New boss, old trick

IF a club appointed a new manager every week, then they'd probably wrap up promotion by Christmas!

Carl Marston

Colchester soccer report

Stockport County 1 Colchester United 2

By Carl Marston

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IF a club appointed a new manager every week, then they'd probably wrap up promotion by Christmas!

A bit extreme, perhaps, but more often than not a new manager prompts a huge effort from his new team, which usually leads to a winning start.

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In recent years, former U's managers like Mick Wadsworth, Steve Whitton and Phil Parkinson all recorded victories on their first day in charge, though all of these were achieved on home turf.

New boss Paul Lambert did it the hard way, by marking his first game with a fantastic 2-1 win at Stockport County, who had risen to 10th in the table on the back of a six-game unbeaten league run.

Lambert's predecessor, Geraint Williams, did not enjoy such good fortune on his first day - a demanding trip to Championship title favourites Birmingham City yielded a 2-1 defeat on the opening day of the 2006-07 campaign.

Ironically, however, Williams' first game as U's caretaker manager was at Stockport back in 2003, when an 88th minute goal from Joe Keith secured a creditable 1-1 draw.

On Saturday it was another late goal at County that helped another new face, though this time Clive Platt's 87th minute goal earned all three points, rather than just one.

Target man Platt, who used to play just down the road at Rochdale, chose the perfect time to double his goal-tally for the campaign. The excellent Mark Yeates nudged on David Perkins' lay-off, and Platt steered the ball beyond the reach of keeper Fraser Forster with his back to goal from 10 yards out.

A head injury to rival striker Matty McNeil, early in the second-half, and some lengthy treatment on the pitch had guaranteed a big chunk of injury-time, but the U's comfortably protected their lead during the six minutes of added-on time.

Lambert's first game in charge therefore ended in triumph. This third away league win of the season propelled the U's out of the relegation zone, and into 18th spot, not a bad start for the ambitious Scotsman. In fact, it was the Essex club's sixth away league and cup success of the campaign, an impressive record.

It's only been their dreadful home form that has pegged them back, and Lambert will be aiming to put that straight when third-placed Millwall visit the Community Stadium tomorrow night.

The much-maligned Wadsworth, who had a short seven-month stay on the U's hot seat in 1999, actually began his reign with a goal after just 17 seconds - full-back Simon Betts rifled home a 30-yarder in a 2-1 win over York.

The new Lambert era almost eclipsed that great start. Steven Gillespie, back in the side after a sore hamstring, was presented with a gilt-edged chance after just 10 seconds, but he dragged his shot wide of target.

But it didn't take long for Colchester to steal the initiative. Perkins had already nicked the ball off team-mate Yeates to slice a shot wide on 19 minutes, but he made amends just a minute later.

Predictably, the lively Yeates had a hand in the goal. The Dubliner delivered a cross into the box for Platt to control and then sweep across the face of goal, where a deadly Perkins tucked home a half-volley for his third goal of the season.

Like Platt, midfielder Perkins used to play at nearby rivals Rochdale. Furthermore, the 26-year-old nearly signed for Stockport over the summer, before eventually opting for the U's instead.

County equalised in the 42nd minute, when the powerfully-built McNeil nodded home Leon McSweeney's excellent deep cross from the right flank.

Home manager Jim Gannon was then unhappy with Paul Reid's challenge that saw McNeil leave the pitch on a stretcher early in the second-half. Reid was one of four U's players to be booked in what was a very committed performance from the visitors.

Stockport bossed possession throughout the second period, but rarely threatened the U's goal, except for McSweeney's rising shot on 82 minutes that Dean Gerken managed to finger-tip over his bar.

United, though, did have genuine appeals of a legitimate goal shortly after the break - Platt's effort, following a header by Gillespie, seemed to cross the goal-line before keeper Forster cleaned up.

But there was no doubt about Platt's winner. Life is already looking brighter under Lambert.


STOCKPORT COUNTY: Forster 7, MCSWEENEY 8, McNulty 7, Fojut 6, Rowe 7, Baker 6, Dicker 7 (sub Johnson, 89), Raynes 6 (sub Turnbull, 29, 7), Gleeson 7, Thompson 6, McNeil 7 (sub Pilkington, 53). Unused subs: Kane, fon Williams.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, White 7, Baldwin 7, Reid 6, Jackson 8, Wordsworth 6 (sub Izzet, 65), Hammond 7, Perkins 7, Yeates 7, PLATT 8, Gillespie 7 (sub Wasiu, 73) Unused subs: Heath, Vernon, Cousins.

Referee: Mr D Deadman (Cambridgeshire) 6

Attendance: 6,025

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