Super Hooper rocks U's

COLCHESTER United's remote play-off hopes were well and truly kicked into touch by deadly Scunthorpe United this afternoon.

Carl Marston

Scunthorpe United 3 Colchester United 0

COLCHESTER United's remote play-off hopes were well and truly kicked into touch by deadly Scunthorpe United this afternoon.

A brace from livewire striker Gary Hooper, one in each half, and a third from winger Henri Lansbury put the U's to the sword in a blustery north Lincolnshire.


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Scunthorpe had begun the day in the sixth and final play-off spot, 10 points clear of the U's, so that gap is now 13. This was a very poor display from Paul Lambert's men,

Hooper sprung the U's offside trap to break the deadlock in the 36th minute. Fellow striker Paul Hayes nodded on defender Krystian Pearce's long ball, but Hooper still had much to do.

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The ex-Southend front-runner did well to fend off centre-half Neal Trotman, and then round keeper Mark Cousins, to slot the ball into an empty net.

It was his 28th goal of the season, moving him a step nearer to breaking Billy Sharp's club record of 33 goals, achieved in 2006-07.

And goal No. 29 arrived on the hour mark. Again Trotman was left flat-footed as Hooper reacted first to a quickly-taken throw-in from Henri Lansbury.

It was all too easy for Hooper, who advanced a few yards before directing his shot beyond the reach of Cousins.

Lansbury then rifled home a clinical third goal in the 68th minute to seal a comfortable win. This was the most disappointing Colchester performance since Lambert's appointment last October.

The U's were playing against the wind in the first-half, but they soon got into their stride with a couple of earl chances.

Mark Yeates sneaked behind the Scunthorpe back-line and delivered a teasing low cross into the six-yard box. But no team-mate was on hand to divert the ball home from point blank range.

Iron's keeper and captain, Joe Murphy, was also forced into an early save when pushing away Karl Hawley's shot on the turn in the fourth minute.

On 16 minutes, Clive Platt rose high to meet Alan Maybury's cross with a header that flew straight into the arms of Murphy, while at the other end Mark Cousins comfortably held onto Kevan Hurst's goalbound 20-yarder.

The elements then rather took over, with a strong wind supplemented by a heavy rain-storm around the half-hour mark.

The visitors did have one more chance before they fell behind. Kem Izzet was poised to nudge home a low cross from Yeates, only for right-back Andrew Wright to intervene with a last-ditch clearance inside the six-yard box.

HOOPER swept Scunthorpe ahead in the 36th minute with a fine solo goal.

Hayes flicked on and suddenly Hooper had stolen a yard on Trotman and was homing in on goal. The in-form striker skipped past the onrushing Cousins and managed to squeeze his shot into an unguarded net, even though Trotman was back trying to cover.

The Iron searched for a killer second goal before the break and midfielder Matt Sparrow had two long-range shots blocked in quick succession, by Izzet and David Perkins.

Half-time: Scunthorpe 1 Colchester 0

The U's tried to force the pace at the start of the second half and Izzet was just unable to lift his shot over Murphy, from a narrow angle, with the Iron keeper well of his line.

However, they were undone by HOOPER again on the hour mark, to leave them with a mountain to climb. He fired home past an exposed Cousins after the U's had been completely caught out by Lansbury's throw-in.

Just a minute later and only the woodwork denied the U's a goal. Hawley unleashed a ferocious drive from the edge of the box that hit both the bar and the top of the far post, before bouncing to safety.

It got worse for the visitors when LANSBURY grabbed a third goal for the Iron in the 68th minute. This was a classic breakaway goal, with a U's attack breaking down in the opposition box.

The defence was over-stretched as Hooper spread the ball out wide for Lansbury. He cut inside and then lashed an 18-yard shot past a dazed Cousins.

There was then a bizarre moment - Johnnie Jackson, just three minutes after coming on as a substitute, was substituted himself. And he didn't appear to be injured!

The game was up for the U's, who couldn't fashion a consolation goal late on.

Squads

SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Murphy 7, Wright 7, Mirfin 7, Pearce 8, Williams 6, Lansbury 7 (sub Woolford, 76), Sparrow 7, Trotter 7, Hurst 6 (sub Togwell, 59), Hayes 7, HOOPER 9 (sub May, 82). Unused subs: Crosby, Slocombe.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 6, Maybury 5, Trotman 5, Baldwin 6, Tierney 6, Perkins 7 (sub Gobern, 67), Hammond 6, Izzet 6 (sub Jackson, 67, sub Hackney, 70)), Yeates 6, Platt 6, HAWLEY 7. Unused subs: White, Gerken.

Referee: Mr Graham Scott (Oxfordshire) 7

Attendance: 4,304

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