Hat-trick hero gets U's up and running
COLCHESTER United are up and running in the Championship, after blitzing bemused Derby County for the second time this year.Striker Jamie Cureton walked away with the match-ball, following his first competitive hat-trick in a U's shirt, and his partner Chris Iwelumo also celebrated his first goal of the season.
By Carl Marston
COLCHESTER United are up and running in the Championship, after blitzing bemused Derby County for the second time this year.
Striker Jamie Cureton walked away with the match-ball, following his first competitive hat-trick in a U's shirt, and his partner Chris Iwelumo also celebrated his first goal of the season.
The final scoreline suggests a tight encounter, but this was no seven-goal thriller. The Rams were second best in every department and only two late goals gave them an air of respectability, which they didn't really deserve.
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To have conceded a late equaliser, and so see a three-goal advantage wiped out, would have been soul-destroying for Geraint Williams' men, who had lost their previous five league and cup games.
As it is, they can now enjoy a fortnight's break from competitive action, safe in the knowledge that they have bagged their first-ever victory at this level in football. The U's might still be in the bottom three but they are on the rise and can look down on their old manager Phil Parkinson's Hull City and fallen giants Sunderland in the Championship table.
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United had not enjoyed much luck in their previous four Championship defeats at the hands of Birmingham, Plymouth, Barnsley and West Brom. And, for the first quarter of Saturday's contest, that rotten run looked to continue.
The Essex hosts did everything bar score. Cureton sliced a volley wide after only two minutes and was glancing up at the heavens when rattling the woodwork with a spectacular effort in the 14th minute. The excellent Iwelumo and Richard Garcia helped on Kevin Watson's corner only for Cureton's overhead kick to thud off the bar and bounce to safety.
Derby, with former manager Phil Brown at the helm, had crashed out of the FA Cup at Layer Road last January, humbled 3-1 in a fourth round tie. That was Brown's last game in charge - the U's went on to visit Premier League champions Chelsea in round five.
Current Rams boss Billy Davies fared little better on County's return. Nor did keeper Lee Camp, who had also been the last line of defence back in January. He was powerless to prevent Cureton from breaking the deadlock, and settling the nerves, in the 28th minute.
Iwelumo nodded on a throw and Cureton had time to control before beating Camp with a fierce shot from 10 yards out. The goal avalanche had begun.
Two minutes later and both Cureton and Colchester were celebrating a second goal. Watson floated over a free kick for the former Norwich, Bristol Rovers and Reading striker to glance home a firm header.
Livewire Cureton was close to completing a first-half hat-trick in the 38th minute. He sped onto skipper Karl Duguid's pass and was only denied by the outstretched arm of Camp, who bundled the ball behind for a corner.
It had been one-way traffic all the way, which made it all the more frustrating when Derby halved the deficit with a rare attack just three minutes before the interval. Arturo Lupoli, starting his first game since his loan move from Arsenal, shrugged off the attentions of Pat Baldwin, Garcia and Watson before steering a long-range shot into the far corner of the net.
The U's had faded during the second-half of their previous home league game against Barnsley (2-1 defeat) but they didn't let Derby settle. In fact, they were back in the ascendancy within four minutes of the restart.
The move began in the hands of keeper Davison and ended with Iwelumo dispatching a penalty. Garcia was the inspiration, chasing onto Davison's quickly-taken throw and then storming past a couple of challenges before being pushed to the ground by defender Lewin Nyatanga for a clear penalty.
Cureton was on a hat-trick but he sensibly allowed normal penalty-taker Iwelumo to shoulder the burden and so sweep home his first goal of the campaign. The Scotsman had top-scored with 19 goals in League One last term.
Cureton's patience was rewarded with a hat-trick goal in the 67th minute to put the U's into a healthy 4-1 lead. Again he was set up by a delicate Iwelumo flick-on, scooping up the ball beyond centre-halves Nyatanga and Michael Johnson to squeeze a high lob over Camp and into the far corner of the net. It was the eighth hat-trick of Cureton's career.
It should have been plain sailing to the final whistle but Lupoli stole a goal back in the 80th minute. The Italian teenager burst onto Ryan Smith's pass, following a slip by Duguid, and he gave Davison no chance with a slick finish.
Just before the end of normal time, substitute Paul Peschisolido nodded home Seth Johnson's corner which ensured that finger-nails were chewed during three minutes of injury-time.
Derby did not deserve to find an escape route, as manager Davies confessed, and the U's duly held on to collect their first ever points in the second tier of the Football League.
The win also avoided setting an unwanted record of becoming the first Colchester side to lose their first five league games at the start of a season. Layer Road is all smiles again.