Record crowd sees U's slip

Colchester United 0 Leeds United 1ARGENTINE striker Luciano Becchio extended Leeds United's terrific recent run, in front of a record crowd at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this afternoon.

Carl Marston

Colchester United 0 Leeds United 1

ARGENTINE striker Luciano Becchio extended Leeds United's terrific recent run, in front of a record crowd at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this afternoon.

A crowd of 9,559 eclipsed the previous best for a U's home game by nearly one thousand (8,651 for the Southend game), but the hosts could not match this big occasion with a vintage performance.

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Becchio swooped with what proved to be the winner in the 29th minute. He was given far too much time and space to crash home a shot, from just inside the penalty area, past an exposed Mark Cousins.

It stretched Leeds' unbeaten run to nine games - seven victories and two defeats - and strengthened their promotion surge.

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Mark Yeates squandered the best chance of the U's, just before Becchio's strike, but he could not beat keeper Casper Ankergren on a one-on-one situation.

Otherwise, Paul Lambert's men struggled to create too many scoring opportunities. Their main target now seems to be a top 10 finish, with five games remaining.

U's boss Lambert selected an unchanged side from Tuesday night's excellent 1-0 win at third-placed Millwall, although new recruit Ashley Vincent was named on the bench for the first time since his arrival from Cheltenham.

It was a frenetic start, with an electric atmosphere. The U's started the stronger and forced an early corner, but Leeds could have grabbed a fifth minute lead when in-form marksman Jermaine Beckford sprung the offside trap, only to see his header drift wide of the near post with keeper Mark Cousins off his line.

Three minutes later and the U's went close themselves. Karl Hawley turned on the edge of the box and let fly with a low drive that keeper Ankergren was relieved to scramble behind for a corner.

This was Hawley's fourth appearance, since his loan move from Preston, and it was certainly his liveliest to date. The striker again made room for himself to set up a shooting chance on 14 minutes, only to lose his balance at the point of contact. Ankergren easily scooped up.

Leeds threatened from a couple of quickfire corners. Neal Trotman bundled the first one behind, and a combination of Becchio and Sam Sodje then headed the second delivery wide of the near post.

Leading scorer Beckford, with 31 goals to his name, looked on the point of celebrating No. 32 as he charged onto Jonathan Howson's through ball. He had just the onrushing Cousins to beat, but pulled his shot off target.

Mark Yeates, who was operating just behind the front-two, rather than his normal position on the flank, was presented with the best chance of the first quarter of the game. Yeates raced onto Hawley's well-weighted pass, but could not squeeze his shot past the formidable figure of keeper Ankergren. The ball flew off the big Dane's chest and dropped wide of the far post.

And it was Leeds who took the lead through a deadly finish from BECCHIO in the 29th minute.

Right-midfielder Snodgrass slid the ball through for Becchio, who made the most of some space just inside the box. The Argentine took a couple of touches before crashing his shot past Cousins from 16 yards out, to chalk up his 13th goal of the season.

Four minutes later and Colchester almost equalised. Yeates eyed up the target from 25 yards out with a rasping shot that drifted only a foot wide, with Ankergren scampering across his goal.

But the visitors continued to look the more dangerous, not least when Becchio headed inches over the bar and onto the top of the net, from Snodgrass' 40th minute free-kick.

A mistake by Alan Maybury gifted Beckford a terrific chance in first-half stoppage time. However, Cousins saved the day with an instinctive block. Beckford had certainly not been on his game in the first period.

Half-time: Colchester United 0 Leeds United 1

Izzet could have been sent off just before the hour mark. The U's midfielder had already been booked in the first half, and he then caught Jonathan Douglas late with a lunging tackle. Referee Keith Woolmer chose to say a few words to him rather than give the midfielder a second yellow and ensuing red card.

Leeds had appeals for a penalty turned down when goalscorer Becchio took a tumble under a challenge from Pat Baldwin, just outside the six-yard box. Mr Woolmer thought about it, but decided to wave play on.

Chances had been at a premium in the second period. Yeates did connect with a shot on the turn in the 77th minute, but Ankergren was hardly troubled.

Lambert employed three attacking substitutions, but to no avail. Leeds deserved this win, and could have scored a second in the last minute of injury-time when Cousins saved bravely at the feet of Beckford.


COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 6, Maybury 7, Trotman 7, Baldwin 7, Tierney 6, Hammond 6, Izzet 7, Perkins 6 (sub Hackney, 62), YEATES 7 (sub Gobern, 83), Platt 6, Hawley 6 (sub Vincent, 74). Unused subs: White, Gerken.

LEEDS UNITED: Ankergren 7, Douglas 7, Sodje 7, Naylor 7, Parker 7, SNODGRASS 8 (sub Hughes, 88), Howson 7, Kilkenny 7 (sub Robinson, 78), Delph 7, Becchio 8 (sub Dickinson, 90+1), Beckford 6. Unused subs: Marques, Lucas.

Referee: Mr Keith Woolmer (Northants) 7

Attendance: 9,559

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