Reffing Hell - Colchester v Foxes
Reffing hell: man in black overshadows draw
Saturday, 13th January 2007
Colchester United(0) 1 Leicester City (1) 1
Iwelumo, 48 (Pen) Hume, 19
Matthew Calmus, at Layer Road
This game showed exactly what happens when 5,000 ravenous punters flood into Layer Road expecting to make a 12th successive scalp at home, but get denied that right by a combination of human error and lack of confidence.
They begin baying for blood. Pity, then, during this encounter of raging controversy, one Danny McDermid, whose Championship debut in the centre circle will forever be remembered as the afternoon where the referee turned into an unwitting ring-master of his own circus.
The song 'Stuck in the middle with you` would probably best capture the apathetic feeling that both sets of fans, and players, alike had felt at the final whistle.
Leicester`s clan of 1,000 travelling supporters had already been denied two potential goals for offside by then, while Colchester United became victims of an official`s attempt to assert some authority, as Hogan Ephraim`s late finish was also ruled out.
The goals that stood levelled out at one each way, with Leicester City`s promising strike-force of Iain Hume and Matty Fryatt combining to allow the Foxes to take the lead. A Fryatt assist, apex of the penalty area, saw livewire Hume collect to finish from close range. Colchester`s equaliser came from a spot-kick, as Chris Iwelumo grabbed his 14th goal - and fith penalty - of the season.
Referee McDermid, who issued seven yellow cards during the match, was instant upon impressing his version of the law to the letter, which made particularly frustrating watching, and so there was little flow to Colchester`s play.
The tally of bookings might have reached eight, after Karl Duguid was shown red, but the decision was downgraded after the referee realised that it was, in fact, only his first yellow of the afternoon. Almost a Graham Poll moment, and certainly one for the blooper reel of mistakes.
Not that poor officiating could have entirely masked Colchester United`s first-half errors. It revealed Leicester to be a passing team, and United`s somewhat predictable fondness for long-ball play, which works well when Iwelumo is not blindly heading the ball nowhere in particular. He deserves credit for later winning a perhaps fortunate penalty, and the Scot also had a shot that curved narrowly wide of Rab Douglas` right-hand post.
United simply could not keep the ball for long enough to fashion a convincing passing movement that might lead to a goal in the first-half, and so it seems that recent results - and last weeks Cup defeat to lowly Barnet - have dented collective confidence. A general failure to keep the ball on the floor lead to some edgy U`s moments, not helped by a risky employment of the offside-trap.
The job of restoring confidence rests on the shoulders of Colchester manager Geraint Williams, and the faithful must be praying it can be done before next weekend`s visit to Ipswich Town. In the meantime, the Welshman could have been foreshowing the events to follow against Leicester, as he said in his programme notes before kick-off: "Football is a game of highs and lows and while we have enjoyed the highs, we must also get over the lows."
Colchester relieved the pressure on their back line, and finally began to make runs off-the-ball, in the second half, although Dean Gerken, with some, at times, excellent and, at times, extrovert 'keeping, helped Colchester cling to a point.
The introduction of Hogan Ephraim, who comes earmarked with class, at the expense of Jamie Cureton, also provided a much-needed link between Iwelumo and the midfield. His, eventually disallowed, 'goal` could have sealed a win for the U`s right at the death; it was well-taken, with a cool finish.
Looking back, it was, as Geraint Williams put it, "not exactly terrible." It might even be fair to say that Colchester avoided defeat directly because of the man in the middle. Denied a win, maybe, but also spared a loss.
If you can ignore countless dubious decisions, a pantomimic flourish of the red card, and Colchester`s worrying inability to keep possession for long periods during the first half, then this was a point well-earned. The problem is - as the spoils were shared, in a game, frankly, spoilt by the referee - you can`t.