Rookie's thunderbolt sinks U's

COLCHESTER United were left cursing their luck as a thunderbolt from Plymouth rookie Luke Summerfield snatched all three points for the Devon side at Layer Road last night.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United were left cursing their luck as a thunderbolt from Plymouth rookie Luke Summerfield snatched all three points for the Devon side at Layer Road last night.

The unfortunate U's did everything bar score in what was their first ever home game in the Championship. They hit the woodwork and were thwarted by several goal-line clearances.

However, the stark reality is that Geraint Williams' men are still searching for their first point, in what is their first ever season of playing at this level. They lost at Birmingham on Saturday.

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Summerfield, the son of former Plymouth star Kevin Summerfield, struck with what proved to be the only goal of the game in the 29th minute. It was his full debut for the Pilgrims.

The 18-year-old lashed home a wonder half-volley from outside the box, leaving Aidan Davison with no chance.

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Plymouth certainly rode their luck, in what was quite a one-sided game, but the U's could not fashion an equaliser. Richard Garcia, who netted in the defeat at Birmingham, struck the bar early on, while both Karl Duguid and Jamie Cureton were denied by goal-line clearances.

The U's will now be hoping to collect their first points of the season when they entertain fellow promoted team Barnsley on Saturday.

The U's were unchanged from Saturday's 2-1 defeat at Birmingham, which meant last season's leading scorer Chris Iwelumo starting on the bench again.

Triallist full-back Lawrie Wilson, who featured in several of the U's pre-season friendlies, had signed a one-year contract earlier in the day. But the former Charlton trainee was not in last night's squad.

Plymouth, who finished 14th in the Championship last term, had shared a 1-1 draw with visiting Wolves last weekend.

The last time these two teams had met was on the final day of the 2003-04 campaign, when Plymouth celebrated winning the Nationwide Division Two title with a 2-0 win at Home Park.

Teenager Summerfield was making his full league debut for the Pilgrims in central midfield, due to Lilian Nalis' absence with damaged ankle ligaments.

The U's were denied an early goal by the woodwork. On four minutes, Richard Garcia let fly with a thunderous drive from 25 yards out that beat keeper Luke McCormick all ends up, only for the ball to cannon back off the bar.

Still the danger was not over for the visitors, and it needed an acrobatic save by McCormick to prevent Jamie Cureton's follow-up header from finding the back of the net. From the ensuing corner, taken by Johnnie Jackson, right-back Greg Halford was narrowly wide with his toe-poked effort.

Plymouth came close themselves in the eighth minute. David Norris saw his low shot take a wicked deflection off Wayne Brown's leg, and keeper Aidan Davison was stranded as the ball rolled agonisingly wide of the far post.

It was an entertaining opening and the U's were thwarted by a goal-line clearance in the 13th minute. Karl Duguid's high lob left McCormick in no-man's land, and the skipper's effort was destined for the net until centre-half Hasney Aljofree back-tracked to head away, from under the bar.

Two minutes later and Halford planted a header, from Jackson's free-kick, narrowly over the bar and on to the top of the net.

Colchester had certainly shaded the first 20 minutes. They were giving their Devon visitors no time to dwell on the ball, although Davison did have to jump high to gobble up Barry Hayles' deep cross, with fellow striker Nick Chadwick lurking inside the six-yard box.

There was some amusement, midway through the first half, when a hefty clearance from George Elokobi struck referee Richard Booth in the groin from point blank range. Mr Booth carried on manfully for a minute, before requiring some treatment from the Plymouth physio.

Against the run of play, the Pilgrims grabbed the lead in the 29th minute, thanks to a wonder strike from debutant Summerfield.

Brown's headed clearance, from a cross by David Norris, was met on the half-volley by Summerfield. The 18-year-old's long-range bullet gave Davison no chance as it flew into the far corner of the net.

A mistake by McCormick almost let in the U's for an equaliser in the 37th minute. The Pilgrims keeper lost possession to predator Cureton on the right-edge of the penalty area and was helpless as the U's striker floated over a cross into the six-yard box. Fortunately for him, defender Paul Connolly was in the right place to head behind.

From the following corner, Pat Baldwin was not far adrift with a firm header that rocketed a yard wide of target.

The U's were unlucky to be trailing at the break. They had two more chances before half-time, firstly when Halford embarked on one of his trademark powerful runs. He unleashed a stinging low drive that was deflected into the arms of McCormick.

In first-half stoppage time, keeper McCormick was again saved by one of his defenders.

This time it was Paul Wotton who headed off the goal-line, to clear Cureton's instinctive header.

George Elokobi was enjoying a strong display at left-back, and he confirmed that with a no-nonsense tackle to rob danger-man Hayles inside the penalty area on 50 minutes.

U's boss Williams made a double substitution in the 54th minute, with Garry Richards replacing Baldwin at the heart of defence, and Iwelumo coming on for Kem Izzet.

A minute later and Iwelumo was within a whisker of poaching the equaliser.

Garcia swept over a teasing cross from the right flank and the U's big substitute was just inches away from diverting home from close-in.

Iwelumo was causing a nuisance for Argyle. He drew the foul from Lee Hodges, just outside the box, to earn a free-kick in the 68th minute.

Jackson stepped up to strike the free-kick cleanly, only to see it drop a foot over the top with McCormick worried.

United did not have as many chances in the second half, but they still forced the pace. Cureton had a goalbound header blocked, and then almost broke clear in the 80th minute.

However, the former Norwich and Bristol Rovers front-runner could not outwit defender Aljofree.

The U's thought he had used his hand in completing the clearance, but referee Mr Booth did not agree.

Plymouth retained possession during the later stages, and Davison did well to clutch Aljofree's ferocious free-kick to his midriff in the last minute of normal time.

The U's could not take advantage of four minutes of stoppage time, and so will now be hoping for third time lucky against Barnsley this weekend.

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