Date:Monday April 16 2007
Hull (1) 1 Colchester (0) 1
The KC Stadium
Saturday 14th April 2007
You sensed that Colchester`s eyes might be bigger than their belly, as the team searched for another three points away at Hull City in the Kingston Communications stadium.
Nobody can accuse Geraint Williams` side of lacking appetite, or a stomach for the fight, however, after the U`s levelled Nicky Forster`s opener with Jamie Cureton`s 23rd strike of the season, to earn a draw.
United came to Humberside is search of a filth successive win, and a third against consecutive relegation candidates, having beaten Southend and Leeds in the previous two matches. A win, which is what sidelined midfielder Kevin Watson had indicated his team wanted, would have left Colchester a point outside the Premiership promotion places.
"It has become a bit of a swearword in recent weeks," said Watson, in his commentary gantry for BBC Essex, due to a niggling calf injury, before adding: "There are no negative thoughts around the place."
It was another 'p word` though - as in perspective - which would now better suit the mood. On an afternoon where Scunthorpe United, a club with a similar stature and fan base to Colchester, achieved guaranteed promotion to the Championship, the Essex side made no secret of gunning for a consecutive promotion, with not even one full season in the division complete.
With that in mind, and the statements of Watson, the team`s achievements during their maiden season in English football`s second tier have been nothing less than amazing.
Not that this thought distracted the team from the task in hand; a typically attaching line-up from boss Geraint Williams ensured there would be plenty of chances. The only player missing was Watson, replaced in the starting XI by 18-year-old Hogan Ephraim. His pace meant that he took up a left-sided wing position, with previous occupant Johnnie Jackson moving into the centre of midfield.
Other than that, the U`s fielded an unchanged team from the one that had beaten Leeds United so emphatically last Easter Monday, with Kevin McLeod reappearing among the matchday 16. His inclusion on the bench was his first since overcoming injury after a recent operation.
The previously mentioned Ephraim, however, initially looked the liveliest of Colchester`s attaching outlets during the first half.
Inside the first quarter-of-an-hour, it was the West Ham loanee who connected with a Jackson diagonal ball to fashion his side`s first chance. Having cut inside from a wide position, he started a move involving three U`s players, before spiriting toward the far post to receive a pass; he then fired wide. Hogan, however, later succumbed to reported cramp, and left the field of play.
Hull had been direct with their play before they opened the scoring, befitting a need to gain victory; today`s menu, for them at least, ordered goals over gracious and arty play. The deployment of a string of long passes repeatedly into the box reflected this, in tandem with a compact trio of midfielders, which included former Arsenal favourite Ray Parlour, the so-called 'Romford Pele`.
The goal for Phil Brown`s side eventually came through the man responsible for scoring Hull`s only strike in the memorable 5-1 drubbing at Layer Road last November.
Nicky Forster found the net, assisted at pace by full-back Ian Ashbee, from six yards out. Former Ipswich man Forster diverted the ball through the legs of Colchester 'keeper Dean Gerken, giving the home side a slender lead with their first meaningful counterattack of the match.
United might have equalised the defect inside ten minutes, when eventual scorer Jamie Cureton had a glorious opportunity apex of the penalty area. Catching the ball on the volley, Cureton chipped from wide left of the area, expecting the string to ripple. Instead, it was tucked a fraction wide, despite the decent connection that Cureton made with the shot; it was a great chance.
City then picked up the attacking baton, again launching a number of crosses. One such, delivered by Parlour, could have found its way into the back of the net, via Stuart Elliot, but the ball bounced awkwardly for him, thus killing the opportunity.
Moments later, a last-ditch challenge by U`s midfielder Kem Izzet denied Dean Windass the chance to demonstrate why he is still a feared presence, even at the age of 38.
Just before the break, and after Jackson and Parlour had each received yellow cards for over-zealous tackles, the ever-present Colchester defender Wayne Brown looped an attacking header over the bar. Yet to score this season, despite having played in every game to date, Brown put a corner over from five yards.
At the start of the second period, although Ephraim was booked early on for a poor challenge, Colchester came into the ascendancy. Ephraim squared an early second-half pass into Jackson, who scooped the ball over, following good build-up play from U`s skipper Karl Duguid and Cureton`s partner, Chris Iwelumo. In another attempt, on fifty minutes, Cureton also uncharacteristically contrived to scuff the ball wide.
Ephraim then left the field of play, in place of McLeod, who showed great technique soon after entering the foray to test Hull`s US-born 'keeper, Bo Myhill shooting from a dead-ball 35 yards from goal, diverted the shot wide by diving, full-stretch, to his right.
The U`s finally levelled the scoring through Cureton, when the forward scored with a accurate drive from the right-hand side of the area; the sprightly striker beat Myhill at his far post.
Cureton then spurned two other chances as the U`s looked to gain momentum, and a win. Neither side got what they came for, in the end, which was victory, even after Hull dared to introduce the imposing Sam Parkin, recalled after being in among the goals at Stoke, to become part of a three-pronged attack.
Whether or not Colchester defiy gravity by getting a play-off place remains to be seen, but after securing survival at this level, plucky Colchester do not want to become a team that has bitten off more than they can possibly chew.
Date:Monday April 16 2007
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