Gillespie the U’s hero as he spoils Howe’s farewell

npower League One Colchester Utd 2 AFC Bournemouth 1 FORGOTTEN striker Steven Gillespie came off the bench to be Colchester’s hero last night – scoring twice to secure a come-from-behind victory over Bournemouth.

After the U’s dominated the first half, Bournemouth – having just heard before kick-off that popular manager Eddie Howe was set to join Championship club Burnley over the weekend – broke the deadlock through substitute Steve Fletcher’s 54th minute header.

Colchester turned the match on its head through substitute Gillespie though who finished off a fine move in the 76th minute before deftly lobbing the keeper eight minutes later.

It was only the injury-prone front man’s second appearance of the season and his first goal since December 28, 2009.

With left-back Marc Tierney sold to Norwich on Thursday and centre-back Paul Reid signing for Scunthorpe on the eve of the match, U’s boss John Ward was reduced the bare bones when it came to selecting his back four for this match. Magnus Okuonghae and Brian Wilson were still unavailable with their respective ankle injuries, while John White (back) has also now joined them on the treatment table.

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That meant youngster Ben Coker – who was signed from Suffolk non-league side Bury Town in the summer and was at Essex non-leaguers Chelmsford on loan prior to Christmas – was handed his Football League debut at left-back.

The visitors had a major disruption of their own to deal with though with the news that high-rated young boss Howe – having said earlier in the week that he was staying with the club following interest from Crystal Palace and Charlton – was set to join Burnley.

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After a cagey opening quarter of an hour, Colchester striker David Mooney spurned two excellent chances to break the deadlock in quick succession.

First the Irishman failed to connect with a free header 10 yards out following a volleyed cross from Andy Bond while two minutes later he raced clear on goal only to be thwarted excellently by keeper Shwan Jalal as he tried to round him.

Colchester continued to press and were desperately unlucky not to open the scoring in the 22nd minute when Anthony Wordsworth’s delicate 25-yard free-kick came back square off the right-hand post with the keeper beaten.

Moments later the left-midfielder vociferously claimed for a penalty after getting the wrong side of Marvin Bartley in the box. The visiting defender did seem to put his arms across him would have been looking at a red card.

Bournemouth had failed to seriously threaten the home goal in the opening half-hour but really should have taken the lead in the 35th minute.

Colchester’s defence was all at sea when the ball was pulled back across goal from the left, but when the ball eventually fell to striker Danny Ings he scuffed his effort allowing Coker to hack off the line much to the relief of the home crowd.

Bournemouth introduced target man Steve Fletcher at the interval and the change quickly paid dividends as the experienced sub directed a superb header into the bottom corner. All 10 of the visiting outfield players raced over to embrace outgoing manager Howe.

U’s boss Ward reacted by making a double substitution in the 64th minute, bringing Gillespie and playmaker Lloyd James on as the home side also went to a 4-4-2.

Then came the drama as Gillespie finished off a superb move at the far post, Perkins having sprayed the ball out to the left, Wordsworth chipping it forward for the on-running Coker to send in a low cross-cum-shot to be poked home.

It was the injury-prone forward’s first goal since December 28, 2009, but like London buses another arrived eight minutes later to turn the match on its head.

This time the pacey front man held off a challenge in the box before deftly lobbing the keeper.

Colchester continued to attack after getting their noses in front and could have extended their lead when sub Kayode Odejayi fired across the face of goal following a fine one-two with Gillespie.

The cracking win means the U’s have done the double over Bournemouth this season. It keeps Colchester just three points off the play-off places and saw the Cherries miss out on the chance to go back into second.

COLCHESTER UTD (4-3-3): Williams 7; Beevers 7, Coker 8, Heath 6, Baldwin 6; Izzet 6 (James 64, 6), Bond 7, Perkins 7; Vincent 6 (Gillespie 64, 8), Wordsworth 7, Mooney 7 (Odejayi 85, 7).

Unused Subs: Cousins, Bender, Henderson, Hackney,

AFC BOURNEMOUTH (4-4-1-1): Jalal 6; Smith 6, Wiggins 6, Bartley 6, Pearce 6; Feeney 6, Bradbury 6 (Fletcher 46, 7), Hollands 6 (Cooper 85), Robinson 6; Pugh 7; Ings 6 (Taylor 85).

Unused Subs: Stewart, Cummings, Arter, Symes.

Booked: Pearce (44), Pugh (68).

U’s Man-of-the-Match: Ben Coker

Attendance: 3,445.

Referee: Mr D Deadman

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