Date:Tuesday January 2 2007
QPR (1) 1 Colchester (0) 0
Monday, 1st January 2007
These two sides met like ships in the night on New Year`s Day, at opposite ends of the table. Colchester United, however, failed to get anything from an encounter pitching them against a QPR side low on confidence, but high on personnel.
Instead of continuing to sail in opposing directions in the League, United hit the iceberg, having begun the game as slight favourites going into their fourth Championship clash in space of ten days.
West London side QPR, who took got all three points despite only scoring once, had lost seven of their last eight fixtures, failing to net more than a single goal in any of them. Colchester could also claim to be specialists at losing by an odd goal, particularly on the road, because of a poor tally of just two away wins so far this season.
QPR manager John Gregory had 35 first-team players from which to select his matchday squad of 16, while Colchester, whose already fragile squad was tested, lost skipper Karl Duguid to an injury before kick-off. The 28-year old midfielder had been expected to start, but withdrew after suspected headache complaints, thought to be related to the damaged eye he suffered at Preston on December 23rd.
As Colchester manager Geraint Williams highlighted in his programme notes on Boxing Day: "Christmas is a great time for families. For the professional footballer it is their busiest time of the year." The hectic schedule certainly told on this Colchester team, which had remained unchanged from the side that started against Wolverhampton.
A triangle of dangerous attackers in this game, Lee Cook, Dextor Blackstock and Ray Jones, were identified as opposing danger men, with Cook flashing a shot just wide after 18 minutes. The midfielder was a main protagonist, just as he had been for an out-of-sorts Rangers, in the corresponding fixture at Layer Road, three months ago.
Greg Halford, set to leave for pastures new within the next month, at first failed to deal with tricky winger Cook. The 22-yaer old did get the better of his marker 15 minutes later, by beating three QPR players to assist Jamie Cureton in the box, but his shot was blocked.
A few Colchester attempts, including an early blast from Richard Garcia, flew over the bar, before the home side broke the deadlock to go a goal up on thirty-six minutes. Physically imposing striker Ray Jones had fired a looping header past the otherwise excellent Dean Gerken, the latter of whom was responsible for denying Rangers several other opportunities to have taken the lead.
Gerken, also called into action when a shot hit the bar right after half-time, kept Colchester in a game that should already have been over by this point. QPR had been superior, and remained on top, until the seventy-minute mark, although their lack of confidence in front of goal, combined with some fine Gerken stops, gave Colchester a fighting chance of perhaps taking a point.
The young 'keeper has replaced regular stopper Aidan Davison between the sticks, after a run of good form, although he does owe the Northern Irish man some thanks. Davison, who delayed his desire to retire to America to prime his understudy, will now hang up his gloves at the end of the season.
The tide did begin to turn during the last quarter, and on-loan Hammer Hogan Ephraim impressed, after coming off the bench, playing with a precocious sense of youthful desire with every exertion of his pace on the ball. The attacking player doubled up as a central midfielder, also appearing on the left, then the right, hand side, and seemed the most likely to score or turn provider for the U`s.
But all this was too little too late from Colchester, whose opposition nullified the predatory threat of Chris Iwelumo and Jamie Cureton, by continually catching them offside, all afternoon.
Teams gunning for promotion would have seen off this QRP side with little trouble, and Colchester might have got something on another day, although 1-0 was a fair result in all. Now, the start of the first transfer window in 2007 threatens to open a new can of worms, as it provides the fist acid test of Robbie Cowling`s successful autumn takeover.
As Colchester fall unwillingly into the month of January, they wave goodbye to a 2006 that has arguably been the club`s most successful year of all time, in which the U`s secured a promotion to the Championship. Another few victories, and United will almost certainly be here to stay.
Date:Tuesday January 2 2007
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