Just all a blur for Jamie

IT MAY have been Valentines Day, but it was a lesson in finishing rather than a lesson in love that Walsall delivered to visiting Colchester United.

Carl Marston

Walsall 2 Colchester United 0

By Carl Marston

IT MAY have been Valentines Day, but it was a lesson in finishing rather than a lesson in love that Walsall delivered to visiting Colchester United.

And ironically Jimmy Walker, whose first love had been Walsall, was powerless to prevent his old club from completing a league double over the U's.

U's loanee keeper Walker, who played 476 games for the Saddlers in a blissful 11-year stay, was hoping to crown his first return to the Bescot Stadium with a win.

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But he had no chance with either of Walsall's first-half goals, while at the other end the U's shot themselves in the foot with some woeful finishing.

Goals from Michael Ricketts and Troy Denney sealed the points for the Midlanders, but it could have been very different if the U's, and Jamie Guy in particular, had converted at least one of two gilt-edged opportunities inside the first quarter of the game.

Guy had an afternoon that he will not forget in a very long time. He was handed only his second ever league start of the U's, more than two years since the first, but then fluffed two great chances and lost a contact lense that forced him to sit out the second half.

Guy's contribution was certainly not dull! The tone was set after just 90 seconds, when the 21-year-old scurried onto ex-Walsall striker Clive Platt's excellent knock-down. Guy fended off the challenge of defender Anthony Gerrard, but could not force his shot past keeper Clayton Ince.

Just 13 minutes were on the clock when Guy was presented with another one-on-one, this time thanks to David Perkins' slick through ball. The U's striker is never short of enthusiasm, but his first touch let him down and Ince was able to close him down and make another key save, down at the striker's feet.

Thereafter, blurred vision hampered Guy's progress - he lost a contact lense and didn't have a spare set - so manager Paul Lambert was forced to replace him at half-time.

But by then the U's were trailing by two goals, and heading for back-to-back defeats for only the second time since Lambert took change in mid-October.

While Colchester's finishing was powder-puff, the Saddlers was lethal. And in ex-Bolton Wanderers target man Ricketts they had the best striker on the park.

A rare error from Marc Tierney led to Walsall's opener in the 17th minute. His stray pass was intercepted by winger Alex Nicholls, who whipped over a low cross for fellow wide-man Sofiene Zaaboub to slide into the path of Ricketts. The 30-year-old swept home his 12th goal of the season with a first-time finish.

Ricketts then turned provider as Walsall doubled their lead in the 43rd minute. This effectively sealed the U's fate.

Zaaboub produced a man-of-the-match performance down the left wing, and the Frenchman again had a big part to play in the second goal with an explosive run through the heart of the U's midfield.

Nicholls received Zaaboub's pass and delivered a cross to the far post, where an unmarked Ricketts headed in the direction of Deeney, who found the back of the net with a delightful header. Walker was left clutching at thin air.

United enjoyed bags of possession in the second half, but rarely looked like mounting a comeback. In fact, it was clearly not going to be their day when Paul Reid's headed goal was wiped out by an offside flag in the 61st minute.

Mark Yeates and substitute Simon Hackney peppered the target late on, but Walsall closed out the game to inch to within two points of the U's in the League One table.

This defeat, following hot on the heels of a 1-0 home reverse by Tranmere last week, has left the U's nine points adrift of the play-off zone.

The dream is not over. But, like Guy's first-half vision, it has become more blurred.


WALSALL: Ince 8, Palmer 7, Weston 6 (sub Smith, 37, 7), Gerrard 7, Boertien 6, Nicholls 8, Hughes 7, Bradley 6, ZAABOUB 8 (sub Taundry, 81) Deeney 7 (sub Williams, 68), Ricketts 8. Unused subs: Smith, Ibehre.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker 6, Maybury 6, Baldwin 6, REID 7, Tierney 5, Yeates 6, Hammond 6, Izzet 5, Perkins 6 (sub Hackney, 63), Platt 6 (sub Vernon, 63), Guy 6 (sub Gobern, 46, 6). Unused subs: White, Cousins.

Referee: Mr Graham Salisbury 7

Attendance: 3,719

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