U's draw typifies season
COLCHESTER United's entire season was encapsulated in 90 minutes of helter-skelter action at fellow relegated club Scunthorpe.The free-scoring U's plundered another three goals yesterday afternoon, but the Championship's poorest defence also leaked three.
COLCHESTER United's entire season was encapsulated in 90 minutes of helter-skelter action at fellow relegated club Scunthorpe.
The free-scoring U's plundered another three goals yesterday afternoon, but the Championship's poorest defence also leaked three. That neatly summed up the tale of the 2007-08 campaign.
Kevin McLeod had scored the U's very first goal of the season, in the opening day 2-2 draw at Sheffield United, but the mercurial left-winger had only managed one more before this final day thriller.
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McLeod, who is out-of-contract this summer, responded with the first and third goals to cap an exhilarating display, sandwiching a breathtaking overhead kick by Scott Vernon.
But a hole-ridden defence, the Achilles heel for Geraint Williams' men since day one, once again denied them a victory. Jonathan Forte cancelled out McLeod's opener, and Paul Hayes netted twice to transform a 3-1 deficit into a 3-3 draw.
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McLeod bagged the first with his head on 10 minutes. The excellent Kevin Lisbie robbed right-back Cliff Byrne and did well to keep the ball in, before sweeping over a pinpoint cross for McLeod to glance home.
Forte levelled just five minutes later, but the U's sped into a 3-1 lead with two goals in quick succession at the start of the second half.
Karl Duguid helped on Johnnie Jackson's 47th minute free-kick, but a goal still seemed unlikely until Vernon obliged with a superb bicycle kick.
Just 60 seconds later and the U's had some breathing space. McLeod eyed up the target from the left edge of the penalty area with a delicately chipped shot that soared over keeper Joe Murphy and into the roof of the net.
An eighth win of the season was looming large, until the U's shot themselves in the foot. Hayes struck twice, the equaliser coming from Matt Heath's dreadful backward header with eight minutes remaining.
So the U's have ended the campaign with 38 points, eight adrift of second-from-bottom Scunthorpe. They scored a healthy 62 goals, but conceded an horrific 86.
The U's rotten luck with injuries did not let up on the final day, because while Heath was able to return after a groin problem, fellow centre-half Chris Coyne was injured in the warm-up.
However, the ex-Luton skipper suffered back spasms just half-an-hour before kick-off, so in came Bela Balogh as an 11th hour replacement.
Dean Hammond was a non-starter due to illness, so Kem Izzet was recalled in central midfield.
Scunthorpe started brightly, but after ten minutes the Iron were trailing, thanks to McLeod's sweet header.
The U's nearly doubled their lead from their very next attack with Karl Duguid rattling the far post with a low drive.
However, Scunthorpe were level in the 15th minute.
Forte sneaked into the six-yard box to stab home Matt Sparrow's cross from the right flank.
Two goals inside the first three minutes of the second-half put the visitors in the driving seat. Vernon executed an acrobatic overhead kick, and McLeod then curled home a delightful shot, right in front of the U's travelling supporters.
U's lead was reduced to just one goal when Hayes turned to lash home from six yards out in the 68th minute.
An error by Heath allowed Hayes one more opportunity, which he duly took to secure an 82nd minute equaliser.
The U's could have snatched a late winner. Jackson was agonisingly close to sweeping home Lisbie's low cross from inside the six-yard box and Platt peppered the target with a couple of shots.