U's come from behind to win

COLCHESTER United rallied from a goal-down to sink struggling Cheltenham Town with a sparkling second-half display.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United rallied from a goal-down to sink struggling Cheltenham Town with a sparkling second-half display.

The U's were staring down the barrel when Robins defender Chris Westwood headed home Ian Westlake's corner in the 57th minute.

But Paul Lambert's men were level just five minutes later, thanks to Dean Hammond's firm header from a free-kick by Mark Yeates, and there was only going to be one winner after that.

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The visitors were reduced to 10 men when substitute John Finnigan was sent off for two quickfire bookings, the second of these in the 72nd minute.

The U's stepped up another gear and another substitute, Steven Gillespie, was the man to give them the lead against his old club on 78 minutes. Ex-Robins favourite Gillespie headed Pat Baldwin's cross into the back of the net.

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Yeates was inspirational throughout the second-half, and he deservedly scored himself in the 89th minute to seal an impressive home win.

The U's are now edging closer to the top 10.

Paul Tierney missed out with a tight hamstring, having also missed the previous game at MK Dons due to suspension. Johnnie Jackson therefore retained his place at left-back.

In fact, it was an unchanged line-up from the 1-1 draw at Milton Keynes, with Steven Gillespie starting on the bench against his old club. New signing Lewis Gobern, recruited on a one-month loan from Wolves, was also named as one of the substitutes.

Mark Yeates was close to breaking the deadlock after just seven minutes. His long-range shot was heading for the top corner of the net until keeper Scott Brown finger-tipped the ball over the bar.

The ensuing corner from Yeates was almost headed into his own net by striker Paul Connor, who had come back to help out his defence. He was relieved to see his wild clearance balloon wide of the near post.

Connor did not last very long. The Robins lone striker limped off in the 15th minute, to be replaced by fellow front-man Elvis Hammond.

The U's continued to boss the first quarter of the game, without threatening keeper Brown again. Clive Platt could not get sufficient power behind a free header from Dean Hammond's cross, and Jackson then drilled a free-kick straight into the defensive wall from a promising position.

Jimmy Walker was forced into his first save on 23 minutes. Robins skipper Alan Wright, a diminutive right-back, let fly from 20 yards with a shot that Walker collected down on his haunches.

Four minutes later and the U's had to make a change. Jackson could not continue after falling awkwardly on his shoulder, so on came substitute John White.

The U's had two great chances to score inside a minute. Firstly, Scott Vernon had time to control Alan Maybury's deep cross, only to see his goal-bound drive charged down near the goal-line by left-back Lee Ridley.

Then David Perkins looked certain to score as the ball broke to him 30 yards from goal. Keeper Brown was lying on the ground outside his penalty area, following a challenge with Clive Platt, yet Perkins could not take advantage of an unguarded net. His shot lacked venom, enabling defender Chris Westwood to block.

Perkins should really have buried that chance. It was the best opportunity of the first-half.

Half-time: Colchester United 0 Cheltenham Town 0

The game burst into life during the early stages of the second-half, beginning with Cheltenham taking the initiative.

Walker produced a great save to keep out Nicholas Bignall's firecracker in the 56th minute, but he was powerless to prevent WESTWOOD from heading the Robins into the lead just a minute later.

The U's have had problems defending from set pieces this season, and that proved their downfall again as centre-half Westwood headed home Ian Westlake's corner from eight yards out.

Gillespie was immediately introduced as a substitute for Vernon up front, and the U's went all-out for a quickfire equaliser.

Keeper Brown stood up well to parry Dean Hammond's angled drive in the 58th minute, and just seconds later substitute Gillespie headed straight at Brown from point blank range.

Yet DEAN HAMMOND did grab an equaliser in the 62nd minute, as the U's skipper gleefully headed home Yeates' free-kick. It was a clinical finish from the midfielder.

Cheltenham were reduced to 10 men in the 72nd minute. Substitute John Finnigan had only been on the pitch for seven minutes, but during that time he picked up two yellow cards for clumsy fouls, the second of them on Yeates.

Six minutes later and GILLESPIE headed the U's into a 2-1 lead, following Baldwin's excellent cross.

The U's were now in complete control. Debutant Gobern ran half the length of the pitch before firing wildly over the top, with Yeates crying out for a pass.

Yeates was denied by a wonder save from Brown in the 87th minute. The Robins keeper tipped a curling shot onto the bar.

But YEATES finally got the goal that his efforts deserved on 89 minutes. His first shot was blocked by Brown, but when he received the rebound from Gobern, the Irishman gave Brown no chance with a precise finish.

Final score: Colchester 3 Cheltenham 1


COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker 7, Maybury 7, Baldwin 8, Reid 7, Jackson 7 (sub White, 27), Perkins 7 (sub Gobern, 65), Hammond 8, Izzet 7, YEATES 8, Platt 7, Vernon 6 (sub Gillespie, 57). Unused subs: Wordsworth, Cousins.

CHELTENHAM TOWN: BROWN 8, Wright 6, Gallinagh 6, Westwood 7, Ridley 7, Russell 6, Westlake 7, Montrose 7 (sub Finnigan, 65), Vincent 6, Bignall 8, Connor 6 (sub Hammond, 15, sub Owusu, 74). Unused subs: Bird, Puddy.

Referee: Mr Lee Probert (Wiltshire)

Attendance: 4,183

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