More positives than negatives despite defeat

FOOTBALL has a cruel habit of kicking you when you’re down.

Colchester United were deservedly heading for a share of the spoils at Huddersfield on Saturday having played some of their best football of the season.

Losing – like winning – can become a habit though and when the play-off confirmed Terriers earned a free-kick in the fourth and final minute of stoppage time you could see what was coming.

Gary Roberts delivered a wicked inswinging ball and substitute Lee Novak ghosted in to stab home. A joyous pitch invasion ensued and the referee decided to blow his whistle. The goal had literally been the last kick of the game.

Huddersfield, having won five of their previous six games, believed they would score. Colchester, having lost their previous six away games in succession, probably half-expected to concede. It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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The U’s have now claimed just seven points from the last available 39, but there were far more positives than negatives to take from this latest setback.

Knowing that the play-offs were out of his grasp, Colchester manager Aidy Boothroyd experimented with his formation and team selection.

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Fringe players Simon Hackney and David Fox were brought in from the cold to line-up in a new-look 4-5-1 formation. Anthony Wordsworth played in an unfamiliar supporting striker’s role behind lone forward Kevin Lisbie, Hackney and Ian Henderson provided the width, while Fox and Kemi Izzet both played in deep holding roles.

The result was an organised and often entertaining style of football that not only frustrated one of the division’s most in-form and free-scoring sides, but also provided a very real threat on the counter-attack.

After an even opening, Huddersfield took the lead in the 17th minute courtesy of a controversial penalty. The linesman flagged that the ball had hit the outstretched arm of Paul Reid in a crowded box, although the defender appeared to have been pushed. U’s keeper Ben Williams guessed he right way but was still beaten from 12 yards by Theo Robinson.

A bumper home crowd, all provided with special t-shirts and vuvuzela horns, were enjoying the occasion in the knowledge that a play-off place had already been secured. Colchester, undeterred by the party atmosphere and going behind, continued to play the better football.

However, for all the intricate one-touch and triangle passing in the midfield, the U’s are clearly lacking a killer instinct in the final third. That changed with the 69th minute introduction of Kayode Odejayi though, who showed just what might have been had he not been injured for seven matches recently.

The powerful Nigerian was the chief creator of Colchester’s equaliser in the 76th minute when he ran strongly at home skipper Peter Clarke, nutmegged him on the by-line before sliding the ball across the six-yard box for Hackney to score.

The left-winger – who last week admitted he has got his confidence back again following a recent loan spell at League Two side Morecambe – had ran his heart out all game and was clearly desperate to prove to his manager that his future was still at the club. Hackney was substituted with cramp moments after the goal and he received a hearty pat on the back from his delighted boss.

Huddersfield had barely created a chance in the second period, but with the clock ticking they somehow found that dramatic winner.

And with news filtering through to The Galpharm that Leeds and Millwall had both been defeated it means Le Clark’s side still have a slim chance of securing automatic promotion.

Colchester, meanwhile, were left to rue what could have been – not only in this game, but also for the season.

Huddersfield: Alex Smithies 6; Tom Clarke 7, Lee Peltier 6, Neal Trotman 6, Peter Clarke (cpt) 6; Gary Roberts 7, Anthony Pilkington 6 (Nathan Eccleston 81 - 7), Antony Kay 6, Danny Drinkwater 6; Theo Robinson 6 (Lee Novak 59 - 7), Jordan Rhodes 6.

Unused Subs: Simon Eastwood, Nathan Clarke, Krystian Pearce, Robbie Williams, Robbie Simpson.

Booked: P Clarke (20).

Colchester: Ben Williams 6; John White 6, Marc Tierney 6, Magnus Okuonghae (cpt) 7, Paul Reid 6; Ian Henderson 6 (Kayode Odejayi 69 - 7), Simon Hackney 7 (Clive Platt 81 - 6), Kemi Izzet 7, David Fox 6, Anthony Wordsworth 7; Kevin Lisbie 6.

Unused Subs: Mark Cousins, Matt Heath, Thomas Bender, Steven Gillespie, Bradley Hamilton.

Booked: Reid (16), Tierney (83).

U’s Man-of-the-Match: Simon Hackney.

Attendance: 17,950.

Referee: Mr K P Stroud.

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