Rip roaring! Despite the blanks

FIRING blanks! The strikers left their shooting boots at home in an otherwise rip-roaring League One encounter at the Community Stadium.

Carl Marston

Colchester United 0 Scunthorpe United 0

By Carl Marston

FIRING blanks! The strikers left their shooting boots at home in an otherwise rip-roaring League One encounter at the Community Stadium.

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Visiting Scunthorpe had shared eight goals against Northampton the previous weekend, while free-scoring Colchester were scoring their 21st and 22nd away goals of the season at Leeds.

But, try as they might, neither the U's nor Iron could break the deadlock on Saturday, though it wasn't for want of trying.

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Chances flowed at both ends, and the U's frustrating afternoon in front of goal was summed up by Steve Gillespie's miss in the last minute of normal time.

Gillespie was introduced as a substitute for the last 25 minutes. It was his first league appearance for two months, due to a hamstring injury, and he so nearly conjured up the winner.

Skipper Dean Hammond, who produced a man-of-the-match display in central midfield, unlocked Scunthorpe's defence with a measured ball over the top. Gillespie sped through on goal, but dragged his shot agonisingly wide of the far post.

With a couple more appearances under his belt, it was a chance that Gillespie would almost certainly have taken.

That was the last in a string of squandered opportunities. Scott Vernon, who was to be replaced by Gillespie, had spurned the U's best chance of the first period when failing to sweep home from Clive Platt's knock-down with just keeper Joe Murphy to beat.

Scunthorpe were not immune to this bout of woeful finishing. In fact, less than a minute before Vernon's scuffed effort, Iron striker Gary Hooper had completely mis-kicked in front of goal.

Hooper has been bang in form this season, with 15 goals, but he blundered for a second time in front of goal with seven minutes remaining. The ex-Southend marksman failed to hit the target with another one-on-one situation with Jimmy Walker.

The U's certainly didn't deserve to lose this game. And although they lacked the killer touch to chalk up a rare home win, there was plenty to be encouraged about.

The home supporters sensed this. The atmosphere in the second-half, as the U's stepped up their bid to break down Nigel Adkins' stubborn troops, was excellent. The stadium may have been more than half-empty, but the fans gave their team some good vocal backing.

Mark Yeates was a constant danger down the left-flank, playing in front of impressive full-back Marc Tierney, and Kem Izzet was always a willing outlet down the right wing.

Yeates was denied by a couple of unorthodox saves by Murphy. The Iron keeper just got down to the Dubliner's dipping free-kick in the nick of time, just after the half-hour mark, and he also palmed away a cross-cum-shot around his near post. Yeates' performance deserved a goal.

The stalemate has kept the U's in 16th spot, five points clear of the bottom four and a distant 12 points adrift of the top six.

They are not playing like a team who will face a struggle to avoid a second successive relegation during the second half of the campaign, but it might be too much to ask for them to make a late dash for the play-offs.

Lambert's men were more than a match for fifth-placed Scunthorpe. It's just a shame that they are having to play catch-up.


COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker 7, Maybury 7, Coyne 7, Baldwin 7, Tierney 8, Izzet 7 (sub Jackson, 65), HAMMOND 8, Perkins 7 (sub Wordsworth, 80), Yeates 8, Platt 7, Vernon 6 (sub Gillespie, 65). Unused subs: White, Gerken.

SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Murphy 7, Wright 6, BYRNE 8, Pearce 7, Williams 7, Thompson 7 (sub Morris, 75), McCann 7, Togwell 6, Woolford 7 (sub Hayes, 88), May 6, Hooper 6. Unused subs: Lillis, Iriekpen, Lea.

Referee: G Horwood (Bedfordshire) 6

Attendance: 4,606

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