New U's make their mark
TWELVE months ago, almost to the day, Jamie Cureton celebrated a hat-trick for his new club Colchester United in a 3-1 win at Heybridge Swifts.The result was almost the same, following another repeat pre-season friendly on Saturday, although obviously there was no Cureton clutching onto a match-ball at Scraley Road.
By Carl Marston
TWELVE months ago, almost to the day, Jamie Cureton celebrated a hat-trick for his new club Colchester United in a 3-1 win at Heybridge Swifts.
The result was almost the same, following another repeat pre-season friendly on Saturday, although obviously there was no Cureton clutching onto a match-ball at Scraley Road.
A year is indeed a long time in football, and the U's team that lines up for the start of the 2007-08 campaign, their second in the Championship, will be very different to the one that secured an impressive 10th spot.
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That is not to say that the current squad cannot match the achievements of their predecessors.
Cureton is now enjoying pre-season back at his old club Norwich City, while Richard Garcia, Chris Iwelumo, Chris Barker and Wayne Brown have all moved on.
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But the clutch of summer signings and triallists on show at Heybridge suggest that the good times might not be over.
The two triallists, striker Kevin Lisbie and Hungarian defender Bela Balogh, both impressed, while new signings Luke Guttridge and Clive Platt were both on the score-sheet.
Winger Mark Yeates, recruited from Tottenham, missed out due to a thigh strain, but the new defensive duo of Danny Granville and Matthew Connolly both had runs-outs in the second half, at left-back and centre-half respectively.
Former Charlton front-runner Lisbie, who was released by the Addicks this summer, wasted no time in making an impression. The 28-year-old burst onto Kevin McLeod's exquisite through ball and drilled in an angled shot that was blocked inside the six-yard box.
The U's next attack, on seven minutes, yielded an opening goal with Lisbie the lethal marksman. Fellow triallist Balogh took a free-kick quickly, following a foul on summer recruit Platt, and Lisbie controlled before turning to fire home a shot into the far corner of the net.
Heybridge threatened just once in the first-half. Dean Gerken, sporting the U's No. 1 jersey for the first time (he has previously worn the No. 13 shirt), showed good reactions to block Stafford Browne's effort at point- blank range.
Otherwise, it was the visitors in the ascendancy. They doubled their lead in the 11th minute, thanks to a smart finish from new signing Guttridge, who had been involved in the build-up as well.
Guttridge latched onto Medi Elito's cushioned header and slid the ball forward for the onrushing Platt. The former MK Dons striker could not beat keeper Stephen Northwood but Guttridge was on hand to stab home the rebound into an empty net.
Platt grabbed a deserved goal of his own on 34 minutes. The big man met McLeod's teasing cross with a downward header that Northwood managed to block but the Swifts keeper could not prevent Platt from nodding home at the second attempt.
The U's could have scored more than their three goals in the first period, particularly as midfielder Johnnie Jackson was unlucky with a couple of long-range firecrackers.
The second of these was a thunderous 20-yard volley, from Guttridge's 39th minute corner, that was destined for the net until ricocheting off a defender's boot.
The visitors fielded a completely different team for the second-half. It was not quite so experienced, including a quartet of teenagers in Thomas Devaux, Jeremiah Olysanya, Tom Webb and Anthony Wordsworth.
As a result, it was a far more even affair, although Jamie Guy twice came close to scoring within minutes of the restart.
Guy will be looking to establish himself in the Championship this term, after being mainly employed as a substitute last season, and he flashed one header wide and had a shot well blocked by substitute keeper Ollie Sanders' legs.
Webb, a prolific marksman for the youth team, was also denied by a good save on 65 minutes, after which the game rather drifted. But a crowd of nearly 1,000 had been entertained, even without the presence of U's star signing, Teddy Sheringham, who was sidelined by a calf injury.
It's still very, very early days, but the start has been encouraging.
Heybridge: Northwood, Pond, Barker, Shinn, Townrow, Brown, Reddaway, King, Taylor, Gabriel, Browne. Subs: Sanders, Defoe, Goodwin, Wake, Gillespie, Shepherd, Tenkerong, Passfield.
Colchester (First half): Gerken, White, Baldwin, Balogh, Elokobi, Elito, Guttridge, Jackson, McLeod, Lisbie, Platt. (Second half): Davison, Duguid, Connolly, Devaux, Granville, Olysanya, Izzet, Watson, Wordsworth, Webb, Guy.
Referee: Mr Michael Bull.