Colchester dent Town's play-off hopes

Colchester United 2 Ipswich Town 0SCOTT Vernon bagged a brace as Colchester United staved off relegation for at least another week, while at the same time putting a dent in Ipswich Town's play-off hopes.

Colchester United 2 Ipswich Town 0

SCOTT Vernon bagged a brace as Colchester United staved off relegation for at least another week, while at the same time putting a dent in Ipswich Town's play-off hopes.

Vernon produced two deadly finishes, one in either half, to record only the U's seventh victory of the season. Dean Gerken also made some vital saves to chalk up United's first clean-sheet in 40 games, and only their second of the campaign.

Ipswich had no shortage of scoring chances, but ultimately this was another disappointing away display from Jim Magilton's men.

Hot-shot Vernon chose the perfect time to score his first goals from open play since his move from Blackpool at the end of the January transfer window.

He broke the deadlock in the 29th minute with a slick finish. Kevin Lisbie controlled John White's through ball and set-up Vernon, who burst past Alex Bruce to beat Stephen Bywater with a super-cool finish from eight yards out.

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Town blew numerous chances to equalise, with Alan Lee the chief culprit in the first-half. Fellow striker Danny Haynes also had a goal ruled out for offside just before the break.

The visitors continued to create the better opportunities in the second period, but without showing that killer instinct.

And they were made to pay when Vernon doubled the U's lead in the 73rd minute. The U's striker shrugged off the challenge of Sito to ram home a low drive, from just inside the penalty area, which rolled in off the far post.

There was no way back for Ipswich from that position, and Kevin Lisbie could have stretched the U's lead late on. But by then the damage had already been done.

Town left-back Sito was booked for hauling down Johnnie Jackson, just outside the box, in the 14th minute. Dean Hammond shaped to take the free-kick, but instead he ran over the ball and it was Duguid who curled a shot over the bar.

A slick U's move nearly led to an opening goal. Jackson whipped over a penetrating cross which found Kevin Lisbie in space, but the ex-Charlton striker's header slid wide of the near post.

Alan Lee then threatened with two headers in successive minutes. Gerken was in the right place to smother Lee's downward header, from Owen Garvan's corner, but the U's keeper had to stretch further to save another accurate header from Lee, following Williams' fine delivery. These were the game's first two efforts on target.

However, it was Colchester who took the lead with VERNON on target in the 29th minute.

Lisbie controlled John White's through ball and then squared into the path of the onrushing Vernon. His first touch put him past defender Bruce, and the former Blackpool striker kept his cool to tuck home a shot beyond the onrushing Bywater from eight yards out.

It was Vernon's second goal for the U's, since his move from Blackpool during the January transfer window. The other was from the penalty spot in the home win over Preston.

Lee spurned a great opportunity to net an equaliser in the 37th minute. Lee latched onto Sito's pass and spun past Heath, only to drag his shot wide with just Gerken to beat. His low shot rolled across goal and wide of the far post.

Two minutes later and Gerken came to his side's rescue. Town right-back Danny Simpson was clean through on goal following Hayes' pass, but Gerken raced off his line to block in impressive fashion.

Town had a goal wiped out for offside in the last minute of the first period. Quinn's ferocious volley was diverted home by Haynes, but the Town striker was standing in an offside position.

Lee had a sight of goal in the 52nd minute. The Ipswich striker pounced on the loose ball, following a slip by Heath, but he was then sandwiched between White and Heath and so could not get away his shot. Lee ended up on the floor, but referee Andy D'Urso just waved play on.

Jackson could have put the U's two-up in the 61st minute. Hammond's long ball forward switched defence into attack, and Lisbie squared for an onrushing Jackson to scuff his shot wide from a promising position.

Town were two-down in the 73rd minute, courtesy of another quality finish from an on-fire VERNON.

It was a real goal out of the blue. Vernon managed to shrug off the challenge of Sito and advance to the edge of the box, before beating Bywater with the most accurate of finishes.

Vernon's low drive eluded the despairing dive of Bywater and rolled into the net via the inside of the far post.

Gerken preserved the U's clean-sheet with a top-class save to deny substitute Rhodes on 86 minutes. Rhodes' snap shot looked a goal all the way, until Gerken turned it around the post with an instinctive save.

Lisbie nearly added a third goal with three minutes remaining. The U's striker turned this way and that, on the edge of the box, before dragging his shot wide with just Bywater to beat.

There were four minutes of injury-time, and in the third of these Lisbie scampered through on goal, only to balloon his shot over the top.

There was just time for Gerken to smother a free-kick from Garvan, before referee Mr D'Urso blew his final whistle to signal a rare Colchester victory.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 8, Ifil 7, Coyne 8, Heath 7, White 7, Duguid 7, Jackson 7, Hammond 7, Elito 7, Lisbie 7, VERNON 9. Unused subs: Izzet, McLeod, Guy, Balogh, Cousins.

IPSWICH TOWN: Bywater 7, Simpson 6, De Vos 5, Bruce 6, Sito 6, Williams 7 (sub Miller, 85), Garvan 6, Sumulikoski 5 (sub Rhodes, 62) Quinn 6 (sub Roberts, 58), HAYNES 7, Lee 6. Unused subs: Wright, Colgan.

Referee: Andy D'Urso (Billericay) 7

Attendance: 6,264