U's slip into relegation mire

Cardiff City 4 Colchester United 1By Carl MarstonCOLCHESTER United slithered further into the relegation mire by capitulating in alarming fashion at fellow strugglers Cardiff City this afternoon.

Cardiff City 4 Colchester United 1

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United slithered further into the relegation mire by capitulating in alarming fashion at fellow strugglers Cardiff City this afternoon.

The U's broke the deadlock against the run of play with their only shot on target of the first half. Johnnie Jackson neatly controlled Kevin McLeod's cross and beat keeper Kasper Schmeichel with a deadly finish from close-in.

That goal arrived in the 44th minute, and Cardiff could certainly feel aggrieved to be one-down at the break.

But the Bluebirds took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second period, scoring four goals in a dominant 17-minute period to secure a comfortable win.

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Steve Thompson netted the equaliser in the 52nd minute, and man-of-the-match Peter Whittingham then fired the Welsh hosts into the lead with a lethal shot on 57 minutes.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink calmly tucked home Whittingham's 66th minute cross, and Adam Virgo then diverted another Whittingham cross into his own net to complete the rout.

This was a desperately disappointing display from the U's, who have now won just one of their last 10 games. That is relegation form!

Cardiff dominated the first-half and they created the first real chance in the 20th minute. Jimmy Flody Hasselbaink's initial shot was blocked, and striker Steve Thompson latched onto the rebound, only to see his goal-bound shot deflected wide for a corner.

It needed a goal-line clearance from Kevin Watson to deny Cardiff an opening goal in the 23rd minute. Defender Roger Johnson met Peter Whittingham's corner with a firm header that Watson managed to divert behind the post for another corner. It was a fine block from the U's midfielder.

The Bluebirds domination was summed up by the corner count for the first quarter of the game - six to the home side, none to the U's.

Only the woodwork denied Cardiff an opening goal in the 27th minute. Hasselbaink powered onto Paul Parry's pass and let fly with an angled drive from the edge of the box that cannoned off the far post and rolled to safety.

Matthew Connolly feared the worst when he brought down Steve Thompson, as the City striker was racing through on goal. The Arsenal loanee perhaps thought that he was going to be sent off, but referee Mr Shoebridge flashed him the yellow card instead - skipper Karl Duguid was in close attendance, persuading the referee that Connolly was not therefore the last man.

Dean Gerken produced heroics from the ensuing free-kick, beating away Whittingham's thunderous drive with strong hands.

It was one-way traffic and Thompson was running into the penalty area on another strong surge in the 33rd minute, only for Connolly to intervene with a well-timed tackle.

But it was Colchester who broke the deadlock with their very first effort on target in the 44th minute, thanks to JACKSON'S third goal of the season.

Kevin McLeod whipped over a deep cross from the left flank, and Jackson nipped in front of full-back Kevin McNaughton to control superbly first-time. The U's winger then gave keeper Schmeichel no chance by slamming home from eight yards out. It was a great finish from Jackson.

George Elokobi then came to the U's rescue in first-half stoppage time. Whittingham slid a low cross into the path of Hasselbaink, and the experienced striker looked poised to score, only for Elokobi to intervene with a great last ditch block. The left-back was at full stretch to make the challenge.

But Cardiff were level within seven minutes of the restart. Hasselbaink was able to swing over a low cross from the right edge of the penalty area, and THOMPSON steamed in to bundle the ball home from close range. It was Scotsman Thompson's third goal of the campaign.

Colchester squandered a great chance to regain the lead in the 56th minute. McLeod had just Schmeichel to beat, but the U's left winger saw his shot well parried by the Danish keeper.

And the U's were made to pay, because Cardiff took the lead less than a minute later. The U's struggled to clear their lines and WHITTINGHAM unleashed a stinging shot that seemed to take a deflection off Jackson as it soared into the roof of the net.

And it got worse for Colchester as HASSELBAINK netted the third goal for Cardiff in the 66th minute. Whittingham again did the damage down the left flank, and his low cross was delightfully tucked away by Hasselbaink.

The U's were all at sea and they leaked a fourth goal in the 69th minute to effectively end the game as a contest. Whittingham was once again the creator. He stormed down the wing and whipped over a teasing cross which VIRGO could only divert into the net for an own goal.

At 4-1 down there was no hope for the U's. Cardiff played out time comfortably to record an emphatic victory. The U's could have few complaints.

Full-time: Cardiff City 4 Colchester United 1


CARDIFF CITY: Schmeichel 6, Gunter 6, Loovens 7, Johnson 7, McNaughton 7 (sub Capaldi, 81), Parry 7, Ledley 8, McPhail 6 (sub Rae, 75), Whittingham 9, Thompson 8, Hasselbaink 7. Unused subs: Purse, MacLean, Oakes.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, Duguid 6 (sub Baldwin, 67), Virgo 5 (sub Granville, 74), Connolly 5, Elokobi 5, Yeates 5, Jackson 7, Watson 6, McLeod 5, Sheringham 5 (sub Platt, 69), Lisbie 6. Unused subs: Guttridge, Cousins.

Referee: R Shoebridge

Attendance: 11,006