U’s Cup comeback ended by harsh penalty

Colchester United 2 Sheffield United 3

Colchester United showed terrific character, to claw themselves back from an early 2-0 deficit, but they eventually bowed out of the FA Cup at the hands of Sheffield United this afternoon.

Trailing by two goals at half-time, the U’s came storming back thanks to Macauley Bonne’s exquisite header, his second senior goal, and then a firecracker from Luke Garbutt to make it 2-2.

But a harsh penalty, awarded for handball by Magnus Okuonghae from Maguire’s header – the decision was made by the assistant referee – enabled Chris Porter to clinch this first round tie for the Blades with a cool penalty on 81 minutes.

Earlier, the Blades had soon gained the ascendancy, thanks to a towering header by Harry Maguire in the 10th minute.

The Sheffield-born central defender was unmarked, from a free-kick, but it was still a marvellous header from distance.

Two minutes later and the U’s were staring down the barrel.

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Porter intercepted Okuonghae’s back pass and, although his cross-cum-shot looked to be drifting wide of target, the ball was diverted home off Tom Eastman, despite the desperate attempts of Sam Walker to keep the ball out of his net.

Walker got a touch before the ball crossed the goal-line, although it will probably go down as an Eastman own goal.

The Blades were good value for their 2-0 half-time lead, but the U’s halved the deficit just three minutes into the second period.

Garbutt whipped over a cross from the left wing, Clinton Morrison flicked it on and Bonne stole in to dive forwards and head into a gaping net.

And Garbutt turned from creator to goalscorer in the 64th minute, celebrating his first ever senior goal to make it 2-2.

Garbutt collected Brian Wilson’s throw in and let fly from 22 yards out with a stunning shot that flew into the far corner of the net.

But then came Porter’s 81st minute winner, from the spot.

The Blades had threatened first on eight minutes. Right-back Tomy McMahon was not picked up by the U’s defence, but his shot from a narrow angle was blocked at the near post by Walker, who conceded the corner.

However, two minutes later and Walker had no chance as Maguire headed home from 15 yards out to chalk up his fifth goal of the campaign.

Rocked by this early goal, the U’s conceded again on 12 minutes as Eastman could only divert Porter’s shot into his own net, with Walker trying but failing to prevent the ball from crossing his goal-line.

Only the woodwork denied the Yorkshire visitors a third goal in the 15th minute. Left-back Matt Hill tried his luck from 30 yards out with a scorching shot that clipped the top of the bar.

The U’s just could not get a foothold in the game.

Clinton Morrison did win a free-kick, in a dangerous position on 27 minutes, but Luke Garbutt lifted the set piece several yards over the bar.

Three minutes before the break and Bonne had half-sight of goal, although his opportunist 20-yard volley flew well over the top.

The U’s did not actually register an attempt on goal in the first half – the closest they came was Craig Eastmond’s snap shot flying wide on 44 minutes.

But a half-time substitution worked wonders, with left-back Ryan Dickson replacing midfielder Andy Bond, therefore allowing Garbutt to operate further up the left flank.

And it was Garbutt who provided the cross for Bonne to head home his second senior goal on 48 minutes, to halve the deficit.

The visitors should really have re-instated their two-goal advantage on the hour mark. Chris Porter was presented with the simple task of poking home McMahon’s cross from point blank range, but he construed to miss the target with an empty goal beckoning.

And Porter’s miss was to prove costly, because Garbutt slammed home a spectacular equaliser just four minutes later.

Porter almost made amends on 67 minutes, but his bullet header from a free-kick was superbly palmed to safety by Walker.

The whole complexion of the game had changed, following those two U’s goals, and keeper George Long had to dive to his right to smother an 18-yard shot by Morrison on 70 minutes.

Five minutes later and Marcus Bean broke away, from within his own half, only to crash his long-range shot several yards of the bar.

However, the wind was taken out of the U’s sails by a harsh penalty, awarded against Okuonghae for handball, and Porter converted the ensuing penalty to seal victory for the Blades.

Squads

COLCHESTER: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Garbutt, Eastmond (sub, Vose, 69), Bean, Bond (sub Dickson, 46), Morrison, Gilbey, Bonne (sub Szmodics, 87). Unused subs: Cousins, Sanderson, Olufemi, Spence.

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Long, McMahon, Maguire, Collins, Hill, Doyle, McGinn (sub Flynn, 68) Coady, Lappin, Porter (sub Taylor 89), Miller (sub Baxter, 75). Unused subs: Howard, Cuvelier, King, Murphy

Referee: Mr P Gibbs (West Midlands)

Attendance: 2,509

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