U's out-fox leaders, but not keeper

CHAMPIONS elect Leicester City were given a huge fright by Colchester United, who should really have been celebrating a first ever victory over the Foxes.

Carl Marston

CHAMPIONS elect Leicester City were given a huge fright by Colchester United, who should really have been celebrating a first ever victory over the Foxes.

Paul Lambert's men outplayed the runaway League One leaders for much of the afternoon, and had the initiative thanks to Mark Yeates' stunning free-kick midway through the first half.

But, as has happened so often this season, the U's fell just short of their goal. They failed to add to their lead, conceded an equaliser, and then spurned further chances to net a winner during the final quarter of the game.


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Leicester's official man of the match told the whole story - keeper Tony Warner. The Hull City loanee made a hat-trick of classy saves to keep the U's at bay.

The U's man of the match was also poignant. Centre-half Neal Trotman, signed on loan from Preston on Thursday, marked his debut by ruling the airwaves in both penalty areas. The 21-year-old was a revelation.

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Trotman must have felt that he was playing in a Championship-bound team, rather than a team who look destined to finish several points adrift of the play-off zone.

United should be a lot closer than the 10 points that currently separate them from sixth-placed Scunthorpe. A terrible start to the season, combined with some unconvincing home displays, will mean that the Essex club will still be in League One next term.It could have been a different story, especially if natural goalscorer Steven Gillespie had started 37 games, rather than just seven! The U's club record signing was again sidelined by injury - a match-fit Gillespie would surely have been worth several extra points.

Even without Gillespie, the U's did enough to beat Leicester. And on another day, a draw in front of a 20,000-plus crowd at the Walkers Stadium would have been considered a great result. Alas, one solitary point was not enough to maintain even a passing interest in the promotion race.

Yeates struck with one of his trademark free-kicks in the 23rd minute. Welsh international midfielder Andy King fouled David Perkins outside the box, and Yeates curled his 25-yard free-kick over the wall and beyond the reach of keeper Warner.

It was the perfect free-kick. Warner was to stand firm for the rest of the afternoon, but he had no chance with that particular effort. It was Yeates' 11th goal of the season, but his first for nearly two months.

Leicester did not threaten until the early stages of the second half. Matty Fryatt has scored an impressive 28 goals in all competitions this season, but he had an off-day against the U's, not least when the ex-Walsall striker pulled a shot wide from Lloyd Dyer's lay-off in the 49th minute.

The two Preston loanees combined to almost double the U's lead after the hour mark. The imperious Trotman headed on a free-kick from Yeates in the direction of Karl Hawley, who should have done better with a header that drifted wide of target.

Hawley looked a little short of match-sharpness, but should prove a useful foil for fellow front-man Clive Platt over the next few weeks. The duo used to be team-mates at Walsall.

Four minutes after Hawley's miss and Leicester were level. Substitute Paul Dickov had been on the pitch for less than a minute when he squeezed home a low shot from close-range, after keeper Mark Cousins had struggled to deal with a miscued cross from Matt Oakley. It was Dickov's first touch!

Far from feeling deflated by this setback, the U's went in search of a winner during an enthralling last 20 minutes.

Platt poked narrowly wide after Trotman had got his head to another of Yeates' free-kicks, and City then enjoyed two let-offs in the 78th minute. Warner denied Yeates in a one-on-one situation, after the Irishman had sped onto Hawley's through ball, and Platt headed Dean Hammond's cross onto the top of the net from the follow-up attack.

Warner preserved his side's point in injury-time, by blocking Hawley's well-struck angled drive.

Leicester therefore moved a step closer to the Championship, while ironically the U's lost further ground in the play-off race. You can forget about promotion for another year.

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