Date:Monday December 18 2006
Magic three: Colchester dreaming of a nine-point Christmas
Colchester (2) 3 Stoke (0) 0
Cureton, 1, 17
Attendance: 5, 345
Layer Road Saturday, 16th December 2006
Stoke City`s reputation as Championship high-flyers - paraded in the alternative galaxy of 'Layer Dome` on matchday 23 - was smashed into outer space by Colchester United, who remain undefeated at home since August.
Three Colchester strikes brought a rising City team back down to earth, as a stifling Layer Road cauldron denied Stoke the footballing equivalent of oxygen - goals. The U`s, whose performance propels them into play-off contention, also ended their opponents` run of eight league games without loss.
A Jamie Cureton salvo was enough to neutralise any comet storm that Stoke might have delivered, with his first coming less than 90 seconds into the game. Shell-shocked at the prospect of a thrashing, City did not enjoy much time on the ball and home advantage helped the U`s to victory once again.
While the Layer Road atmosphere may be insufferable for the away side (the facilities are widely accepted as being of a 'Conference standard`), it has become a useful shield to help stave off potential invasion. The 6,150-capacity ground - a one-time army base - is an important part of Colchester`s seemingly unbreakable siege mentality. The actual surface itself is also superb, which raises an almost rhetorical question: Do Colchester want a new stadium after all?
Impending change can be scary, but exciting too, which is what home fans were constantly reminding themselves by the half-way point of this fixture. The potential nightmare soon turned out to be another daydream along the terraces, as the crowd provided a boisterous soundtrack to accompany on-field events.
Simply put, a high tempo start - and two goals - knocked the wind out of City as fast as it put the rhythm into United, with Jamie Cureton`s second goal being one of great quality. The ball fell over his shoulder, where there appeared to be nothing on - next moment, a right-footed shot had rippled the string for 2-0.
A spot of pantomime did provide Stoke with some much-needed relief during the first-half, where an injury forced the linesman, amid jeers, to leave the field of play. During that four-minute stoppage, a comic image of two opposition centre-backs arguing seemed to confirm Colchester`s superiority.
The festive spirit hanging in the town`s sky also dared those watching to ponder the idea that Greg Halford might forfeit his transfer request, particularly as the 22-year-old lined up a free-kick that dipped just wide of Steve Simonsen`s post. The faithful cannot yet decide if he is more Garry Neville (long throw, outstanding work-rate) than Beckham (Free-kick specialist, good crosser, pin-up), but are unanimous in that they do not want him to leave.
The half-time team talk, used to remind Colchester about out-manoeuvring Stoke through pace of play, saw high-speed superiority re-asserted by the U`s after the break. It quickly became olé stuff, and opposing danger-man Ricardo Fuller typified his side`s frustration, by picking up a needless yellow card.
That was after Richard Garcia had risen to help direct the ball into the net, for a third goal. This margin then helped Colchester to successfully leapfrog Stoke in the Championship standings.
Another great result was not without the odd scare - Watson and Garcia did pull-up during the game, although both seem to be on the mend after lengthy lay-offs. That, plus the episode of the injured linesman, concerned the crowd during this 3-0 triumph.
At least Kem Izzet saw the funny side of it, donning the fourth official`s now stray pair of sunglasses as he left the field - despite the fact that a Christmas chill was in the air. It was Christmas out on the pitch too, where every fantastic win is another present from the good ol` white 'n` blues.
Date:Monday December 18 2006
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