Date:Monday February 12 2007
Ephraim 'praying for play-offs` as United punish non-Battling Barnsley
Barnsley (0) Colchester (2) 3
Saturday 10 February 2007 Oakwell
After just 10 minuets of this game at Oakwell, it was obvious why Barnsley had not allocated any away tickets in advance of the kick-off. The brand of football currently on offer under the Yorkshire floodlights is not the sort that is going inspire the masses.
On this showing, it was hard to believe that their 23,000 all-seater stadium, which was less than half full as Colchester United recorded what was only a third away win of the season, had once hosted Premiership football.
While a 3-0 victory helped elevate Colchester to 8th position, Barnsley`s performance went a long way to explaining their poor league position, denting their morale. It also discredited many famous nicknames often synonymous with the Tykes
Calling Simon Davy`s side 'battling Barnsley` would be a misappropriation, since it`s exactly what they weren`t, and anymore comparisons assessing this version of Pele`s beautiful game as 'just like watching Brazil` threaten to turn that one-time complement into a bit of a joke.
Barnsley simply forgot that football`s call of duty is usually incumbent from the sound of the first whistle, and elected to AWOL. The home fans, then, became the most likely to rebel, and not those self-appointed 'tykes` out on the pitch.
Their side`s absenteeism was not well-received by the Yorkshire faithful, although it certainly allowed Colchester to recall the spirit of 'Layer Drome`, made of high-tempo starts and early goals.
That successful tactic, employed again here, stirs the type of play that has lead to the U`s being able to boast the longest home run without defeat (14 games) in this year`s Championship.
United, in unleashing some beautiful blitzkrieg throughout their opening attacks against opposition 'keeper, Nick Colgan, resumed the quest for the season`s targeted tally of 50 points, initially identified, back in August, to stave-off relegation.
They set about surpassing it (the U`s now have 51 points) in the early stages, when skipper Karl Duguid scored his fifth league goal of the season. Capitalising on some comedy defending from Barnsley, the 28-year old was gifted an easy chance, which he poked home from close range with his left foot.
Colchester soon doubled their advantage, with Jamie Cureton rounding-off a superb collective move, netting his fifteenth goal of the season from 12 yards. Receiving a superb reverse pass from Kevin Watson, Cureton struck to bring his tally level with fellow forward, Chris Iwelumo.
Should either of those men break the 20-goal mark this term, they would become the first Colchester player to do so in nearly as many years. Few would back against the division`s most prolific striking partnership in both making it.
Among their artillery of lethal statistics lie most offside decisions against (Cureton) and most fouled (Iwelumo) Championship front-man in the division.
While Colchester`s record-chasing strikers have only thirteen matches left in which to net the desired five goals each, time is ticking more urgently for Barnsley, who looked more than a little lacking in confidence. They just as many games in which to beat the drop.
As the U`s pushed their opposition closer the trap door that leads down into League One, the scorer of Colchester`s third goal, Hogan Ephraim, admitted that he is still "preying for the play-offs." Colchester United, by contrast to Barnsley, could afford to lose every game between now and May, and it would not matter in terms of retaining their Championship status.
Barnsley should have made it more difficult for the visiting team, but with goals like Ephraim`s, his first in stripes - there is small chance of the Colchester train de-railing. His strike was a brilliant solo effort, drilled home after he had taken the ball past two defenders.
The easy nature of that goal is undeniable, however, since nobody in Barnsley colours came close to dispossessing the midfielder. Earlier on right-back John White was also allowed two goal-threatening shots, while centre back, Matthew Mills, had the freedom to carry out an unchecked 60-yard run, before ballooning the ball over the bar.
Add to that list another two chances, of note, from Cureton; these second-half attempts both cannoned back off-the-cross-bar.
The glut of opportunities still only highlight half the story, though, as the smoke-signals of a fuming Barnsley faithful already suggest that they think survival is little more than a pipedream. That reaction was not the kind that will prevent relegation.
No chorus of boos, however audible, was going to prove enough to drown-out the eternal optimism that has gratefully attached itself to Colchester United`s enduring flight of fantasy. After 32 arduous matches, the U`s are still gliding through the fixtures.
Date:Monday February 12 2007
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