U's stay unbeaten under Williams

GOALS from Richard Garcia and Pat Baldwin preserved Geraint Williams' superb record as a caretaker manager, at the expense of hosts Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.

By Carl Marston

GOALS from Richard Garcia and Pat Baldwin preserved Geraint Williams' superb record as a caretaker manager, at the expense of hosts Bournemouth on Saturday afternoon.

Williams' reign as the caretaker boss at Colchester United is set to end this week, and perhaps even today, with interviews for the job of Phil Parkinson's successor having taken place over the weekend.

Welshman Williams was amongst the shortlist of candidates interviewed by chairman Peter Heard and the U's directors, and he can certainly boast an unblemished record during his two spells as caretaker manager at Layer Road.

Back in February, 2003, former Derby and Ipswich Town midfielder Williams enjoyed a spell in temporary charge following Steve Whitton's departure. The U's were knee-deep in the relegation mire, although Williams steadied the ship with a four-match unbeaten run before Parkinson was appointed the new boss.

An assistant to both Whitton and Parkinson, coach Williams again found himself on the hot seat this summer, following Parkinson's shock exit to Hull City.

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Although this time Williams has only presided over pre-season fixtures, Championship outfit Colchester have still won all four of these friendlies, at Heybridge, AFC Sudbury, Tiptree and Bournemouth.

Garcia's superb solo goal broke the deadlock after 31 minutes at Dean Court and defender Baldwin doubled the tally from close range in the 57th minute.

Williams said: “The good pre-season record is down to the players, not me. The new manager now needs to be appointed, and whether it's me or someone else, I just hope that the decision is made on Monday.

“All along, I have just asked the players to focus on getting match-fit and not to get involved in the managerial debate.”

The U's fielded a strong starting XI, probably very close to the team that is likely to line-up on the opening day of the season at Birmingham City on August 5.

The only two notable absentees were target man Chris Iwelumo and defender John White. Last season's leading scorer Iwelumo was on the bench after picking up a niggling knee injury in the warm-up at AFC Sudbury, while White remains on the comeback trail after a minor operation.

Garcia, who was Iwelumo's replacement up front, had a big impact on the game. Triallist Lawrie Wilson, enjoying his fourth outing in a Colchester shirt this summer, was in the right-back slot usually filled by White.

Bournemouth are facing up to another season in League One. Sean O'Driscoll's men started brightly and danger-man James Hayter forced Aidan Davison into a smart save with a shot on the turn on 14 minutes.

However, the U's then took charge. Jamie Cureton had a shot blocked from close-in by defender Eddie Howe and his strike-force partner Garcia was denied by a tumbling save from keeper Gareth Stewart. Cureton pounced on the rebound but was standing in an offside position.

On the half-hour mark, Greg Halford let fly with a thunderous 20-yarder from the right-edge of the penalty area that was again parried by the busy Stewart.

A minute later and Garcia broke the deadlock with a quality finish, keeping up his record of scoring in each of the last three pre-season games. The Australian capped a strong run with a stunning shot that flew into the top corner of the net.

The Cherries had one excellent opportunity to equalise before half-time. Hayter slipped a neat pass through for summer signing Conal Platt, but the home striker failed to make clean contact with his toe-poke and Davison shepherded the ball behind for a corner.

An offside flag wiped out a potential second goal for the U's in the 39th minute. Stewart could not hold onto skipper Karl Duguid's angled shot, and Cureton tucked home the rebound, only to be standing in an offside position.

Caretaker boss Williams stuck with the same side for the start of the second period, although Bournemouth made four changes, including veteran striker Steve Fletcher coming on for Platt up front.

The visitors went two-up in the 57th minute thanks to a rare goal for centre-half Baldwin. The imposing figure of Halford flicked on Kevin Watson's corner and Baldwin side-footed home from eight yards out.

The Cherries had the better of the final half-hour, but rarely looked like eating into Colchester's two-goal lead.

The U's entertain Brighton & Hove Albion in their first home friendly of the summer tomorrow evening.

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