U's are short of inspiration
COLCHESTER United suffered away-day heartache for the second time in a week, but that's where the similarity ends.The U's carved out chance after chance at Ipswich last Tuesday evening before cruelly conceding three late goals to leave them stunned by a 3-1 defeat.
By Carl Marston
COLCHESTER United suffered away-day heartache for the second time in a week, but that's where the similarity ends.
The U's carved out chance after chance at Ipswich last Tuesday evening before cruelly conceding three late goals to leave them stunned by a 3-1 defeat. A titanic effort had been in vain.
But this same intensity and dynamism was missing at Coventry on Saturday. United looked more solid at the back and yet there was no fluency to their play. In the end, an uninspiring away-day was punished by another late goal.
Michael Mifsud's 81st minute winner, which took a deflection off defender Pat Baldwin before dribbling in off the inside of the far post, summed up a miserable afternoon. And that misery was completed by Teddy Sheringham's shocking lack of composure, which resulted in an injury-time red card for violent conduct.
In fact, even though Geraint Williams' men came within an inch of securing a goalless draw, this was their poorest away league display of the season.
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They had been good value for their draws at Sheffield United, Blackpool and Southampton, and gallant in defeat at Stoke (improved second-half) and Ipswich. But there was little to enthuse over at the Ricoh Arena. The flat performance was matched by the flat result.
And while Town are proving to be a force in the Championship, as confirmed by a 10th home win on the trot against Wolves, hosts Coventry were at the opposite end of the confidence scale. Iain Dowie's men had suffered three defeats on the bounce, and talk of huge debts and possible administration was unsettling everyone at the club.
Their lack of self-belief was clearly evident in a dreadful first-half. The Sky Blues were awful, as illustrated by a scuffed corner from Isaac Osbourne that didn't even have the strength to reach the near post!
The turning point was a wave of substitutions around the hour mark. The changes worked a treat for Coventry, but seemed to work against Colchester.
Dele Adebola and Robbie Simpson replaced the ineffective Kevin Kyle and Leon Best in attack. The double substitution injected some urgency and self-belief into Coventry's play. Alas, the introduction of Sheringham and Kevin McLeod did not have the same effect on the visitors.
Burly centre-forward Adebola began to stretch the U's defence and Simpson was denied a goal with virtually his first touch when seeing his downward header cleared off the goal-line by Kem Izzet.
It was becoming uncomfortable for the visitors, although their defence still looked set to record only their second clean-sheet of the campaign, more than two months after the first one at Preston (3-0 win).
Their best attacking moment arrived on 78 minutes. Kevin Lisbie trapped Mark Yeates' low cross and turned to lash in a shot that Andy Marshall did well to block.
Three minutes later and Coventry snatched all three points. Sheringham lost his footing and conceded possession just inside the U's half and suddenly Mifsud had a few yards of space to exploit.
The Maltese attacker had been well-shackled by George Elokobi on the right flank for most of the afternoon, but he was to live up to his pre-match billing as a potential match-winner by drilling in a low shot that took a couple of ricochets off Baldwin and the post to beat Aidan Davison.
It was Mifsud's eighth goal of the season, six more than any of his team-mates, and it was always likely to prove enough to beat Colchester.
But there was still time for a bad day to take a turn for the worse. A frustrated Sheringham struck Michael Doyle with a raised arm in the third minute of stoppage time and referee Ray Lee had little option but to send off the former England star.
Sheringham will be suspended for the next three games, a big blow, especially as the 41-year-old had only just returned from a hamstring injury. His last start was the 2-2 home draw against Charlton on September 15, but he will now have to wait another four weeks until November 24 for his next return.
Hopefully, the U's can get back on track during his absence, with home games against Leicester and Plymouth to look forward to over the next 10 days.