U's win at Millwall

DAVID Perkins marked his full Colchester United debut with the winning goal and a man of the match performance at Millwall last night.

Carl Marston

Millwall 0 Colchester United 1

DAVID Perkins marked his full Colchester United debut with the winning goal and a man of the match performance at Millwall last night.

Summer recruit Perkins netted what proved to be the winner after just eight minutes of this Johnstone's Paint Trophy first round tie in south London.

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When the U's reached Wembley in this same competition in 1997 - when it was known as the Auto Windscreens Shield - they had beaten Millwall at the New Den in one of the earlier rounds.

Geraint Williams' men will be hoping that history repeats itself this term, but without the eventual defeat in the final (after a penalty shoot-out against Carlisle).

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Obviously there is still a long way to go in this competition, but the win will give the U's a much-needed boost, especially as they do not have a league game for another 10 days.

There was some debate over whether Colchester's early winner was a Perkins goal, or an own goal by keeper David Forde.

Dean Hammond's free-kick was only half-cleared as far as Perkins, and the ex-Rochdale midfielder responded with a measured shot from just inside the box that soared over the despairing Forde.

The ball ricocheted down off the underside of the bar and rolled into the net off the stranded Forde.

It would be harsh not to credit the goal to Perkins, although the ball actually only crossed the line because of Forde's unwitting intervention.

The Londoners had 82 minutes in which to fashion an equaliser, but they rarely looked like taking this game to a penalty shoot-out.

U's boss Williams made five changes to the side that were held to a 2-2 draw by Oldham on Saturday, handing full debuts to Perkins, keeper Mark Cousins and striker Sunday Wasiu.

And it was a terrific start for two of these full debutants, because eight minutes after Perkins had broken the deadlock, keeper Cousins protected that lead with an excellent save.

Cousins had made a couple of appearances off the substitutes' bench in the Championship last season, but this time he had more time to prepare - he had only come on following Dean Gerken's sending-off against Barnsley, and had then replaced the injured Gerken at Bristol City.

It looked odds-on like a Millwall equaliser when youngster Ashley Grimes exchanged a one-two with Tresor Kandol and suddenly had just Cousins to beat. But the U's keeper dived bravely at his feet to block the shot.

United were close to doubling their lead on 22 minutes.

Medy Elito, starting his first game of the campaign, raced on to Wasiu's lay-off and crossed into the six-yard box, where Forde made a hash of trying to smother.

The ball squirmed free, but the Lions keeper was just able to recover before Scott Vernon could sweep home from close-in.

Millwall threatened just once more before half-time. Dean Hammond conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position, for a trip on Grimes, and Karl Moore saw his shot from the set piece beat Cousins and cannon back off the underside of the bar.

Just like the U's goal, Moore's effort could have rebounded in off the keeper, but fortunately the ball dropped beyond Cousins and rolled to safety.

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett made a couple of changes at half-time, and this seemed to rejuvenate his team.

Cousins saved low down from Kandol's snap shot in the 48th minute, and Matt Heath then did well to charge down an angled drive from substitute Gary Bowes.

But the U's soon weathered this storm and gradually regained control.

They made a couple of substitutions themselves, with Mark Yeates and Clive Platt replacing Wasiu and Vernon up front, and Yeates smashed one of his trademark free-kicks only a foot over the bar in the 75th minute.

In truth, Cousins was hardly troubled during the last half-hour, although the 20-year-old impressed with his handling when catching substitute David Martin's awkward cross, while under pressure inside his own six-yard box.

Millwall fans were appealing for a penalty in stoppage time, but referee Gavin Ward was not amused by Ahmet Brkovic's tumble in the box.

The U's win was richly deserved.


MILLWALL: Forde 7, Hackett 7, Robinson 6, Whitbread 7, Frampton 6 (sub Bowes, 46, sub Martin, 72), Grimes 7 (sub Fuseini, 46), Abdou 5, Craig 6, MOORE 7, Kandol 7, Brkovic 6. Unused subs: Dunne, Edwards.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 7, White 7, Coyne 6, Heath 7, Ifil 7, Elito 7, Hammond 7, PERKINS 8, Wordsworth 7, Vernon 6 (sub Platt, 75), Wasiu 7 (sub Yeates, 66). Unused subs: Izzet, Baldwin, Gerken.

Referee: Mr Gavin Ward (Surrey)

Attendance: 2,456

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