Parky delivers a hammer blow

COLCHESTER United slipped to their fifth consecutive away defeat as former boss Phil Parkinson dealt their play-off ambitions a hammer blow last night.

Nicky Forster’s 21st-minute header proved the difference between the sides as Parkinson masterminded his first victory over the U’s since controversially deserting the club in 2006.

In a nightmare evening for the Essex side, former Charlton man Kevin Lisbie was shown a straight red card late on for an alleged headbutt, John-Joe O’Toole went off with a suspected leg fracture, while managers Aidy Boothroyd and Parkinson went nose-to-nose in a heated exchange.

To make matters worse for the U’s, Huddersfield somehow pulled off a dramatic 4-3 win against Walsall with two goals in added time to leave Colchester three points adrift of the top six.

U’s boss Aidy Boothroyd spoke about the need to keep a settled team last week so it came as some surprise that he made two changes to his starting line-up following Saturday’s 3-0 morale-boosting win over Swindon.

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The previously out-of-favour John-Joe O’Toole came in for the suspended Anthony Wordsworth at left-midfield, while target-man Clive Platt was replaced with the pace of Steven Gillespie.

Boothroyd managed to gain an advantage against Southampton with a similar tactic at the end of December and, with Charlton no doubt expecting a physical battle, the U’s boss was once again hoping to catch his opposite number out.

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Colchester started the quicker of the two sides and they had a goal disallowed in the third minute. Kevin Lisbie’s shot from the edge of the box was parried to the feet of the on-rushing Gillespie, but the flag was correctly raised as he tapped home the loose ball.

O’Toole – a surprise inclusion instead of Ian Henderson – looked to have injured himself during the warm-up when he received extensive treatment from physio Tony Flynn on the field. That problem looked to come back to haunt him in the 21st minute of the game when Charlton broke the deadlock.

Tricky winger Lloyd Sam twisted and turned down the right leaving a dazzled O’Toole in a heap on the floor. That left the Charlton man open to whip in a fine cross to the back post where Nicky Forster headed home emphatically.

O’Toole stayed down injured throughout the move and, after a few minutes of treatment, was eventually stretchered off. The Irishman was replaced by Platt and Lisbie switched to an unfamiliar left-wing role.

With less than a quarter of the game gone, Boothroyd’s initial game plan had gone out of the window.

The game rather died out after the goal, the crowd only being given something to get excited about in first half stoppage time. First, David Prutton’s fine chest down and volley went just wide from the edge of the box, while at the other end Sam’s looping header was cleared by the alert Danny Batth.

Colchester started the second period playing some fluid passing football. The U’s only had two corners to show for their spell of superior possession, though.

In contrast, Charlton created very little of their own going forward and looked happy enough to defend their narrow lead while seeking a killer second on the counter.

The longer the second half went on the more Colchester, who gave a string of soft fouls away all evening, got frustrated.

With 25 minutes to go Boothroyd made a double substitution, bringing on Ian Henderson and David Fox for Gillespie and Izzet.

The changes did breathe some life into the U’s who pushed hard for an equaliser in the final five minutes.

Colchester were convinced they should have had a penalty for handball when Fox’s shot from outside the box went into a crowd of players,

But the U’s couldn’t find a way through and their misery was compounded when Lisbie – who spent 12 years at The Valley – was shown a straight red for an alleged headbutt after a clash with Charlton skipper Nicky Bailey.

And in the closing stages the two managers clashed on the touchline in a heated exchange after Parkinson had raced down the line in an attempt to get John White sent off too.

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