U's comfortably beaten by Leeds

JERMAINE Beckford's brace meant Colchester were the first team to lose to Leeds United in the league this year.Despite a superb display of goalkeeping from Ben Williams, the U's were comfortably beaten.

Stuart Watson

JERMAINE Beckford's brace meant Colchester were the first team to lose to Leeds United in the league this year.

Despite a superb display of goalkeeping from Ben Williams, the U's were comfortably beaten.

Beckford opened the scoring courtesy of a 38th minute penalty following Matt Heath's tackle from behind on Luciano Becchio in the box.

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And the league's leading scorer sealed the win 10 minutes after the break when prodding home a close range rebound after Williams had saved Jonathan Howson's fierce shot.

With their two goal cushion Leeds were comfortable from that moment onwards and could have had a third late on when Leigh Bromby's header came off the underside of the crossbar.

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There was just one enforced change to the Colchester side which beat MK Dons 2-0 in midweek as John White replaced the injured Christian Ribeiro at right-back.

Whether it was a reaction to his side's 3-0 defeat a Swindon on Tuesday night or the fact that his team host Tottenham in an FA Cup fourth round replay this coming Tuesday, Leeds boss Simon Grayson made five changes to his side.

Gary McSheffrey and Shane Lowry were both handed their debuts after signing on loan from Premier League clubs Birmingham and Aston Villa respectively late this week, while Richard Naylor, Luciano Becchio and Lubomir Michalik all came back into the side.

Colchester refused to be intimidated by such an attacking line-up though and, playing against a defence unused to each other, they enjoyed a positive start to the match.

Argentine striker Becchio almost put into his own net following an early Phil Ifil corner, while Ifil then had a penalty appeal harshly turned down after Naylor had tugged his shirt in the box.

Leeds then began to create chances of their own, with Beckford inevitably at the centre of things

First, a mistake by Magnus Okuonghae almost let the striker in, then the hitman's touch let him down at the crucial moment. Soon afterwards John White just about stopped him as he charged in on goal.

Former Leeds player Matt Heath had enjoyed a solid start to the game, but it was his tackle from behind on Becchio that gave the hosts the opportunity to open the scoring from the spot after 38 minutes. Beckford - just as he did late on against Spurs last Saturday - duly obliged, tucking the ball in the bottom left corner.

With half-time fast approaching, Ben Williams then had to make a good one-handed stop to prevent McSheffrey clipping the ball into the net.

Leeds doubled their advantage 10 minutes after the restart as Beckford was in the right place at the right time to grab his 24th goal of the season in all competitions.

U's keeper Ben Williams can count himself hugely unfortunate to have conceded the goal following two great saves in the build up. First he made a super save to prevent Beckford one-on-one following a swift counter-attack, while from the resultant corner he did well to stop Jonathan Howson's shot. Beckford was there to gobble up the loose ball from the second stop though and tap home from all of a yard out.

Beckford had the ball in the net again after 64 minutes, but he was denied his hat-trick by the offside flag. Robert Snodgrass clipped a ball into the box and, after Williams made an acrobatic save from Beckford's close range header, the striker finished emphatically with an overhead kick before hearing the whistle.

Leeds pushed on for a third late in the game but further goalkeeping heroics from Williams, combined with some good fortune, kept the score down.

After the U's keeper had saved well from substitute Max Gradel one-on-one, defender Leigh Bromby saw a header cannon down off the underside of the crossbar and cleared following a corner.

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