Gallery: Happy ever after for U's

COLCHESTER United ended a horrible day with the perfect result - a third league win on the spin to stay top of the league!

Carl Marston

Colchester United 2 Gillingham 1

by Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United ended a horrible day with the perfect result - a third league win on the spin to stay top of the league!


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Rarely can the build-up to a game have been so disruptive, following the departure of the manager and his backroom staff in the morning, and the loss of the skipper in the afternoon.

But while Paul Lambert was watching his new team Norwich City lose at Brentford, and ex-skipper Dean Hammond was preparing to sign for Southampton, the battling U's still preserved their 100% start to their league campaign, against the odds.

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And they did it the hard way, by conceding an early goal, before a goal apiece from the strike-force of Scott Vernon and Kevin Lisbie made it nine points out of nine.

Curtis Weston prodded Gillingham into an early lead in the 11th minute. John Nutter exploited space down the left-side of the penalty area to sweep over a low cross for Weston to tap home from a few feet out.

But the U's were level before half-time. Lisbie did well to dispossess defender Josh Gowling, and the Ipswich Town loanee cut inside before spotting strike-force partner Vernon lurking unmarked just inside the box.

Vernon made no mistake, stroking the ball into the net from 15 yards out. It was his second goal of the campaign.

Vernon then turned creator to set up the winner for Lisbie in the 66th minute. The ex-Blackpool striker slid the ball through for Lisbie, who turned to curl a delightful shot into the far corner of the net.

The U's faithful had made their feelings for their ex-manager well known during the first half, with a chant of "Stand up, if you hate Paul Lambert!"

And they roared with approval when referee Grant Hegley blew his final whistle, to signal a win for caretaker manager Joe Dunne in his first match in charge.

The U's actually started in lively fashion and David Fox, who had scored in both the previous league games at Norwich and against Yeovil, cracked in a seventh minute angled drive that was cleared off the goal-line.

However, four minutes later and the Gills took the lead, via Weston's close-range tap-in.

It was so nearly 2-0 to the visitors in the 14th minute. Centre-half Josh Gowling's towering header looked destined for the net until Kem Izzet intervened with a goal-line headed clearance.

At least the U's peppered the target with a couple of efforts just before the half-hour mark. Lisbie hooked a shot wide from Fox's lay-off, and Ashley Vincent smashed a half-volley the wrong side of the near post.

But the U's were soon celebrating an equaliser, thanks to Vernon's crisp finish on 38 minutes.

And they got their noses in front, midway through the second-half, with Vernon and Lisbie again combining to chalk up the latter's third goal of the season.

The U's made sure that they did not relinquish this lead during the final quarter of the game, to wrap up a heart-warming victory.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Williams 8, Beevers 6, Okuonghae 7, Baldwin 7, Tierney 8, Vincent 7 (sub Thomas, 82), IZZET 8, Fox 7, Hackney 7 (sub Perkins, 90), Lisbie 8 (sub Wordsworth, 90+2) , Vernon 7. Unused subs:

Maybury, Holt, Malton, Cousins.

GILLINGHAM: Julian 7, Fuller 6, Gowling 6, Richards 7, Nutter 7, Payne 6, Miller 6, Weston 7, Bentley 7 (sub Erskine, 85), Jackson 7, BARCHAM 8. Unused subs: Maher, Palmer, Wynter, Rooney, McCammon, Royce.

Referee: Mr Grant Hegley (Hertfordshire) 7

Attendance: 4,849

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