U's given lesson in finishing

THIS game was a contrast in finishing - Walsall were potent, while Colchester were powder-puff.

Carl Marston

Walsall 2 Colchester United 0

THIS game was a contrast in finishing - Walsall were potent, while Colchester were powder-puff.

Jamie Guy blew two good chances to score inside the opening quarter-of-an-hour, when failing to beat Clayton Ince with one-on-one situations.

The Saddlers then made the U's pay with two quality finishes of their own, to effectively win this game before half-time.

Michael Ricketts broke the deadlock in the 17th minute, after which Walsall never really looked back. The former Bolton striker steered home a low cross by Sofiene Zaaboub.

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And there was double trouble for the U's when Troy Denney made it 2-0 just before half-time. His header from Ricketts' lay-off looped beyond the reach of keeper Jimmy Walker.

The visitors had opportunities to pull a goal back in the second period, and so set up an interesting finale, not least when Paul Reid had a goal disallowed for offside.

But it was not to be their day. Paul Lambert's men remain 11th in the League One table, but 12th-placed Walsall are now just two points behind them.

Guy was starting only his second league game for the U's. His first was more than two years ago, in the 3-1 defeat at Sunderland on November 18, 2006.

Guy was preferred to Scott Vernon up front, alongside former Walsall trainee Clive Platt, while midfielder Kem Izzet was back after serving a one-match suspension in midweek.

And Guy was desperately close to breaking the deadlock after just 90 seconds. He burst onto Platt's flick-on and shrugged off the challenge of defender Anthony Gerrard, only for his final shot to be blocked by the legs of keeper Clayton Ince.

Guy had done well to muscle free of the defender, but he will be disappointed not to have squeezed his shot past Ince from close-in.

The visitors continued to look bright early on, and Mark Yeates lifted a 20-yard free-kick narrowly over the bar on six minutes.

Guy was through on goal for the second time in the match after just 11 minutes. He was sent free by a marvellous pass by David Perkins, only for his first touch to let him down.

He still tried to round Ince, but the Saddlers keeper stopped him in his tracks and the follow-up shot from Yeates was comfortably caught by Ince.

Walsall could have scored themselves in the 13th minute. Stephen Hughes' deflected shot looked destined for the net until Izzet cleared off the goal-line.

But four minutes later and the hosts were ahead, thanks to a poacher's effort from RICKETTS.

Alex Nicholls broke down the right flank, following a mistake by Marc Tierney, and his cross was helped into the box by Zaaboub for the alert Ricketts to sweep home from eight yards out.

It was Ricketts' 12th goal of the season, and his ninth in the league.

Walker denied his old club a second goal on 34 minutes. Nicholls robbed Dean Hammond on the half-way line and then carried on his run, which nearly resulted in him converting the cross by Ricketts. Walker saved at his feet.

The U's 35-year-old keeper was in the action again soon afterwards, diving to his left to prevent left-winger Zaaboub's long-range shot from sneaking into the net.

But Walker was powerless to prevent DEENEY from heading home Walsall's second goal in the 43rd minute.

It was a terrific breakaway goal, prompted by Zaaboub's strong run through the middle, which left the U's over-stretched. Nicholls floated over a deep cross to the far post, where Ricketts headed into the danger zone for fellow striker Deeney to direct a looping header into the top corner of the net.

It was Deeney's seventh goal of the season, leaving Walsall in a strong position at the break.

Half-time: Walsall 2 Colchester 0

Lambert made a change for the start of the second half, with substitute Lewis Gobern replacing Guy up front.

The U's were close to halving the deficit in the 50th minute. Pat Baldwin nodded on Tierney's free-kick, and Platt got behind his marker to lash in a shot that Ince did well to block.

Paul Reid thought that he had scored just after the hour mark, when he volleyed home after Platt had headed on Tierney's free-kick. But his celebrations were cut short by an offside flag.

United continued to search for a route back into this game, and Ince again impressed when diverting Yeates' angled drive away from goal in the 77th minute.

Simon Hackney drilled into the side-netting late on to complete a miserable day for the U's.


WALSALL: Ince 8, Palmer 7, Weston 6 (sub Smith, 37, 7), Gerrard 7, Boertien 6, Nicholls 8, Hughes 7, Bradley 6, ZAABOUB 8 (sub Taundry, 81) Deeney 7 (sub Williams, 68), Ricketts 8. Unused subs: Smith, Ibehre.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker 6, Maybury 6, Baldwin 6, REID 7, Tierney 6, Yeates 6, Hammond 6, Izzet 5, Perkins 6 (sub Hackney, 63), Platt 6 (sub Vernon, 63), Guy 5 (sub Gobern, 46, 6). Unused subs: White, Cousins.

Referee: Mr Graham Salisbury 7

Attendance: 3,719