Super U's go second after victory
NEIL Danns completed a memorable 24 hours by plundering a brace to propel Colchester United into second spot in League One, at the expense of visiting Bristol City in a 3-2 victory.
NEIL Danns completed a memorable 24 hours by plundering a brace to propel Colchester United into second spot in League One, at the expense of visiting Bristol City in a 3-2 victory, writes Carl Marston.
Danns had celebrated the birth of his first son, Jayden, on Monday evening, and he made it a double celebration by masterminding the U's 15th win from their last 17 fixtures - a remarkable record!
The evening had begun poorly for Phil Parkinson's men. Bristol City, who were unbeaten in their previous seven games to pull clear of the relegation zone, raced into a second-minute lead through tricky winger Scott Murray.
But rampant Colchester came roaring back. Gareth Williams netted the equaliser with his first league goal for almost a year, on 27 minutes, and Danns then obliged with a wonder goal in first-half stoppage time.
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Former Blackburn Rovers midfielder Danns beat Brazilian keeper Adriano Basso with a cracking shot from 20 yards out, to put the U's in the driving seat at 2-1 up.
And the inspirational Danns effectively killed off the game by adding his side's third, and his own 11th of the season, just after the hour mark. The Liverpudlian swept home the loose ball after Basso had failed to deal with John White's deep delivery.
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City substitute Marcus Stewart, the former Ipswich and Sunderland striker, did set up a nervous last finale by pulling a goal back in the last minute of normal time.
But Colchester were not to be denied. They are now in the second of the two automatic promotion places, just one point adrift of league leaders Southend.
The U's have won their last seven home games on the bounce, and can now look forward to entertaining Port Vale this Saturday.
U's boss Parkinson made just one change to the side that grabbed two late goals to sink hosts Walsall on Saturday. Front-runner Geraint Williams was handed a rare start, with Richard Garcia dropping to the bench. The Australian had been hampered by a nerve problem in his hamstring for the last week.
But it was Bristol City who struck first, with Murray grabbing the opener after just two minutes.
Bas Savage, who had netted his first senior goal in the 1-1 draw against Scunthorpe on Saturday, capitalised on space down the right flank. His weak cross-shot was deflected through to Murray, who drilled in a 10-yard shot that deceived Aidan Davison as the ball flew in off the keeper's leg. Murray's shot had also taken a deflection off a defender.
It was left-winger Murray's 10th goal of the season, and it certainly stunned the Layer Road faithful.
The U's tried to respond quickly and Williams volleyed narrowly over from Greg Halford's delivery on four minutes. They also earned three corners inside the first 10 minutes, with Mark Yeates striking a bullet shot a foot wide of the near post.
However, the hosts were struggling to click out of first gear, as was illustrated by Halford's stray pass in the middle of the park on 22 minutes. That prompted a City break which almost led to a second goal, with Steve Brooker's effort sliding inches wide, via a deflection off a defender's boot.
Halford attempted to make amends quickly. The big man capped a strong run with a fierce shot that Brazilian keeper Adriano Basso clutched to his midriff.
The U's kept up the momentum, and they duly chalked up an equaliser in the 27th minute, thanks to Williams' first league goal for nearly a year.
It was a neat passing move, culminating in Karl Duguid sliding the ball back into the path of Williams. The Welshman stroked a 20-yard shot into the corner of the net, giving Basso no chance. The shot was deadly accurate.
Williams had scored the winner in the FA Cup triumph at Sheffield United 10 days ago, but this was his first league strike since he hit the target in the 5-0 win over Walsall on January 25, 2005.
United were suddenly on the crest of a wave. Halford sliced an optimistic volley wide of target, from Yeates' cross, and goalscorer Williams then peppered the target from 20 yards out on the half-hour mark.
Then Danns exchanged a one-two with Chris Iwelumo before blasting a shot over the top from the edge of the box.
City were still looking dangerous themselves. Brooker, a £150,000 purchase from Port Vale, was agonisingly wide with a 20-yard rocket in the 43rd minute.
In first-half stoppage time, Davison had his hands warmed by another Brooker thunderbolt, with Wayne Brown completing the clearance.
Yet there was still time for the U's to take the lead with virtually the last kick of the first period. Yeates' perseverance paid off down the left wing, as the Irishman battled for possession. Watson intervened by setting up Danns, who still had much to do outside the box.
Livewire Danns turned and made just enough room for himself to drill a 20-yard shot beyond the reach of Basso. It was his 10th goal of the campaign, completing a memorable last few days for the 23-year-old.
Both sides were committed to attack at the start of the second-half. U's leading scorer Iwelumo met Watson's corner with a downward header that Basso did well to turn around a post.
The Robins had the ball in the back of the net in the 52nd minute, although Brooker's header, which looped over Davison, was ruled out for offside against the City striker.
On the hour mark, the U's threatened on the attack with Duguid's shot, from a narrow angle, sliding into the side-netting. The result was a corner, from which United scored their third.
Watson's delivery was only half-cleared, and John White pumped the ball back into the danger zone, where Iwelumo jumped with keeper Basso. The rebound dropped kindly for Danns, who scooped the ball into an unguarded net from point-blank range. It was his 11th goal of the season.
The U's now had the luxury of a two-goal lead. Iwelumo had scored his 14th goal of the season at Walsall on Saturday, and he fancied his chances of rattling up No. 15 when blazing only a foot over the bar from long range in the 66th minute.
Parkinson made his first change on 74 minutes. He introduced Garcia for goalscorer Williams, so giving the U's some fresh legs in attack.
The match degenerated into a rather scrappy affair during the final quarter-of-an-hour, which suited Colchester perfectly. However, Iwelumo again missed the target when he should really have scored in the 83rd minute, screwing a shot wide from close-in.
A minute later and only the woodwork denied Iwelumo. The Scotsman's delightful chip cannoned off the top of the bar, and bounced to safety.
Former Ipswich Town marksman Stewart appeared as a City substitute for Savage on 85 minutes, and shortly afterwards double-goalscorer Danns made way for substitute Kem Izzet.
Stewart notched a consolation goal in the first minute of injury-time, stabbing home from six yards out after the U's defence had failed to clear a corner.
There was still time for experienced striker Stewart to test Davison from long range. But his 30-yarder was safely caught by the U's keeper.