Dismal U's just . . . dismal

Colchester United 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 1COLCHESTER United served up a dismal Bank Holiday display, in the process handing relegation-haunted Brighton a League One lifeline yesterday.

Carl Marston

By Carl Marston

Colchester United 0 Brighton & Hove Albion 1

COLCHESTER United served up a dismal Bank Holiday display, in the process handing relegation-haunted Brighton a League One lifeline yesterday.

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Lloyd Owusu popped up with the winner in the 57th minute, so securing a deserved three points for the Sussex visitors. The U's were simply awful.

Burly striker Owusu, on loan from Cheltenham, rose high to head home a teasing free-kick from ex-U's loanee Gary Borrowdale. The ball fizzed past Dean Gerken from eight yards out.

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There was still more than half-an-hour for the U's to mount a rally, but Paul Lambert's men never even threatened an equaliser. In fact, keeper Michel Kuipers did not have a save to make throughout the whole of the second period.

Mark Yeates and Ashley Vincent both missed chances in the first half, but in truth Brighton were good value for this victory. They are now just three points adrift of safety with a game in hand.

As for the U's, this was their 11th home league defeat of the season. Ironically, they are now only two points and one place ahead of Leyton Orient, who have been enjoying a terrific run under new manager Geraint Williams.

United are therefore in danger of finishing below their old manager's team - Williams parted company with the U's last September, and celebrated a 2-1 home win over his ex-club on Saturday.

There were very few positives to take from yesterday's contest. Fringe first teamers like Chris Coyne, John White and Matt Lockwood (back after a long-term injury) were given rare run-outs, but it was really going forward where the hosts were found wanting.

It was not surprising that the final whistle was greeted by a chorus of boos. The U's season could well peter out in lower mid-table, unless there is a dramatic improvement during the final three games.

After a non-descript first 20 minutes, the U's finally carved out a chance for themselves, or rather Yeates set himself up with a neat twist inside the penalty area. The Dubliner was denied by a brave block from keeper Kuipers, who saved down at the striker's feet.

Otherwise, it was uninspiring fare. That was summed up by a couple of long-range shots from skipper Dean Hammond and left-back Lockwood. The first flew several yards over the bar, and the second actually disappeared over the South Stand and out of the ground.

Brighton rarely had a sight of goal, although ex-U's defender Adam Virgo should have done better when stabbing goalwards from a good position. Virgo had scored the opener in Saturday's 3-2 home defeat by Swindon, but he never looked like troubling Gerken with this scuffed effort.

A mistake by Virgo at the other end put his side under pressure in the 36th minute. Vincent was suddenly homing in goal, but he could not beat the onrushing Kuipers, who smothered with ease.

The Seagulls had looked sluggish in the first half, but they livened up after the break. In fact, Pat Baldwin saved an almost certain goal in the 51st minute.

The diminutive Dean Cox sped into the box and hammered in a shot that Gerken could only parry. Veteran front-runner Gary Hart was poised to sweep home the loose ball, only for Baldwin to intervene with a marvellous last-ditch challenge.

Unfortunately, Baldwin picked up a knock while making that superb clearance, and so hobbled off to be replaced by substitute Neal Trotman. It is testimony to the U's overall display that Baldwin deserved the man-of-the-match award, even though he played for less than an hour!

A Brighton goal looked on the cards, and it duly arrived on 57 minutes, thanks to Owusu's bullet header from Borrowdale's precise free-kick.

The U's were on the back foot, and penned into their own half of the pitch for long spells. Brighton also thought that they should have been awarded a penalty when Cox took a tumble inside the box, with John White in close attendance.

There were no nervous moments late on for the Seagulls, and they could have added to their tally when Gerken saved well from substitute Calvin Andrews in the 86th minute.

On yesterday's evidence, Brighton would like to play Colchester every week until the end of the season!


COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, White 6, BALDWIN 7 (sub Trotman, 55), Coyne 6, Lockwood 6, Izzet 6, Hammond 6, Wordsworth 5 (sub Wasiu, 69), Yeates 6, Vincent 5, Hackney 7. Unused subs: Maybury, Tierney, Cousins.

BRIGHTON: Kuipers 7, Whing 7, Elphick 7, Virgo 7, Borrowdale 7, Loft 6 (sub El-Abd, 86), COX 8, Dicker 7, Fraser 7, Hart 7 (sub Andrew, 70), Owusu 7 (sub Davies, 72). Unused subs: McLeod, Hawkins.

Referee: Mr R Booth (Nottinghamshire) 7

Attendance: 4,873

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