U's sting life out of Bees

COLCHESTER United bade farewell to 2005 in the best way possible - by toppling league leaders Brentford with a rip-roaring display in west London on New Year's Eve.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United bade farewell to 2005 in the best way possible - by toppling league leaders Brentford with a rip-roaring display in west London on New Year's Eve.

Tricky winger Mark Yeates bagged a brace, with a quality strike in either half, to continue the U's amazing sequence of results.

Phil Parkinson's men have now lost just one of their last 14 league and cup fixtures. They have risen to fifth in League One, just three points behind new leaders Swansea, who are level on points with Southend and Brentford.

Furthermore, United's away record has been outstanding. Having failed to win any of their first three away fixtures of the campaign, they have since lost just one of their last 12 games on the road - and that was to an injury-time goal at lowly Swindon on Boxing Day.

Saturday's high-flying encounter was a thrilling affair. In fact, the second half produced a breathtaking 45 minutes of end-to-end football, with two teams playing at the top of their game.

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The visiting supporters, many of whom had turned up at Griffin Park in fancy-dress costumes, to celebrate the end of the year, were treated to a vintage performance from their team. And there is so much more to look forward to in 2006 (including an FA Cup tie at Sheffield United next weekend).

The Bees had risen to the top of the table, following a 2-1 win over previous leaders Swansea on Boxing Day. Yet their stay at the top was short-lived.

Martin Allen's men had only lost four league games all season, but they could not handle the dazzling U's, and especially a top-quality display from left-winger Yeates.

Tottenham loanee Yeates had set up countless goals for fellow team-mates this term, but remarkably he was still waiting to score the first league goal of his career. His only goal, albeit a cracking long-range thunderbolt, had come in the 9-1 demolition of Leamington in the FA Cup on November 5.

The Dubliner saved it until New Year's Eve to finally break his league duck. On the half-hour mark, livewire Yeates controlled a free-kick from Liam Chilvers, on the left edge of the penalty area, and cut inside right-back Kevin O'Connor before beating keeper Stuart Nelson at his near post with a clinical low drive.

Yeates was so delighted to score that he went over-the-top with his goal-celebrations, at least in the eyes of referee Phil Walton, and so was promptly booked.

The U's could have added further goals before the break. Greg Halford, who was playing his final game before serving a one-match suspension, tested Nelson with a shot that the Bees keeper clung on to, down on his knees.

An enthusiastic Yeates, no doubt spurred on by the booing from a section of home supporters whenever he was in possession almost silenced them with a second in the 40th minute. His volley ballooned off the leg of defender O'Connor and looped over the bar and onto the top of the net.

Aidan Davison denied the Bees an equaliser just before half time and with it kept his seventh clean sheet of the campaign. Lloyd Owusu, always a handful in the penalty area, directed a header goalwards from Jay Tabb's cross, only for the U's keeper to palm the ball away.

There was no time to blink in the second period.

Allen employed all three of his substitutes at various stages including teenage winger Ryan Peters and former Wimbledon big man Marcus Gayle.

Peters, who was on from the start of the second half, nearly netted with his first touch. Davison stood up well to block the shot, which was struck with venom from 15 yards out.

Brentford began to dominate possession, but it was always Colchester who looked the more likely to score again. Yeates was crestfallen when Nelson clawed his rising shot over the bar on 66 minutes, and Neil Danns then sneaked into the Bees box on a mazy run that ended with his shot deflecting wide off defender Sam Sodje's outstretched leg.

There was no lull in the action. Davison fisted away Owusu's threatening header, from beneath his bar, and at the other end leading scorer Chris Iwelumo headed Halford's bullet cross into the ground and over the bar, from just six yards out.

Brentford thought that they had equalised in the 86th minute. Davison parried Eddie Hutchinson's shot from close-in, and Owusu's follow-up header was somehow diverted on to a post by the excellent Wayne Brown.

Seconds later and Colchester were celebrating their second goal. Yeates again scampered on to Davison's clearance, via Iwelumo's intervention, and this time he gave Nelson no chance by planting an angled shot into the far corner of the net.

There was no way back for Brentford. This was only their third home defeat of the campaign, and their first reverse in 11 matches. Yet they could have no complaints.

The locals seemed to be in agreement, as they filtered out of Griffin Park, conceding that Colchester were the best side they had seen all season. Watch out Nottingham Forest.

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