Isn't it ironic? U's play well and lose

THERE was an element of irony in the manner Colchester United's unbeaten run was brought to an end.

Stuart Watson

Coca-Cola League One

Millwall 2 Colchester United 1

THERE was an element of irony in the manner Colchester United's unbeaten run was brought to an end.

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The U's - previously undefeated in nine - have not played well in recent weeks, but somehow have always managed to get points on the board.

Then, with the performance levels far higher, Aidy Boothroyd's side are beaten.

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Colchester could easily have won this open encounter but, after Anthony Wordsworth hit the bar with a superb free-kick in stoppage time, Millwall went straight up the other end and won it with a distinctly average one of their own as substitute James Henry's low effort squirmed under keeper Ben Williams.

The best analogy of the game came from Colchester boss Aidy Boothroyd who likened it to two boxers slogging it out punch-for-punch.

But while it may have been Millwall who ultimately landed the knock-out blow, Colchester can take heart from the way they acquitted themselves in what was a fight between two heavyweights of League One.

The Essex side had led at the break courtesy of Wordsworth's deflected free-kick, the ball spinning off midfielder Marc Laird and into the bottom left corner.

But Millwall fought back and, after right-back Alan Dunne had rifled home a fine volleyed equaliser in the 66th minute, sub Henry came up with the winner.

Wordsworth was arguably Colchester's best player on the day and his marked improvement from recent weeks typified the U's overall raised performance levels.

The 20-year-old started the game on the left wing, but after his 19th minute opener he was asked to switch flanks with Kevin Lisbie in order to shackle the dangerous Danny Schofield and he rose to the occasion.

How it was only 1-0 at the break, no-one knows. In the first five minutes alone, Kayode Odejayi came inches away from turning in Clive Platt's clever pull back, Williams made a smart stop at his near post from Schofield, while Odejayi also had a one-on-one chance smothered by the keeper.

The game continued in this fashion for the whole of the first half and, just as the match looked to have run out of steam after the break, a Millwall equaliser reignited proceedings.

Colchester players were appealing for a handball when they half cleared the ball out of their box, but, with no whistle, Dunne hit a superb volley from long-range which skidded off the surface and into the bottom left corner.

From then on Millwall - backed by a partisan crowd that had seen them beat Leeds with a late goal the week previous - looked the more likely to find a winner

Twice the usually prolific Neil Harris spurned glorious chances to win it, first firing straight at the keeper from eight yards, before dallying long enough to allow Paul Reid - sent on as an 84th minute sub following an injury to the excellent Danny Batth - to get in an important block.

It was Reid's first game in seven months following a knee injury and was yet another positive that Colchester can take out of the game.

The U's had tried to run the clock down at every opportunity in the second half, but their time wasting tactics came back to haunt them on October 31 when Henry's low free-kick found the net in the fifth and final minute of stoppage time.

The joyous home crowd quickly forgot that they had screamed at manager Kenny Jackett that he 'didn't know what he was doing' when he introduced Henry for Chris Hackett just half an hour earlier.

It was just one more piece of irony in a day that Colchester can take much heart from.

Millwall: David Forde 7, ALAN DUNNE 7, Tony Craig 6, Jack Smith 6, Paul Robinson (cpt) 7, Chris Hackett 7 (James Henry 60 - 7), Danny Schofield 7, Jimmy Abdou 6, Marc Laird 6, Steve Morison 5 (Jason Price 72 - 7), Neil Harris 6.

Unused Subs: John Sullivan, Adam Bolder, Lewis Grabban, David Martin, Danny Fitzsimons.

Booked: Laird (21), Robinson (88).

Colchester: Ben Williams 6, John White 6, Marc Tierney 7, Danny Batth 7 (Paul Reid 84), Magnus Okuonghae 7 (cpt), Kevin Lisbie 6, ANTHONY WORDSWORTH 7, John-Joe O'Toole 6, Josh Payne 6 (Kemi Izzet 60 - 5), Kayode Odejayi 5, Clive Platt 6 (Steven Gillespie 77 - 6).

Unused Subs: Mark Cousins, Phil Ifil, David Fox, Medy Elito.

Booked: O'Toole (41), Wordsworth (44).

U's Man-of-the-Match: Anthony Wordsworth.

Referee: G D Horwood.

Attendance: 10,036

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