Lights go out for the U's

Colchester United 1 Hull City 3 REFEREE Pat Miller was the villain of the piece, at least in the eyes of Colchester United, as their last-ever midweek game at Layer Road ended in bitter disappointment tonight.

Carl Marston

Colchester United 1 Hull City 3

REFEREE Pat Miller was the villain of the piece, at least in the eyes of Colchester United, as their last-ever midweek game at Layer Road ended in bitter disappointment tonight.

Hull City bolstered their play-off hopes with a precious three points, but they were given a helping hand by Mr Miller, who sent off U's right-back Phil Ifill after just 14 minutes in controversial fashion.

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Ifil was flashed the red card for his challenge on Fraizer Campbell as the two collided just outside the U's box. Ifill was not the last man, so it could not have been deemed a professional foul.

Instead, the ex-Tottenham defender was given his marching orders for violent conduct, which looked very harsh, although City boss Phil Brown later insisted that Ifil's challenge had been “malicious”.

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Hull took full advantage of their numerical advantage, and ironically it was a razor-sharp Campbell who struck twice to put Hull in the driving seat on 20 and 33 minutes.

Although having to play 76 minutes with just 10 men, the U's made a real fight of it and they pulled a goal back in the 37th minute, thanks to Kevin Lisbie's deadly finish from Johnnie Jackson's excellent build-up play.

The U's found it difficult to create further chances in the second-half, and Hull made the game safe with a third through substitute Caleb Folan with just two minutes remaining.

This latest defeat has seemingly rammed a final nail in the U's relegation coffin, on what was their last midweek game under lights at Layer Road - their last three home games of the campaign are on a Saturday, before their move to a new ground at Cuckoo Farm next season.

U's boss Williams handed a full debut to teenager Anthony Wordsworth, who had made his first senior appearance as an 88th minute substitute against Cardiff on Saturday.

The inclusion of midfielder Wordsworth was the only change from the 1-1 draw against Cardiff. Fellow teenager Medy Elito was on the bench, having enjoyed his first start over the weekend.

Play-off chasing Hull included ex-U's attacker Richard Garcia in their line-up, although injuries ruled out fellow former Colchester favourites Wayne Brown and Craig Fagan.

After a nondescript first 10 minutes, Tigers danger-man Campbell was in the spotlight following a number of incidents that included Ifil's dismissal.

Adam Virgo was rightly booked for chopping down Campbell in the 12th minute, but there was far more controversy surrounding the foul on Hull's striker that led to Ifil's red card just two minutes later.

Down to 10 men so early in the game, it was always going to be a tall order for the bottom club. And so it proved.

Gerken denied the visitors with an excellent reflex save in the 19th minute. Ian Ashbee's header, from the game's first corner, was superbly parried by Gerken at point-blank range, and the same player then scooped the rebound over the bar from just six yard out.

But Gerken was powerless to prevent Hull from taking the lead just a minute later. Campbell's first effort was blocked, but Gerken was lying on the deck as the Manchester United loanee bundled home the rebound.

And Campbell was celebrating his second goal in the 33rd minute to put the Tigers well and truly in the driving seat. It was a quality finish.

An on-fire Campbell scampered onto Henrik Pedersen's delightful through ball and showed terrific composure to guide his shot beyond Gerken, who was rooted to the spot.

The visitors should have been 3-0 and out of sight when Pederson ballooned a free header wide from Sam Ricketts' pinpoint cross.

And the complexion of the game then changed as Lisbie bagged his 14th goal of the campaign, with what was the U's first goal attempt of the night on 37 minutes.

It was Johnnie Jackson's never-say die approach that resulted in the goal. Jackson burst into the box, and although he initially lost the ball, he pressurized the defender into making a mistake and so regained possession.

Jackson eventually squared into the path of Lisbie, who still had much to do. The ex-Charlton striker cut inside before finding the far corner of the net with a clinical low drive from just inside the box.

The U's were desperately close to netting an equaliser on two counts during first-half stoppage time. Matt Heath's goal-bound header, from the U's first corner of the evening, was beaten away for another corner.

And from Jackson's second set piece, Clive Platt's header was close to crossing the line when keeper Boaz Myhill somehow managed to scramble to safety. Several U's players seemed convinced that the ball had already crossed the line.

Not surprisingly, referee Mr Miller was given a hot reception by the Layer Road faithful when he walked off the pitch at half-time.

The U's, despite their numerical disadvantage, were on top at the start of the second-half and Myhill had to stretch to his right to prevent Platt's angled shot from sneaking in.

At the other end, a combination of Gerken and the woodwork denied Hull a third goal in the 55th minute. Centre-half Michael Turner's firm header, from a corner, was finger-tipped onto a post by Gerken.

Two minutes later and Gerken came to his side's rescue again. The U's keeper did well to block Pedersen's ferocious low drive, and then recovered in time to smoother the follow-up effort from Ashbee. They were two top-class saves.

United were pushed further and further back as the game wore on, so Williams chose to introduce fresh legs by using all of his three substitutes early.

Hull threatened from a corner on 70 minutes. Gerken completely missed his punch, but City could not force the ball home and Dean Hammond gratefully hacked to safety.

One of the U's substitutes, Kem Izzet, was booked for clipping the heels of Dean Marney as Hull broke menacingly in the 79th minute. However, Gerken was equal to Andy Dawson's curling 20-yarder from the ensuing free-kick.

But the visitors ended the game in storming fashion. Garcia cut in from the right flank and tried his luck with a shot from the tightest of angles that Gerken managed to divert away.

However, Gerken was beaten for a third time on 87 minutes. Substitute Folan ran through on goal, following a slip by Heath, and he rounded the U's keeper to slot into an unguarded net.

There was still time for Garcia to rattle the bar with a cracking long-range effort as Hull eased to three vital points in their quest for promotion.

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