Praise but no points

PRESTON boss Paul Simpson admitted that Colchester United had given his promotion-chasing side one of their hardest games of the season, following a desperately tight affair at Deepdale last Saturday.

By Carl Marston

PRESTON boss Paul Simpson admitted that Colchester United had given his promotion-chasing side one of their hardest games of the season, following a desperately tight affair at Deepdale last Saturday.

David Nugent slammed home the only goal of the game in the 33rd minute to propel Preston into second spot, and at the same time extend the Lancashire club's excellent unbeaten run on home soil, in a regular campaign, to 31 games.

But the U's made them scrap for everything. Karl Duguid incurred a nasty eye injury while almost breaking the deadlock after only two minutes, and Jamie Cureton failed to bury a close-range header early in the second-half.


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Those were United's best two chances, yet Preston held on grimly to inflict a first defeat in six games on Geraint Williams' brave men.

“Colchester made it very difficult for us. They are a good side who are in form,” confessed a relieved Simpson.

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“We had to roll up our sleeves and really defend. It was a satisfactory result, especially after Colchester had started the game brighter than ourselves.

“It feels good to be back up into second spot, but we were made to fight for this win,” added the Preston boss.

The U's suffered two injures in the first period, to skipper Duguid and striker Chris Iwelumo. Furthermore, centre-half Pat Baldwin finished the match hobbling, not an encouraging sight with back-to-back home games against Luton and Wolves over the next five days.

Duguid was making his 329th league appearance, which was notable in that it pushed the U's stalwart into the top 10 of all-time appearance makers, at the expense of Brian Hall.

But his influence on Saturday's game only lasted for two minutes. The 28-year-old stretched to get on the end of Richard Garcia's fierce drive across the box. He stabbed the ball goalwards, only for keeper Carlo Nash to pull off an instinctive save and then clatter into the U's winger.

Duguid was left with double vision and a swollen left eye - it all added up to a fruitless and rather painful 500-mile round trip for the U's loyal servant.

Iwelumo failed to appear for the second-half, due to a sore knee, by which time Nugent had already cracked home his sixth goal of the season to effectively secure Preston's ninth win from 13 home starts this season. The 21-year-old beat Dean Gerken from 10 yards out with a clinical strike, although defender Wayne Brown seemed to be impeded in the lead-up to the goal.

United nearly forced an equaliser in the 51st minute. Garcia whipped over a pinpoint cross from the right flank, only for leading scorer Cureton to connect with a tame header from six yards out. Nash gratefully scooped up.

It was a warning for Preston, who had to dig deep to keep the U's at bay during the last quarter of the game.

Colchester boss Williams insisted: “We are a bit disappointed because I felt that we controlled large parts of the game. I thought it was a good performance.

“I just asked for more of the same from my team at half-time. Possession-wise, we did well, and it's always frustrating to lose by the only goal.

“We picked up three injuries (Duguid, Iwelumo and Baldwin) and a defeat, so it hasn't been the best day.

“But we can now look forward to two home games,” concluded Williams.

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