Spate of red cards threatens U's status

A SPATE of red cards could endanger the status of Colchester United as a Championship club.There is no doubt that the U's would have bagged more than the 17 points collected from their first 17 games, if they had avoided a series of red cards.

By Carl Marston

A SPATE of red cards could endanger the status of Colchester United as a Championship club.

There is no doubt that the U's would have bagged more than the 17 points collected from their first 17 games, if they had avoided a series of red cards.

In fact, I would estimate that Geraint Williams' men would have an extra five points, and that's not an exaggeration.

The Essex club have been affected by five sendings-off this season, such a contrast to last season when the U's only picked up two red cards, both of them shown to loanee left-back, Chris Barker.

Current QPR defender Barker was dismissed for two bookable offences during the Essex derby against Southend, and again at Stoke City in the penultimate match of the 2006-07 campaign.

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Otherwise, the Us could boast a fine disciplinary record. Furthermore, Barker's red card against Southend did not alter the outcome, because the Shrimpers ended the game with nine men and lost 3-0.

As a footnote, the U's also avoided a flurry of yellow cards. Only Richard Garcia and Kem Izzet served suspensions, so it's not surprising that United managed to preserve a settled side and finish a superb 10th in the table.

This season is less than four months old, and yet still the U's are fast becoming the bad boys of the division. Pat Baldwin's sending-off against Crystal Palace on Saturday was their fourth red card of the campaign, and the fifth if you count Clive Platt's dismissal for violent conduct in pre-season.

Platt's sending-off against Bolton Wanderers did have an impact, because the club's record signing was forced to serve a three-match suspension during the first month of competitive action.

Since then, four of his team-mates have also been ordered off to have early baths. Keeper Dean Gerken, centre-half Matthew Connolly, striker Teddy Sheringham and Baldwin have all been sent off, and therefore punished with suspensions.

Gerken's dismissal, for a professional foul after just 26 minutes of the first home clash of the season against Barnsley, probably cost the U's two points, especially as the Tykes scored from the ensuing penalty. The final score was 2-2, with Barnsley grateful for their numerical advantage.

Likewise, the U's third home match also featured a sending-off. Connolly was dismissed for dragging down Chris Iwelumo in the 2-2 draw against Charlton. The Arsenal loanee committed this professional foul after just 10 minutes of the second-half.

The Addicks are currently flying high in third spot, level on points with second-placed West Brom, so a draw against Alan Pardew's men was no disgrace. However, again the U's were left wondering what might have been, if they had kept 11 players on the pitch. Another two home points went begging.

Sheringham's dismissal for violent conduct, during injury-time at Coventry City at the end of October, did not affect the outcome. The U's lost 1-0 without looking like fashioning an equaliser, but the 41-year-old did have to sit out the next three matches through suspension.

Even though Colchester were already a goal-down when Baldwin was sent off for pulling down Paul Ifill on Saturday, I reckon this eighth minute sending-off cost the U's at least one point. Crystal Palace chalked up a 2-1 win, their first victory in 10 games.

Baldwin will serve his one-game ban at Wolves tomorrow, which increases the total of games missed by Colchester players through suspension to nine already.

Such a dreadful disciplinary record will always have a bigger affect on the U's, than on a rival Championship club with bigger resources at their disposal.

United cannot afford to finish matches with just 10 men, just as they cannot afford to kiss goodbye to valuable home points.

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