a yard over.

Jamie Cureton came on in the 58th minute, for a tiring Guy. The teenager had worked hard, but with little end product.

Garcia should really have put Colchester in front in the 74th minute. Substitute Cureton beat keeper Bankole to the ball and found Duguid, who curled a cross into the six-yard box. Garcia powered in and looked sure to score, only for his volley to thud off the underside of the bar and drop to safety.

Danger-man McLeod was finally introduced as a substitute, with eight minutes of normal time remaining. He immediately gave the Dons a lift, and Gareth Edds gave Gerken something to think about with a long-range shot that ballooned over the bar.

The home side registered their first effort on target as late as the 85th minute. Furthermore, they nearly scored as the stooping header from striker John Hastings was blocked on the goal-line by midfielder Watson.

Both teams tried to steal a winner at the end of normal time. Dons substitute McLeod completely mis-kicked, with the goal at his mercy, while both Cureton and Chris Iwelumo were desperately close with headers in the 90th minute.

Cureton thought he had avoided extra-time by sweeping home a 10-yard shot on the turn in the fourth minute of stoppage time, only for the goal to be ruled out for offside. Extra-time therefore followed.

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