Gutsy Colchester scrap for point

Burnley 1 Colchester United 1By Carl MarstonCOLCHESTER United stay rooted to the foot of the Championship table, but they produced a gutsy display in the Pennines to secure a deserved point against hosts Burnley.

Burnley 1 Colchester United 1

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United stay rooted to the foot of the Championship table, but they produced a gutsy display in the Pennines to secure a deserved point against hosts Burnley.

Both sides scored a goal and struck the woodwork in an entertaining first period. The second-half was poor by comparison.


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The U's were still cursing their bad luck, after Clive Platt's volley had cannoned off the far post, when they conceded a soft opening goal to Andy Cole in the 23rd minute.

Chris Coyne could only divert Wade Elliott's cross into the path of an unmarked Cole, and the former England striker could hardly miss from a few yards out.

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It was then Burnley's time to be hit by a double dose of bad luck. Firstly, keeper Brian Jensen was powerless to prevent Johnnie Jackson's deflected free-kick from dropping into the net for a 38th minute equaliser.

A minute later and Robbie Blake rattled the post with a superb free-kick. That had looked a goal all the way.

Play-off chasing Burnley looked the more likely team to conjure up a winner in a second-half of few chances, but Geraint Williams' men were good value for this draw.

They must now start winning at home to stand a chance of beating the drop, beginning with a Layer Road fixture against fellow strugglers Preston on Tuesday evening.

It was a special day for former Ipswich Town loanee defender David Unsworth. The 34-year-old was celebrating the 500th game of his career, spanning nearly 16 years.

Burnley's new loan signing Cole was quickly in the action, and it needed a hasty clearance from Coyne to prevent the former Newcastle and Manchester United striker from scampering through on goal in the fourth minute. Coyne was happy to concede the corner, from which John White comfortably cleared Wade.

Only the woodwork denied Colchester an opening goal in the 20th minute. Clive Platt met McLeod's deep cross with a low volley that wrong-footed Jensen, but there was an agonising wait as the ball rolled back off the post and dribbled to safety.

That was bad luck on the U's, and they were cursing their misfortune again just three minutes later as an unhelpful ricochet allowed COLE to break the deadlock for Burnley.

Elliott's cross did not look too dangerous, but the ball struck the unsighted Coyne and rolled kindly into the path of Cole, who could hardly miss from eight yards out. He swept his low shot beyond the reach of Gerken for his first goal in a Clarets shirt.

There was more bad news for the visitors when Kevin Lisbie limped off in the 26th minute, to be replaced up front by substitute Scott Vernon.

And Vernon spurned a great chance to net an equaliser in the 31st minute. The U's substitute was unmarked inside the box, but he could not direct his free header on target from McLeod's pinpoint cross. A minute later and McLeod himself tried his luck with a half-volley that drifted wide of the far upright.

Colchester were deservedly level in the 38th minute, thanks to a deflected free-kick from JACKSON.

Vernon was fouled by Unsworth 25 yards from goal, and up stepped Jackson to send in a shot that took a wicked deflection off the defensive wall. Keeper Jensen was going the wrong way, and he had no time to react as the ball flew into the centre of the net.

In fact, it was very similar to the previous weekend when another Jackson free-kick was deflected into the net past Sheffield United keeper Paddy Kenny. That goal went down as an own goal by Jon Stead.

We will have to wait and see whether Jackson's latest deflected free-kick will be awarded to him.

The Clarets were thwarted by the woodwork on 39 minutes. Robbie Blake's curling free-kick beat Gerken all ends up, only to cannon off the post and roll to safety.

The U's had certainly responded well to the disappointment of falling a goal behind, and few would have begrudged them going in on level terms.

John White was enjoying a good start to the second-half for the U's. He made one great challenge to thwart Elliott on the right edge of the box, and also robbed danger-man Blake with a well-timed tackle.

Blake was replaced by substitute Akinbiyi just after the hour mark, to give the Clarets more of a physical presence in attack. And Akinbiyi nearly scored within a few seconds of his introduction, as Graham Alexander's deflected cross looped just inches over his head from six yards out.

The U's were relieved to see a cross from Elliott just evade the despairing lunge of Cole and roll behind for a goal-kick. The veteran striker had looked sharp all afternoon.

The U's had not shown so much as an attacking force in the second-half, although Vernon did try his luck with a long-range shot that soared a foot over the bar in the 87th minute.

In the first-minute of injury-time, substitute Akinbiyi got the wrong side of Virgo, but he dragged his shot across goal and wide of the far post with just Gerken to beat.

Elliott won a corner in the dying seconds, from which Randall's snap shot was safely gathered by Gerken beneath his bar. That wrapped up a deserved point for the U's.

Squads

BURNLEY: Jensen 7, Alexander 6, Varga 7, Unsworth 7, Harley 7, Elliott 7, O'Connor (sub Randall, 73) 6, Gudjonsson (sub Caldwell, 52) 6, Lafferty 7, Blake (sub Akinbiyi, 61) 7, Cole 8. Unused subs: Spicer, Kiraly.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, Ifil 7, Coyne 6, Virgo 7, WHITE 8, Duguid 7, Izzet 7, Jackson 7, McLeod (sub Guttridge, 75) 7, Platt 6, Lisbie (sub Vernon, 26). Unusubs: Watson, Sheringham, Cousins.

Referee: Mr S Bratt 7

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