Gallery: U's dent Lions' promotion hopes
COLCHESTER United put a big dent in Millwall's automatic promotion bid,
COLCHESTER United put a big dent in Millwall's automatic promotion bid, thanks to Clive Platt's late winner at the New Den last night.
Platt capped a man-of-the-match performance by hitting the target with a thumping header in the 84th minute, so rattling up his ninth goal of the season.
Mark Yeates had endured a frustrating night on the left flank, but it was he who delivered the pinpoint cross for Platt to direct his header over despairing keeper David Forde and into the roof of the net.
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It was a clinical finish from Platt, and a goal worthy of winning any match.
Ironically, the U's had not offered that much going forward, before Platt's timely intervention, although they had defended stoically throughout against a side who had won six of their previous seven games.
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In fact, all four of the U's defenders were booked, which reflected partly on their commitment to the cause, but also to the whistle-happy nature of referee Paul Taylor.
Millwall really needed a victory, to keep the heat on second-placed Peterborough, but they are now still five points adrift of Posh with just six games remaining.
As for the U's, they are now back in the top half of the table, and eyeing up a top 10 finish.
U's boss Lambert selected the same side that slithered to a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Scunthorpe on Saturday, although there were a couple of changes on the bench, most notably teenager Sam Corcoran's first ever inclusion in the senior 16-man squad. Sunday Akanni-Waisu also replaced the injured Johnnie Jackson.
There was no goalmouth action during the first quarter-of-an-hour, albeit for a mix-up between keeper Mark Cousins and defender Pat Baldwin that almost let in striker Jason Price. Cousins' scuffed kick ricocheted to safety.
But Cousins was at his very best on 16 minutes. He arched back to claw away Gary Alexander's header, which had been threatening to sneak into the top corner of the net. It was a marvellous reaction save.
Millwall continued to dictate and danger-man Alexander was lurking again in the 20th minute. He pounced on to Andy Frampton's lay-off and rammed in a shot that Baldwin did well to deflect wide with an outstretched boot.
The U's created nothing of note for the first half-hour, by which point centre-half Baldwin was walking a tightrope after being booked for a succession of fouls.
Another Baldwin foul, this time on Price, gave Millwall a free-kick in a dangerous position on 36 minutes. Frampton flicked on James Henry's cross and skipper Tony Craig was close to diverting home, only for Cousins to close him down. The ball rolled wide.
Three minutes later and it was Alan Maybury's turn to save the day. Price was through on goal from Alexander's flick-on, but Maybury robbed him when the Welshman was poised to fire past Cousins.
Lively striker Alexander was forced to leave the pitch before half-time, with blood pouring from a head wound. He did not reappear, so on came fellow striker Ashley Grimes in the 43rd minute.
United, though, had gone the whole of the first-half without registering any sort of goal attempt, on or off target.
The U's finally threatened for the first time on 53 minutes, and they very nearly scored. Clive Platt nudged the ball into the path of David Perkins, who let fly with a rasping drive that David Forde beat away with strong hands.
Cousins was back in the action on the hour mark. He was at full stretch to prevent Henry's cross from dropping into the net, and the follow-up header from David Martin looped over the bar from eight yards out.
But otherwise United had looked more comfortable during the second half. This resulted in a more agitated home crowd, and also the odd chance for the visitors, most notably when Yeates sliced a volley off target from a Perkins lay-off.
The atmosphere in the New Den turned from frustration to despair when Platt intervened with his late header to steal all three points for the U's.
There was no way back for promotion-chasing Millwall, who were booed off the pitch at the final whistle. It was the U's ninth away league win of the season, and a job well done.
MILLWALL: Forde 7, Dunne 6, Whitbread 7, Craig 6, Frampton 6, Henry 7 (sub Grabban, 89) Laird 7, Bolder 5, Martin 7, ALEXANDER 7 (sub Grimes, 43, 5), Price 6. Unused subs: Barron, Abdou, Pidgeley.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 7, Maybury 6, Trotman 7, Baldwin 8, Tierney 8, Izzet 7, Hammond 7, Perkins 7, Yeates 7 (sub White, 89), PLATT 8, Hawley 6 (sub Wasiu, 90+2). Unused subs: Hackney, Corcoran.
Referee: Mr Paul Taylor (Cheshunt) 6.