Great win for U's

IF ever there was such a thing as a perfect away day, then this was it. Colchester United have rarely had a better day on the road.Hosts Preston North End, who were just one place adrift of the play-offs last term, were soundly trounced by Geraint Williams' men, who helped themselves to three goals to complement a solid defensive effort.

By Carl Marston

IF ever there was such a thing as a perfect away day, then this was it. Colchester United have rarely had a better day on the road.

Hosts Preston North End, who were just one place adrift of the play-offs last term, were soundly trounced by Geraint Williams' men, who helped themselves to three goals to complement a solid defensive effort.

To a man, from 39-year-old veteran keeper Aidan Davison, right through to 41-year-old veteran striker Teddy Sheringham, the U's were awesome. No wonder that many members of the Deepdale faithful began leaving their seats and heading for the exit gates long before the final whistle.


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The U's did not look back from the moment that Kevin Lisbie headed home his first goal in a Colchester shirt, late in the first-half. Sheringham expertly dispatched a 61st minute penalty before Mark Yeates slammed home a top-quality free-kick to complete the rout.

There were still 19 minutes remaining on the clock. The Lilywhites, who are still without a league goal, searched for a consolation, but the stubborn U's denied them even this with a number of marvellous last ditch blocks, deep inside their penalty area.

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A superb home record was the backbone of the U's excellent first season in the Championship, which culminated in a rewarding 10th spot. They were held back by poor away form, a mistake they are keen to rectify. The early signs are very encouraging.

Preston were a team dreadfully low on confidence. They had been humbled on home turf by League newcomers Morecambe in the Carling Cup (2-1 defeat), and they offered very little in the way of an attacking threat to a well-organised Colchester side.

Their chief tactic seemed to be an obsession with trying to rough up keeper Davison, who was making his first senior appearance since the end of last November. He had needed to pass a late fitness test on a sore back to replace the suspended Dean Gerken.

Davison typified the U's overall performance. He took the pressure off his defenders by venturing off his line to snuff out cross after cross.

Sometimes he dropped the ball, usually when shoved in the back by Newcastle United loanee Andy Carroll, but he always mopped up the loose ball.

The net result was that he had very few major saves to make, albeit for a couple of stinging shots from skipper Graham Alexander in the second-half.

Bolstered by two strong lines-of-four, the well-drilled U's were also quick to commit numbers to attack, and they duly took the lead in the 41st minute.

George Elokobi had set up Sheringham for his first goal with a clinical cross against Barnsley the previous weekend, and this time the Cameroon-born left-back curled over a deep free-kick for Lisbie to head gleefully in at the far post.

It was Lisbie's first goal for over a year, although to be fair injuries and illness had decimated his final season at previous club Charlton. Before Saturday, Lisbie's only action of this campaign had been the first 26 minutes against Barnsley, before he was substituted following Gerken's dismissal. He is now fully recovered from a troublesome ankle injury.

Sheringham had strong appeals for a penalty turned down in the first-half, when he was caught in the chest by defender Youl Mawene's rash challenge, but the former England star did have a chance to tuck home his first spot kick of the season just after the hour mark.

It was Sheringham who won the initial free-kick, from which striker Carroll clearly handled Johnnie Jackson's cross into the box. Referee Steve Tanner pointed to the spot, booked Alexander for dissent, and Sheringham did the rest by guiding his penalty into the top corner of the net out of reach of keeper Wayne Henderson, who had guessed the right way.

The Lilywhites were a beaten side. Ex-Luton and Leeds hard man Kevin Nicholls was booked for chopping down U's skipper Karl Duguid, from which the U's added their killer third.

Yeates has enjoyed a terrific start to the season, and the Dubliner obliged by curling his 20-yard free-kick around the defensive wall and into the net, right under the noses of the Colchester fans.

There was still time for Sheringham to strike a post with a close range effort, confirming that the ex-Manchester United and Tottenham striker has the legs to survive a full 90 minutes.

Sheringham might be the talisman, but he is only one part of a formidable team.

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