Own goal by Brian Wilson condemns Colchester United to defeat
MATCH REPORT: Colchester United 1 Preston North End 2
An own goal by skipper Brian Wilson condemned Colchester United to a home defeat at the hands of high-flying Preston this afternoon.
Earlier, Jabo Ibehre had been both the villain and the hero for the U’s, slamming home a second-half equaliser after missing a first-half penalty.
Preston took the lead in the 29th minute, via centre-half Tom Clarke’s close-range header from a corner.
The U’s should have been level just three minutes later, only for Ibehre’s powder-puff penalty to be easily saved by keeper Declan Rudd.
However, Ibehre made amends by firing home the equaliser in the 54th minute. Ibehre’s first effort was charged down, but he buried the rebound with a pinpoint shot into the far corner of the net from 10 yards out.
But Preston were not to be denied. Humphrey’s cross-cum-shot flew into the net, off Wilson, after Sam Walker had parried it, with just nine minutes remaining, although the U’s felt that there was a clear offside in the build up to the goal.
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The win strengthened Preston’s promotion credentials, while keeping the U’s in the lower reaches of the table.
The U’s showed two changes to the side that held Swindon to a goalless draw last Friday week. Ibehre returned after illness, in place of Clinton Morrison, while Gavin Massey came in for the suspended Sanchez Watt down the flank.
The U’s started brightly and Dominic Vose screwed a long-range shot wide of target on two minutes, before Tom Eastman had a shot blocked from Brian Wilson’s fourth minute free-kick.
But Joe Dunne’s men were saved by the woodwork in the seventh minute. In-form striker Joe Garner, with 17 goals to his name already this season, struck the bar with a thunderous header from Chris Humphrey’s teasing cross.
Garner’s fellow front-man Craig Davies also went close in the 14th minute. He capped a strong run with a ferocious 20-yarder that flew only a foot over the bar.
The Lilywhites always looked dangerous from corners, and it was from one such delivery that they broke the deadlock just before the half-hour mark, thanks to Clarke’s deadly headed finish.
It was soon a double blow for the U’s, because Ibehre failed to convert a 32nd minute penalty, which would have seen the hosts level within three minutes.
Ibehre’s rather weak spot kick was too close to keeper Declan Rudd, who saved with ease – it was Rudd himself who had conceded the penalty, for a foul on Marcus Bean, with the midfielder trying to sweep home Magnus Okuonghae’s half-blocked shot.
Not surprisingly, Ibehre’s penalty miss rather took the wind out of the U’s sails for the rest of the first half.
Into the second period and skipper Wilson blazed a speculative long-range shot over the bar on 47 minutes, as the U’s searched for an equaliser.
The warning bells were sounding again when Ryan Dickson conceded an unnecessary corner in the 52nd minute. This time, however, Preston’s dominance in the air ended with Garner heading over the top.
Two minutes later and United grabbed the equaliser, courtesy of Ibehre’s slick finish for his seventh goal of the season. His angled drive flew like a bullet into the far corner of the net.
Preston, eager to regain their lead, went close just after the hour mark, following another corner, which was only half-cleared. Keith Keane’s thunderous shot ballooned narrowly over the top.
Only the brilliance of Walker prevented the visitors from going 2-1 up in the 74 minute. The ex-Chelsea man blocked Garner’s goal-bound header at point blank range.
At the other end, substitute Freddie Sears set up Ibehre with a strong run and precise cross. But the big man chose not to hit it first time, and was robbed before he could register a shot from just outside the six-yard box.
The U’s looked to be heading for a point, until Humphrey’s half-blocked cross-cum-shot – Walker saved it – flew into the net off the unfortunate Wilson, for an 81st minute own goal.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Dickson, D Wright, Bean, Eastmond (sub Sears, 69), Vose, Ibehre, Massey (sub Morrison, 87). Unused subs: Cousins, Sanderson, Gilbey, Olufemi, Sesay.
PRESTON: Rudd, Humphrey, Clarke, B Wright, Laird, Gallagher, Keane, Kilkenny (sub Brownhill, 76), King, C Davies (sub K Davies, 76), Garner (sub Beavon, 84). Unused subs: Stuckman, Holmes, Buchanan, Hume.
Referee: David Phillips (West Sussex)