Sad end to 2007 for Colchester

Colchester United 0 Blackpool 2By Carl MarstonCOLCHESTER United ended 2007 in the worst possible fashion, slumping to a gloomy home defeat at the hands of Blackpool to leave them stranded at the foot of the Championship table.

Colchester United 0 Blackpool 2

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United ended 2007 in the worst possible fashion, slumping to a gloomy home defeat at the hands of Blackpool to leave them stranded at the foot of the Championship table.

The U's had desperately needed a victory to give themselves hope of clambering out of the relegation zone, but they are now facing relegation starkly in the face following a dismal run of just one win in 14 games.

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It was old boy Scott Vernon who plotted their downfall with two deadly finishes in the first-half. Two-down after just 36 minutes, the U's never looked like mounting a rearguard action.

The U's never really recovered from conceding the opening goal on 26 minutes. Adam Virgo was at fault as he allowed Gary Taylor-Fletcher to cross for an unmarked Vernon to stab into the roof of the net from close-in.

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And Vernon haunted his old club again just 10 minutes later, bundling home a low cross from strike-force partner Andy Morrell, following another error from Virgo. Vernon's instinctive effort rolled in off the far post.

United plugged away in the second-half, but to little effect as Blackpool cantered to their third away victory of the season.

This has already been a disappointing campaign for Geraint Williams' men, but today was probably a new low point. The U's have a mountain to climb, if they are to avoid relegation to League One in 2008.

United threatened first in the seventh minute. Luke Guttridge floated over a teasing ball for Kevin McLeod, and the U's winger was brought down by right-back Shaun Barker on the edge of the box.

Mark Yeates had scored from two wonder free-kicks in the 2-2 draw at Blackpool in September, and he nearly broke the deadlock from this one. Keeper Paul Rachubka seemed to have the shot covered, but he spilled the ball, which ricocheted off his near post and rolled behind for a corner.

Dean Gerken was forced into his first serious save in the 21st minute. Ex-U's loanee striker Vernon was allowed to run at the defence and square for team-mate Claus Jorgensen, who let fly with a stinging 20-yarder that Gerken did well to beat away for a corner.

The Seasiders took the lead in the 26th minute, with VERNON predictably on target against his old club.

Gary Taylor-Fletcher was the outlet down the right wing, outpacing Adam Virgo before sliding a pass into the direction of Vernon. The striker was able to control before lifting an eight-yard shot into the roof of the net.

It was Vernon's third goal of the season, and it really knocked the U's back on their heels.

In fact, Blackpool could have doubled their lead just two minutes later. Flynn latched onto Virgo's tame backward header and unleashed a shot from point blank range that was deflected off Gerken and onto the woodwork. That was a lucky let-off for the hosts.

Yeates was again looking the most likely scorer for Colchester, and he was unlucky with a marvellous 30-yard free-kick that was superbly finger-tipped around his post by keeper Rachubka in the 31st minute.

But it was Blackpool who scored again to make it 2-0 in the 36th minute. Again it was Vernon on target against his former club.

Virgo was again at fault, allowing Morrell to swing over a cross from the right that Vernon managed to bundle home from five yards out. Vernon's effort dribbled in off the far post.

That goal prompted a few boos from the Layer Road crowd. They had certainly watched their side under-perform in the first-half.

It didn't get much better in the second-half. Just after the hour mark and Vernon could sense another opportunity to net his hat-trick goal. The ex-Oldham striker almost sneaked onto the end of a deep cross from Taylor-Fletcher, only for Gerken to mop up.

Sheringham was close to pulling a goal back in the 65th minute. The veteran striker tried to convert a fine cross from Yeates, but he couldn't get enough power on his header, which drifted wide.

The visitors were not really troubled for the rest of the game. Manager Simon Grayson made two late changes, with Ben Burgess coming on for Morrell up front, and Bartosz Slusarski replacing double goalscorer Vernon.

Vernon received applause from the home crowd, but when the final whistle sounded, the U's team were greeted by a chorus of boos from the Layer Road faithful.

Attendance: 5,160


COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, Duguid 6, Baldwin 6, Virgo 5, Granville 5 (sub Guy, 73), YEATES 8, J Jackson 5, Guttridge 6, McLeod 6, Sheringham 6 (sub Lisbie, 66), Platt 5. Unused subs: Balogh, Wordsworth, Cousins.

BLACKPOOL: Rachubka 6, Barker 6, M Jackson 8, Gorkss 7, Crainey 7, Taylor-Fletcher 7, Jorgensen 8, Flynn 7, Hoolahan 7 (sub Fox, 73), Morrell 7 (sub Burgess, 87), Vernon (sub Slusarski, 90+1). Unused subs: Coid, Welsh.

Referee: Mr Paul Armstrong (Berkshire) 8

Attendance: 5,160

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