Platt's late equaliser richly deserved

THERE was no hint of daylight robbery surrounding Clive Platt's last-ditch equaliser at Sheffield United on Saturday. In fact, justice was done.Not for the first time in recent seasons, and certainly not for the last, the U's overcame a series of hurdles to upset the “big boys,” who were fronted by £6m worth of talent in the shape of James Beattie and Billy Sharp.

By Carl Marston

THERE was no hint of daylight robbery surrounding Clive Platt's last-ditch equaliser at Sheffield United on Saturday. In fact, justice was done.

Not for the first time in recent seasons, and certainly not for the last, the U's overcame a series of hurdles to upset the “big boys,” who were fronted by £6m worth of talent in the shape of James Beattie and Billy Sharp.

The Bramall Lane faithful expected a glorious start to life back in the Championship, following the bitter taste of last season's controversial relegation. Colchester at home was the perfect fixture - or so they thought!

After more than an hour of dour stalemate, which suited the visitors just fine, up popped record signing Beattie with the opening goal. The ex-England and Everton striker headed home Keith Gillespie's exquisite cross on 67 minutes.

The Blades' relief was immense; but their joy was short-lived. To be precise, their celebrations lasted for exactly 43 seconds. That's how long it took for Colchester to advance down the other end of the pitch and plunder a shock equaliser.

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Three of the new boys were involved, including the new-look strike force of Platt and Sheringham, but it was fellow summer recruit Mark Yeates who did the damage with some tricky wing-play and a glorious cross along the face of goal.

Kevin McLeod could not believe his luck as he gleefully tucked home the equaliser into an unguarded net, from a matter of a few feet out. Like Beattie, winger McLeod used to play for Everton, This was his fourth goal in a U's shirt, following his move from Swansea a year ago.

The Blades had to start all over again, and Bryan Robson's men must have felt that the expected home win was in the bag when substitute Michael Tonge regained the lead with just eight minutes remaining.

Platt couldn't fully clear Gillespie's corner and Tonge, who had only been on the pitch for 16 minutes, rifled home the loose ball through a sea of legs.

The U's had conceded a similar late goal at Birmingham in their 2-1 defeat on the opening day of last season (Nicklas Bendtner's 78th-minute winner), and history looked like repeating itself.

Then up popped wonder boy Platt with his last-gasp equaliser. Skipper Karl Duguid whipped over a delightful cross for a 6ft 4ins Platt to head emphatically past keeper Paddy Kenny.

It was a combination of the old and the new. Duguid was celebrating his 400th appearance in a Colchester shirt, while Platt marked his U's debut with the key goal, having arrived at Layer Road from MK Dons for a club record £300,000 just over a month ago.This mix of old boys and new recruits worked well. Four of Williams' eight summer signings were in the starting line-up, and all made a favourable impression.

Centre-half Matthew Connolly, on a season-long loan from Arsenal, produced a performance beyond his tender years. The 19-year-old was excellent on his Championship debut, especially as he had to shadow the experienced Beattie.

Platt grabbed the headlines, but Sheringham confounded everyone by playing the full 90 minutes. The ex-England star was only in the team because of injuries to Kevin Lisbie and Jamie Guy, and had himself only played 20 minutes in pre-season due to a calf strain.

Sheringham not only lasted the course, but also had a hand in both goals. His presence on the pitch gave a huge lift to the U's team, and kept the Blades on edge.

The fourth summer signing, winger Yeates, was the best attacking player on the pitch. The Dubliner gave the U's momentum, and deserved to be named man-of-the-match.

Manager Williams was reluctant to pick out individuals for special praise in his post-match analysis, and who could blame him?

This was another victory for team spirit, and team cohesion.

Furthermore, while Robson had players of the calibre of Tonge and Jon Stead to call on, Williams had no attacking options on the bench. He was down to the bare bones, with first year professional Anthony Wordsworth enjoying his first experience of senior football as an unused substitute.

Of course this is only one game, but it took Colchester until the fifth fixture to secure their first Championship point last term. They are already off the mark, and have already clipped the wings of one of the promotion candidates.

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