U's destiny is now in their own hands

THEIR destiny is now in their own hands. Colchester United will surely never have a better chance of winning promotion to the Championship!Warhorse Wayne Brown fired the U's into second place with an unstoppable free-kick, which broke the hearts of 10-man Tranmere Rovers in a nerve-jangling 1-0 League One victory at Layer Road yesterday afternoon.

By Carl Marston

THEIR destiny is now in their own hands. Colchester United will surely never have a better chance of winning promotion to the Championship!

Warhorse Wayne Brown fired the U's into second place with an unstoppable free-kick, which broke the hearts of 10-man Tranmere Rovers in a nerve-jangling 1-0 League One victory at Layer Road yesterday afternoon.

A Bank Holiday crowd were on the edge of their seats, and standing on tip-toes, as the U's ground out a crunch victory to leapfrog Brentford into second spot, a position they will hold for at least the next 24 hours. Brown came up trumps with a wonderful free-kick in the 62nd minute, and Phil Parkinson's men then held on grimly as plucky Tranmere tried to steal an unlikely point to ease their relegation fears.

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There was more good news to come for the Layer Road crowd. Cheered by Brown's deadlock-breaker, news filtered through that Blackpool had grabbed an 89th-minute equaliser at Griffin Park.

The loss of two points saw Brentford concede the all-important second spot to Colchester. The Essex club will now be hoping that Chesterfield can do them a favour by avoiding defeat at Huddersfield tonight - the Terriers need to win by two clear goals to dislodge the U's.

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Yesterday's gutsy display, capped by Brown's accurate free-kick, has certainly given United a great chance of powering into the second tier of the Football League for the first time in their history.

Tranmere still need a point or two, at the other end of the table, to be assured of their League One status. Their cause was made doubly difficult when midfielder Stephen O'Leary was sent off for a late, two-footed challenge on U's right-back John White in the 25th minute.

The U's had to show patience, because Brian Little's side were determined to hang on for a draw. However, the visitors were finally undone by Brown's moment of brilliance just after the hour mark.

Former Ireland and Liverpool midfielder Jason McAteer had only been on the pitch for five minutes, as a substitute for Carl Tremarco, when he conceded a needless free-kick for chopping down Mark Yeates, who produced another man-of-the-match performance.

Kevin Watson and Karl Duguid combined to slide the free-kick into the path of Brown, and his left-footed 20-yarder soared through a hole in the defensive wall and flew into the roof of the net, despite a desperate jump from defender Ian Sharps on the goal-line.

It was only Brown's second league goal of the season, and it will certainly be rated as one of the most important of the 28-year-old's career.

Tranmere poured forward in search of a late equaliser, but the U's held their nerve to record their 14th home league victory of the campaign.

U's fans will now be hoping that Huddersfield slip up tonight, and that their team can win at Bournemouth on Saturday. That would keep United in second spot going into their final home game against Rotherham.

The dismissal of O'Leary was the main talking-point of a rather scrappy first half. Tranmere were content to sit back and restrict the U's to just a handful of chances.

The U's dictated play without either playing that well or possessing much of a killer instinct in front of goal.

Chris Iwelumo was usually the target, but the big Scotsman lacked support. That was evident after only five minutes, when Iwelumo pounced onto White's through ball deep inside the penalty area. In the end he chose to square for Greg Halford, rather than aim for goal, and Rovers were able to clear their lines.

Yeates had netted a superb solo goal in the 2-2 draw at Chesterfield on Saturday, and he was behind the best of the U's early moves. The Tottenham loanee drilled a shot wide, following Iwelumo's chest-down on 11 minutes, and was then only a foot wide with a 20-yarder on the turn just three minutes later.

Tranmere's desire to slow down play, and take their time from all set- pieces, increased still further when O'Leary was shown the red card for his crude, two-footed challenge on White in the 25th minute.

United could not make their numerical advantage count for the rest of the first period, with most of their efforts restricted to shooting from outside the box.

Billy Clarke, whose touch often deserted him, turned onto Halford's pass and let fly from distance with a curling shot that Steve Wilson was grateful to hang onto in the 32nd minute.

The U's frustrating first-half was summed up by Clarke's free-kick in stoppage time, which looped high and wide with keeper Wilson again untroubled. Manager Parkinson made his attacking intentions clear for all to see, by introducing substitute Jamal Campbell-Ryce for right-back White at the start of the second period.

And the hosts were on the front foot within 30 seconds of the restart. Iwelumo flicked on Halford's long throw and Danns' spectacular overhead kick was caught at full stretch by a diving Wilson.

Yeates was causing no end of problems for the Rovers rearguard, and both right-back David Raven and substitute McAteer were booked for felling the Dubliner when he was in full flight.

The second infringement was to prove a costly error, because Brown struck from the ensuing free-kick to give Colchester the vital goal.

Rovers' other substitute, Danny Harrison, was the third player to be flashed a card for a late tackle on Yeates.

The Birkenhead club now had to show more of an attacking threat, to try to claw back the deficit. And they were not far adrift in the 68th minute, with the onrushing Steve Jennings within a whisker of heading home McAteer's dangerous cross.

Shortly afterwards and Jennings rose high to meet Raven's teasing cross with a free header that flew wide of target from just six yards out. Jennings also sent in a ferocious drive that Davison did well to block in the 78th minute.

Tony Thorpe, who had replaced Clarke just after the hour mark, gave the U's some respite with a slick turn and powerful shot that Wilson gathered, but otherwise Parkinson's men were happy to protect their slender lead.

However, Thorpe should really have been celebrating his first Colchester goal in the 88th minute. He made room for himself in the penalty area and had a clear sight of goal, only to blast his shot over the bar with just Wilson to beat.

Tranmere had one last chance to equalise in the first minute of injury-time. For a split second, Chris Greenacre had space to turn on the edge of the six-yard box, but Rovers' leading scorer lost control at the vital moment and Liam Chilvers hacked to safety.

The final whistle was greeted with scenes of jubilation off the pitch, as U's fans could celebrate both their side earning three vital points.

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