Super Freddie on target in U’s vital victory
Colchester United 1 Preston North End 0
FREDDIE Sears bagged his fourth goal in five games as Colchester United claimed a vital victory over Preston at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this afternoon.
Sears slotted home the winner into an empty net in the 55th minute, to seal a third win in four games for improving Colchester.
Jabo Ibehre sprung the offside trap and guided his shot beyond onrushing keeper Thorsten Stuckmann, from outside the box.
The ball was rolling goalwards, but was not going to find the net on a heavy pitch.
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However, this simply allowed an alert Sears to race through and plant into an unguarded net for his seventh goal of the campaign.
As a result, the U’s have cut the gap between themselves and Preston to just three points.
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Manager Joe Dunne had named an unchanged side for the third game running, and his side came closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half, although in truth Preston created the more chances.
The U’s best effort was a cracking first time shot by Gavin Massey, which beat keeper Stuckmann all ends up, only to cannon back off the inside of the post and roll to safety.
Massey’s 27th minute effort certainly deserved a goal, but otherwise Preston, clad in striking pink shirts, looked the brighter before the break.
In fact, it had required a sensational save by Sam Walker, after just six minutes, to keep the Lilywhites at bay. The Chelsea dived to his right to palm away a goal-bound header by tall midfielder Andy Proctor.
At the other end, Preston’s commanding keeper, Thorsten Stuckmann, did well to block Sears’ stinging drive.
But it was the visitors who tended to win the midfield battles, and at the end of the first half a looping header by Joe Garner dropped narrowly over the bar and onto the top of the net.
Into the second half and Sears peppered the target with a couple of early efforts. An instinctive long-range volley flashed wide, while he was off target with another shot following George Porter’s strong run.
But Sears made no mistake on 55 minutes, to give the U’s the lead.
Preston almost equalised in the 72nd minute, but a thunderous shot by Lee Holmes thudded back off the bar. The ball was deflected wide of target off a startled Josh Thompson.
The visitors were reduced to 10 men in the 81st minute, with centre-half Bailey Wright sent off for violent conduct against Jabo Ibehre.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wilson (sub Eastman, 57), Okuonghae, Thompson, White, David Wright, Clifford (sub Bean, 90+1), Porter (sub Compton, 86), Sears, Massey, Ibehre. Unused subs: Drey Wright, Morrison, Bond, Phillips.
PRESTON: Stuckmann, Robertson, Connolly, B Wright, Wroe, Holmes (sub Manakana, 76), Garner, Buchanon, Welsh, Cummins (sub Huntington, 82), Proctor (sub Beardsley, 76). Unused subs: Keane, Davies, Foster, Rudd.
Referee: Mark Haywood (W Yorks)