Parky: Crucial decision went against us

COLCHESTER United suffered a narrow defeat at Swansea City last night, but they still harbour genuine hopes of overturning the 1-0 deficit and so earning their first-ever trip to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United suffered a narrow defeat at Swansea City last night, but they still harbour genuine hopes of overturning the 1-0 deficit and so earning their first-ever trip to Cardiff's Millennium Stadium.

Swans burly striker Adebayo Akinfenwa grabbed the only goal of the game in the 40th minute of last night's LDV Vans Trophy southern area final first leg tie.

But United comfortably kept the Welshmen at bay during the second period, and will fancy their chances of making home advantage count in the second leg at Layer Road next Tuesday evening.

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Phil Parkinson's men are going through a lean spell, that has yielded no wins and just one goal in their last six matches - and that was an own goal by Ricardo Carvalho in the 3-1 FA Cup defeat at Chelsea.

But last night's performance was an improvement on recent displays, and they can count themselves unlucky that Chris Iwelumo's first-half headed goal was ruled out for offside. That looked a marginal decision.

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Parkinson said: “This result sets it up nicely for the second leg. I felt on the balance of play that we were unlucky to lose.

“I thought the linesman got the game's big decision wrong, with the offside against Chris (Iwelumo). That decision cost us.

“Things are not quite going for us at present, but tonight was definitely a step in the right direction.”

The U's boss was unhappy with the reaction of a few Colchester fans, who threw abuse at the players as they came over to applaud the visiting supporters after the final whistle.

Parkinson added: “It was only a minority, but I urge all our fans to get behind us. We need them to help us through this difficult spell.

“The majority of fans have been fantastic for us this season. Hopefully, they will look at the bigger picture and realise what we have already achieved. We are on the verge of having the best season in the club's history,” confirmed Parkinson.

Swansea manager Kenny Jackett said: “I thought we limited Colchester to only limited chances. It was our best defensive display for three months.”

U's boss Parkinson made five changes to the side that suffered a heavy 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Essex rivals and League One leaders Southend on Saturday.

Greg Halford had made the long trip to South Wales, but he was feeling unwell during the journey westwards and so took no part in the game. Dean Gerken, Sam Stockley, George Elokobi, Kevin Watson and Gareth Williams all enjoyed recalls.

The visitors almost created a chance on five minutes. Chris Iwelumo tried to burst on to Richard Garcia's slick through ball, only for keeper Willy Gueret to rush out of his penalty area and hook to safety with an outstretched boot.

Five minutes later and United earned the first corner of the game. Watson floated his cross into the six-yard box, but Gueret was able to catch quite comfortably.

It had been an encouraging start from the U's. Stockley swung over a 15th-minute cross which Iwelumo was close to turning home. The angle was too tight for him to take advantage, and although he managed to pass into the path of Karl Duguid, the U's skipper was robbed before he could shoot. Bustling midfielder Neil Danns earned a free-kick in a promising position in the 19th minute. Williams, in the absence of regular free-kick exponent Halford, curled his 20-yarder over the defensive wall, but into the side-netting.

Gerken did not have to make a real contribution until the 22nd minute. The U's keeper was quickly off his line to punch away under pressure from danger-man Lee Trundle.

At the other end, Iwelumo created space for himself before dragging his final shot wide of target, and left-back Elokobi then cracked an optimistic 30-yarder narrowly over the bar. That was a good effort from the Cameroon-born teenager.

The U's had a goal ruled out for offside in the 34th minute. Iwelumo dived forwards to head Duguid's accurate cross into the net, only for the assistant referee to raise his flag for offside against the big Scotsman.

Gerken pulled off a good save to claw away Akinfenwa's goalbound header, but he was powerless to prevent the same player from drilling the Swans in front in the 40th minute.

Akinfenwa latched on to Kevin McLeod's flick-on and turned just inside the U's penalty area. The Nigerian wrong-footed Gerken with a low shot that rolled in at the near post, so chalking up his 11th goal of the season.

Heartened by this opening goal, the Welshmen began the second-half strongly and Trundle, who was named the Coca-Cola League One Player of the Year last weekend, blazed narrowly over the top in the 47th minute. Trundle has already bagged 20 goals this season.

The U's suffered a setback on the hour mark when Garcia fell awkwardly, while trying to keep the ball in play near the right touch-line. The Australian received treatment on the pitch from physio Stuart Ayles, but eventually limped off, to be replaced by substitute Pat Baldwin.

Regular centre-half Baldwin fitted in at right-back, with Stockley pushing forward to fill the void left by Garcia on the right wing.

Both keepers were forced into smart saves in the 63rd minute. Gerken gobbled up Trundle's low firecracker, down at his near post, while at the other end Gueret managed to beat away Iwelumo's shot from close-in. The U's leading scorer had exploited acres of space, although he could not lift the ball over the Frenchman.

Gerken prevented Swansea from doubling their lead in the 66th minute. Trundle was put clean through, with the U's defence trailing in his wake, but keeper Gerken scampered off his line to save bravely at the feet of the big striker.

A couple of minutes later and a tiring Trundle was replaced by diminutive front-runner Leon Knight, a January purchase from Championship strugglers Brighton.

The chances dried up during the final 20 minutes, with Gerken happy to watch a header from Swans substitute Shaun Macdonald balloon over the bar in the 83rd minute. Shortly afterwards and the same player smashed in a 20-yarder that Gerken clutched to his midriff.

Colchester didn't really pose much of a threat late on, but they will still fancy their chances of overturning this one-goal deficit in the second leg at Layer Road next Tuesday evening.

Colchester United's home match with Hartlepool in Coca-Cola League One has been re-arranged for Tuesday, April 11.

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