League One beckons for U's after loss

Crystal Palace 2 Colchester United 1By Carl MarstonCOLCHESTER United's plight at the foot of the Championship table deepened with a fourth straight defeat, the latest at the hands of Crystal Palace.

Crystal Palace 2 Colchester United 1

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's plight at the foot of the Championship table deepened with a fourth straight defeat, the latest at the hands of Crystal Palace.

Ben Watson's cleanly struck volley on 74 minutes was enough to kill off the U's at Selhurst Park, so leaving Geraint Williams' men staring relegation full in the face.

Kevin Lisbie had given the visitors hope with a quickfire equaliser midway through the first half, to rattle up his 12th goal of the season.

But in the end Lisbie's effort was to prove fruitless. The U's have now gathered just one point from a possible 15 in their last five matches.

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They had initially done well to recover from the blow of conceding an own goal after 20 minutes, when Phil Ifil inadvertently diverted Danny Butterfield's cross into his own net from close-in. It was Ifil's second own goal in just four days, because he had also netted Plymouth's opener at Home Park.

Lisbie ensured that Palace's lead only lasted for three minutes. The U's in-form striker burst onto Clive Platt's pass and beat the advancing Julian Speroni with a calm finish.

But Colchester were disappointing after the break, and Watson's clinical strike from a cross by substitute Ashley Robinson was to prove crucial.

League One football is therefore looking more and more likely for next season.

Palace took the lead in the 20th minute, with the unfortunate IFIL scoring his second own goal inside four days.

Danny Butterfield did well to keep the ball in play, on the right flank, and he whipped over a menacing cross that both Coyne and Ifil tried to intercept, while under pressure from Scowcroft. Coyne dived forward but did not get a touch, and the ball appeared to ricochet into the net off Ifil's trailing leg.

Ex-Tottenham man Ifil had also scored an own goal in the 4-1 defeat at Plymouth on Tuesday night, so it had not been a happy week for the U's right-back.

But it took Colchester took just three minutes to fashion an equaliser, thanks to LISBIE'S 12th goal of the season.

Clive Platt benefited from a defensive mistake, sliding the ball through for the onrushing Lisbie. The U's front runner kept his cool, advancing beyond the Eagles defence before slotting home a low shot past stranded keeper Speroni from 10 yards out.

Only the woodwork prevented Crystal Palace from regaining the lead in the 32nd minute. Midfielder Ben Watson let fly with a 25-yard free-kick that crashed back off the bar and dropped to safety.

Palace came close again in the 43rd minute. Butterfield had been a big danger down the right flank, and the full-back whipped over another deep cross which Morrison nearly squeezed home. His header grazed the far post and rolled behind for a goal-kick.

Gerken came to his side's rescue in the third minute of injury-time. Watson again threatened from a set piece, with Morrison getting a faint header to the midfielder's cross-cum-shot. It needed a last gasp save by Gerken to divert the 20-yarder around his post.

The hosts had a goal ruled out for offside in the 66th minute. Virgo initially played three Palace players onside, from Watson's free-kick. Hill's first header was kept out by a sprawling Gerken, and although Morrison was on hand to head home the rebound, the assistant referee had already his flag for offside.

But the home side were ahead in the 74th minute, with WATSON slamming home an unstoppable shot from just outside the six-yard box.

Substitute Robinson drilled over a low cross from the right wing that took a couple of deflections on its way through to Watson. The Palace midfielder gave Gerken no chance with a clinical finish.

The U's thought that they had grabbed an equaliser in the 83rd minute, but Lisbie's effort from close-in was ruled out for offside.

Scott Vernon replaced Platt as an 87th minute substitute, and there were four minutes of stoppage time, but the U's did not threaten again.

Squads

CRYSTAL PALACE: Speroni 7, Lawrence 7, Hill 7, BUTTERFIELD 8, Hills 7 (sub Fonte, 79), Scowcroft 8, Soares 7, B Watson 8, Derry 6 (sub Robinson, 63), Morrison 7, Moses 7 (sub Scannell, 84). Unused subs: Fletcher, Hughes.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 6, Ifil 7, Coyne 6, Virgo 7, White 6, Duguid 6, Izzet 6 (sub Elito, 76), Hammond 7, Jackson 6, Platt 6 (sub Vernon, 87), LISBIE 8. Unused subs: K Watson, Balogh, Bankole.

Attendance: 13,895

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