U's unlucky not to take away win

COLCHESTER United are brimming with such confidence that they left the Walkers Stadium feeling deflated on Saturday evening, despite extending their fine unbeaten run to five games.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United are brimming with such confidence that they left the Walkers Stadium feeling deflated on Saturday evening, despite extending their fine unbeaten run to five games.

Hosts Leicester City, like so many of the bigger names in the Championship, are a pale shadow of the club that graced the Premiership just a few years ago.

The newly-promoted U's have proved that they have nothing to fear from the likes of former top-flight sides Birmingham, Derby, QPR and Leicester this term. Of course this Friday evening might be a different proposition, when in-form Ipswich are in town.

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But for the moment, United can be more than satisfied with their start to this season, especially after losing their first four games on the bounce. They are now nestling in 15th slot.

And Geraint Williams' men spurned the better of the chances in a rather uneventful goalless draw at Leicester. In fact, they should have been awarded a second-half penalty that could have earned them a second away win of the campaign.

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Chris Iwelumo appeared to be tugged back by a defender as he controlled Richard Garcia's lofted through ball with his chest. Referee Clive Oliver was unconvinced and allowed play to continue, after which Jamie Cureton latched on to Iwelumo's knock-down and hammered in a shot that was half-blocked and eventually scooped up by rookie keeper Conrad Logan.

The U's were adamant that they had been denied a blatant penalty. Iwelumo would have been confident of converting a third spot kick of the season, but in the end this was still a good away point.

The Leicester faithful came out in force - the attendance of 22,449 was their biggest of the campaign - but many of them were booing at the final whistle, unhappy at their team's display.

The Foxes look an average Championship side, nothing more. Manager Rob Kelly has to work with a squad packed with inexperienced youngsters, and as such they remain two points behind the U's. Their days in the Premiership seem light years away.

The first half was almost a non-event. The U's did not register a shot on target until the last minute of the first period, when Karl Duguid's long-range drive was easily saved by Logan. The Foxes 20-year-old keeper was making his first League appearance for the club.

Leicester's front-runners were quickly closed down. Matty Fryatt had a sight of goal after only six minutes, chasing on to Logan's big clearance, and yet the excellent Pat Baldwin blocked his shot with an outstretched leg.

Aidan Davison, recalled to the side after missing the 2-1 win over QPR with a tight groin, did not have much to occupy him. It was a complete contrast to his previous outing, when he pulled off a string of sensational saves to secure a 1-1 draw at Luton.

Davison and his defence were desperate to chalk up their first clean sheet of the season, and they achieved it with a degree of comfort.

Much of the play was down the other end in the second half, as the visitors sensed an opportunity to convert one point into three. Duguid had the best chance to break the deadlock in the 48th minute, only to drag his shot across the face of goal and wide following Cureton's defence-splitting pass.

A sign of City manager Kelly's concern was that he made all three of his substitutions just before and after the hour mark. But none of these changes had much of an effect, and livewire Duguid threatened again, from Greg Halford's delivery, when firing straight at Logan in the 67th minute.

Cureton is still searching for the 150th League goal of his career - the ex-Norwich City striker would no doubt love to achieve this landmark against Ipswich on Friday evening! He was mostly off-target with his efforts on Saturday, although a 75th-minute shot had Logan diving at full stretch to save.

Shortly afterwards Garcia, always a danger going forward, headed a foot over the bar from Kevin Watson's corner. By now the game had finally opened up.

Ex-Tranmere striker Iain Hume, the third of City's substitutes, did have an opportunity to steal the glory in the 81st minute. Diminutive winger Levi Porter, who was kept quiet by Halford for the bulk of the afternoon, caught the U's defence flat-footed with a ball over the top. Hume arrived before Davison, who had raced out of his penalty area, but the U's keeper stood up well to block the shot with his leg and then hoof the ball to safety. It was a gamble that paid off for the experienced 38-year-old.

Iwelumo's strong appeals for a penalty, which went unheeded, came on 83 minutes, after which both sides became more and more resigned to sharing the points.

Both Ipswich and Colchester remain unbeaten in September. Friday evening's showdown at Layer Road, which will be played out in front of the Sky TV cameras, could well decide the manager-of-the-month award, in addition to the bragging rights in East Anglia. One thing's for sure - the U's will be no pushovers.

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