Young and old combine for U's
FOOTBALL can be so unjust! Every Colchester United player and supporter shared that feeling as they trudged out of Layer Road on Saturday evening.One of the harshest spot kicks ever awarded at this old ground, which is in its final season before the club's move to the Community Stadium, enabled Barnsley to poach a point.
By Carl Marston
FOOTBALL can be so unjust! Every Colchester United player and supporter shared that feeling as they trudged out of Layer Road on Saturday evening.
One of the harshest spot kicks ever awarded at this old ground, which is in its final season before the club's move to the Community Stadium, enabled Barnsley to poach a point. But that tells only half the story.
And where to begin? There were enough talking points in this first 90 minutes of Layer Road action to last a whole season! Two red cards, four goals, two penalties, a rookie keeper and a veteran goalscorer, all served up with a generous helping of controversy.
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The U's were fantastic. Most teams would have folded after the double blow of having their goalkeeper sent off, and falling behind to the ensuing penalty. But not Geraint Williams' men.
Dean Gerken was flashed the red card in the 26th minute, after spilling the ball and then holding back Barnsley striker Kayode Odejayi, who was poised to make the most of the keeper's error. Referee Andy Hall sent off Gerken for a professional foul, and he could have few complaints.
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In a flash, teenage custodian Mark Cousins, who had been anticipating another leisurely afternoon of sitting on the bench, was thrust into the limelight.
So sure was he that he wouldn't get on the pitch, that Cousins had told his parents not to bother to come to the match!
They had stayed at home in Chelmsford instead, a decision that they now probably regret.
The former youth team keeper was on a hiding to nothing for the opening seconds of his senior career.
His first touch of the ball was to pick it out of the net, after Brian Howard had confidently dispatched the resulting penalty.
Barnsley had been second best for the first quarter of the game, but suddenly they were in a very strong position.
Any fears that the U's would become deflated were soon dismissed.
It was the Yorkshire visitors on the rack and the dream became a reality when Teddy Sheringham marked his home debut with a first ever goal in a Colchester shirt.
George Elokobi burst past wing-back Rob Kozluk and delivered a cross to the near post, where the canny Sheringham nipped in front of his marker to slot home from close range.
Sheringham's equaliser arrived on the stroke of half-time.
It was the 180th league goal of his career, and hopefully the first of many for the U's.
United's recovery seemed complete when they received a double boost at the start of the second period.
First, they took the lead in the 48th minute, via Kozluk's own goal.
Johnnie Jackson whipped over a corner to the near post where Kozluk headed into his own net under pressure from Matthew Connolly.
Initially, the Arsenal loanee was credited with the goal on his U's home debut, but Kozluk admitted it was an own goal after the match.
Three minutes later and it was 10 versus 10. Sheringham was flattened by Tykes skipper Paul Reid, who went into a robust challenge with his elbow. Reid was sent off for violent conduct.
There was no let-up in the drama. Barnsley should really have been reduced to nine men in the 55th minute, only for Mr Hall to resist the temptation to reach for a second yellow and ensuing red card to punish left wing-back Dominik Werling.
Already booked in the first-half for a lunge at Mark Yeates, an out-of-sorts Werling then clearly tugged back Karl Duguid just when the U's skipper was breaking down the wing.
By the letter of the law, the German should have been sent off.
Tykes boss Simon Davey avoided the inevitable by taking off Werling just two minutes later, as part of a double switch.
Substitutes Grant McCann and Sam Togwell gave the visitors more impetus, but they didn't like look equalising until the controversial 85th-minute penalty.
The third substitute big Dane Kim Christensen unleashed a stinging shot that thudded into the back of Jackson, the ball seeming to clip the top of his shoulder. Jackson was only standing a couple of yards away, and so couldn't get out of the way of the shot.
Besides, it looked like a brave piece of defending.
Referee Mr Hall thought otherwise. He pointed to the spot for handball against Jackson, and Howard calmly converted his second penalty of the afternoon, with Cousins guessing the wrong way.
All in all, it was an unsatisfactory end to a frantic game. Both sides had chances to snatch victory late on, with Duguid screwing a shot wide for the U's, and Hungarian international Istvan Ferenczi spooning a free header off target for the Tykes.
The U's are unbeaten in two league games, and already have two more points than they managed from their first four fixtures last season.
But in the immediate aftermath, it was difficult to be positive.
United's players and fans felt cheated out of a couple of points. For them, justice had not been done.