U's make it seven by the Severn

THE ingredients were there for an FA Cup shock - a heavy pitch beside the banks of the River Severn, and an old manager hoping to plot the downfall of his former club.

By Carl Marston

THE ingredients were there for an FA Cup shock - a heavy pitch beside the banks of the River Severn, and an old manager hoping to plot the downfall of his former club.

But Colchester United are made of sterner stuff these days, and Phil Parkinson's men duly rattled up their seventh victory on the trot, at the expense of hosts Shrewsbury Town.

The red-hot strike-force of Jamie Cureton and Chris Iwelumo collected a goal apiece, sandwiching David Edwards' equaliser just before the interval, to seal a second round victory and a third round trip to Sheffield United.

Ex-U's boss Mick Wadsworth, who spent only a few months on the Layer Road hot-seat in 1999, looked on sternly from the home dug-out, in his capacity as the Shrews first-team coach, but he was powerless to prevent his old club from marching on.

The U's are now only one win away from equalling the club record eight consecutive victories, achieved during the autumn of 1987.

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If they are to rewrite the record books, then United will have done it the hard way. Hartlepool are standing in wait tomorrow, to host a tough League One test at Victoria Park, and they will still be smarting from Saturday's FA Cup reverse at the hands of non-league Tamworth.

League leaders Swansea City are also preparing for the U's arrival at the new Liberty Stadium next weekend, to complete a hectic eight days on the road.

Colchester could certainly not afford to take their foot off the pedal at Gay Meadow. Incessant rain, on a traditionally heavy pitch (effectively an old water meadow of the Severn), had put the game in doubt during the early morning, but referee Steve Tanner was happy with the surface after two inspections and a lull in the wet weather.

The Shrews, squatting in mid-table in League Two, fancied their chances of causing an upset, not least because they had not lost a home league match since the opening day of the season.

Wadsworth had reappeared to haunt his old club in the past, when the manager of Oldham Athletic, and he and boss Gary Peters had the home side fired up. The result was a highly competitive, but bad-tempered, contest.

The U's, fresh from thumping Gillingham 5-0 the previous weekend, weathered the early storm and broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute.

An in-form Cureton capitalised on a slip by defender Stuart Whitehead, turning to bury a 15-yard shot into the bottom corner of the net. It was a lethal finish from Cureton, who has bagged six goals in just five starts since his loan move from Swindon Town.

For a while, United were in cruise control. Both Mark Yeates and Greg Halford struck the woodwork in quick succession, with Shrewsbury clinging on by their fingertips.

On 38 minutes, Tottenham loanee Yeates mesmerised two defenders inside the box before executing a delicate chip that bounced off the top of the bar. Referee Mr Tanner ruled that keeper Joe Hart had got the faintest of touches to the effort, therefore awarding a corner.

Two minutes later and Hart was beaten all ends up by Halford's low drive, which thudded back into play off the foot of the near post.

The Shropshire hosts rode their luck, and then poached an equaliser in the 44th minute. Richard Hope headed Jamie Tolley's free-kick across goal for the onrushing Edwards to poke the ball past Aidan Davison from close range.

The U's could have been excused for feeling a little sorry for themselves in the dressing room at half time. But they didn't dwell on their misfortune, and one devastating delivery and a lethal finish effectively won this cup-tie on 52 minutes.

Halford, from the tightest of angles, whipped over a stunning cross for Iwelumo to head home from the edge of the six-yard box. It was the big Scotsman's 11th goal of the campaign, a terrific return for a striker who had an unsettling time playing in Germany last season.

Iwelumo has refused to reveal the target he has set for himself this term, but the former Stoke and Brighton centre-forward has a great chance of becoming the first Colchester player (in the Football League) to score 20 goals since Tony Adcock in 1984-85.

The game rather degenerated into a tetchy, niggling affair, following Iwelumo's match-winning header. It was all kicked off by left-back Neil Ashton's late tackle on Halford, which earned the home player a 55th-minute booking.

Three minutes later and Sam Stockley was flashed the yellow card for dissent, after he had taken a tumble in the box with Ashton in close attendance. Stockley had wanted a penalty.

On a more positive note, the U's had opportunities to put the tie beyond doubt. Iwelumo was close to bundling home Cureton's cross at the near post, and from the ensuing corner Danns headed straight into the arms of Hart, after the excellent Wayne Brown had flicked on Watson's cross.

Shrewsbury exerted some pressure during the final half-hour, although they rarely troubled Davison. The 37-year-old keeper was mainly required to punch away long throws and crosses, which he did with conviction.

Essex-born midfielder Ben Smith blazed high and wide with the goal beckoning on 63 minutes, and Watson cleared Hope's header from off the goal-line in the 78th minute.

Yet the late talking point surrounded a war of words between the management teams, after Halford and Shrews striker Colin McMenamin had gone shoulder-to-shoulder in a robust challenge, near the dug-out.

Referee Mr Tanner ordered both Peters and Parkinson to leave their dug-outs and watch the closing minutes from the main-stand. The U's boss appeared to be an innocent party in this late controversy - his assistant Geraint Williams had a more active role.

Back on the pitch, United kept their composure during four minutes of injury time to reach the third round of the Cup for the third successive season.

It is now five long weeks since Colchester last failed to win a match. They will be gunning for victory No. 8 at Hartlepool tomorrow.

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