Penalty shoot-out agony for U's

JOE Dunne's reign as caretaker manager ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat as Colchester United bowed out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the first hurdle, beaten at Gillingham last night.

Carl Marston

JOE Dunne's reign as caretaker manager ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat as Colchester United bowed out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy at the first hurdle, beaten at Gillingham last night.

With the new manager-in-waiting, Aidy Boothroyd, watching the action alongside owner and chairman Robbie Cowling in the directors' box, the U's battled back to earn a 1-1 draw over the 90 minutes. But they were undone 4-3 in the shoot-out.

Scott Vernon, Anthony Wordsworth and Matt Lockwood all converted their spot kicks, but David Fox saw his penalty saved by keeper Alan Julian, and David Perkins scooped the U's fifth effort over the bar.

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Adam Miller had hit the bar with the Gills' second penalty, but that was the only one that they missed. Burly striker Mark McCammon rifled the deciding penalty into the roof of the net.

Earlier, substitute Simeon Jackson's 77th minute penalty had looked as though it would be enough to see the Gills through to round two in normal time.

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Defender John White, back in the U's side after a one-month loan spell at Southend United, was the guilty party. He clipped the heels of winger Andy Barcham inside the penalty area, and referee Dean Whitestone had no hesitation in pointing to the spot. Up stepped Jackson to blast the penalty past Cousins.

The U's appeared to be heading out of the competition without a whimper, until Clive Platt poached an equaliser with just six minutes remaining.

Wordsworth delivered a cross from the left flank, and although Vernon's initial header was palmed away by keeper Julian, Platt was in the right place to head home the rebound.

It was the big man's third goal of the season, following his brace in the opening day 7-1 win over Norwich. He had recently served a three-match suspension for a red card against Leyton Orient in the Carling Cup.

That forced a penalty shoot-out - there was no extra-time - but the U's could not capitalise and so give Dunne a winning end to his spell as caretaker. The new manager, who is set to be ex-Watford boss Boothroyd, is likely to be unveiled today.

The Gills had suffered a 2-1 defeat in the league game between the two sides at the Community Stadium just a fortnight earlier, and they started the brighter last night with a number of clear-cut chances in the first half.

Winger Luke Rooney cut inside left-back Lockwood and fired in a vicious shot that keeper Cousins did well to clutch to his midriff after just five minutes.

Ironically, the U's first real goal attempt fell to substitute Wordsworth, who had only just replaced the injured Kem Izzet. Midfielder Wordsworth's first touch of the ball was to connect sweetly with a 25-yard free-kick that keeper Julian did well to beat away. Otherwise, though, it was Gillingham who looked the more menacing in front of goal.

Miller had missed several opportunities to net an equaliser in the league fixture last month, and he again failed to hit the target with a slick header that whistled a few inches over the bar from a 38th minute corner.

Three minutes later and Danny Jackman's long-range free-kick, which had been intended as a cross, almost bounced into the top corner of the net without a team-mate getting a touch. However, the agile Cousins came to the rescue with a last gasp block.

The U's made one change at half-time, with Perkins replacing Simon Hackney. Midfielder Perkins had asked for a transfer last week, but no other club came in for him with a serious bid before yesterday afternoon's transfer deadline.

The visitors enjoyed more possession in the second period, but they appeared to be heading for defeat in normal time when White brought down Barcham in the box, so enabling Jackson to score from the penalty spot with just 13 minutes remaining.

However, Platt's late header ensured a penalty shoot-out, although both sides did have chances to steal a winner - Matt Heath headed agonisingly wide from Fox's free-kick, while at the other end, Gills substitute Curtis Weston squandered a one-on-one situation when pulling a shot wide with just Cousins to beat.


GILLINGHAM: Julian 7, Fuller 6, Richards 7, Gowling 7, Palmer 6, Rooney 7 (sub Weston, 67), Miller 7, Jackman 7 (sub Maher, 67), BARCHAM 8, Erskine 6 (sub Jackson, 67), McCammon 6. Unused subs: Bentey, Royce.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 8, White 6, Heath 7, Okuonghae 7, Lockwood 6, Vincent 6 (sub Thomas, 77), Izzet 6 (sub WORDSWORTH 21, 8), Fox 6, Hackney 6 (sub Perkins 46, 7), Vernon 7, Platt 7. Unused subs: Maybury, Williams.

Referee: Mr Dean Whitestone (Northamptonshire) 7.

Attendance: 1,725.

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