Walker’s howler costs U’s victory

Sheffield United 1 Colchester United 1

A howler by Sam Walker cost Colchester United victory at Sheffield United this afternoon.

U’s keeper Walker allowed Harry Maguire’s speculative shot to escape his grasp and roll agonisingly into the net, on the stroke of half-time.

Earlier, Freddie Sears had put the finishing touches to a marvellous Colchester break for the opening goal in the 25th minute.

Sanchez Watt burst clear from inside his own half and eventually slid the ball into the path of the marauding Sears, inside the Blades box.

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Sears kept his composure to shrug off his marker and direct a low angled shot into the far corner of the net.

But just when it look as though the U’s would go in at half-time, nursing a deserved 1-0 lead, a terrible mistake by Walker enabled Maguire’s long-range shot, from a quickly-taken free-kick, to spin over the line.

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The U’s had been slow to react to the free-kick, taken by Brandy, but Maguire’s shot should never have found its way into the net.

Manager Joe Dunne had named an unchanged side from the previous weekend’s 1-0 home win over Port Vale. In fact, the 18-man squad was the same.

It was a cagey opening. The U’s shaded the early stages, in terms of possession, although Blades right-back Tony McMahon, recalled to the team after injury, fired only a foot wide of the target from long range on five minutes.

The home side, with Febian Brandy looking dangerous down the right, threatened again in the 15th minute. The ex-Walsall attacker threaded through a glorious low cross, but Jamie Murphy was unable to convert from 10 yards out.

Midway through the first period, livewire Brandy ghosted into the penalty area to try and latch onto a bouncing ball, only for Tom Eastman to head confidently back to his keeper Walker.

But it was the U’s who took the lead, ironically with their first goal attempt on 25 minutes.

Watt was the instigator and Sears polished off a fine breakaway with a slick finish. It was his first goal of the campaign.

Flying winger Watt was proving too hot to handle for the Blades, and the ex-Arsenal man sent Jabo Ihere chasing onto a through ball on the half-hour mark. Ibehre threatened to shoot, but eventually lost out to defender Maguire and the chance was gone.

The home side were nearly caught out by a free-kick, delivered to the far post by skipper Brian Wilson in the 34th minute.

Eastman surprised everyone by managing to keep the ball in play with a crisp volley back across the face of goal, but no one was on hand to divert home.

The U’s continued to enjoy a purple patch and Watt hooked a 20-yarder narrowly wide of the near upright, following Ryan Dickson’s excellent tackle.

But all of the visitors’ good work was undone by a bad mistake by Walker, who allowed Maguire’s long range shot to escape his grasp and spin into his net on the stroke of half-time.

Encouraged by this gift of an equaliser, the hosts began the second half on the front foot and Walker was relieved to cling onto Lyle Taylor’s rasping shot in the 50th minute.

At the other end, Jabo Ibehre poked home a free-kick from close range, although the assistant referee had already raised his flag for offside against the U’s striker.

On the hour mark, Walker made amends for his earlier error by standing up well to block Taylor’s shot, after the Blades’ striker had been found all on his own in the box by Brandy.

Substitute Andy Bond tried his luck with a scuffed long-range shot that was easily saved by George Long, in the 74th minute, but otherwise it was the Blades forcing the pace late on.

The home side thought they had won it in injury-time, but Taylor’s goal was ruled out for offside.

SHEFFIELD UNITED: Long, McMahon, Collins, Maguire, McGinty, McFadzean (sub Johns, 75), Doyle, Coady, Brandy, Murphy, Taylor. Unused subs: Howard, Westlake, Hill, Porter, McGinn, Eyre.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Dickson, David Wright, Eastmond, Watt (sub Drey Wright, 61), Sears (sub Bond, 66), Massey, Ibehre (sub Morrison, 80). Unused subs: Cousins, Thompson, Bean, Gilbey.

Referee: Richard Clark (Northumberland)

Attendance: 17,167 (240 away fans)

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