Match Report - Col U 2 Charlton 2
Ex-Factor Strikes As Iwelumo Leaves Layer Road Faithful red-faced
Colchester United (2) 2 Charlton (1) 2
Connolly S/0 55
Saturday, 15th September 2007
Matt Calmus, Layer Road
He would not dive, according to his manager, Alan Pardew. But Chris Iwelumo had already traded his cult status as an adopted Essex hero long before the former Colchester forward felt inclined to take a tumble after a contentious amount of contact from Matthew Connolly here on Saturday. Beware the Ex Factor.
At 'Slayer Road`, where the U`s have cultivated a reputation for apparent over-achievement, Colchester`s predilection toward fancy football became submerged in a sea of red on league matchday number seven. First faces, then cards and battle scars when a comeback from the away side denied Colchester a first home win of the season.
As one reporter noted, it was difficult to decide which camp was the more frustrated at the level result. The U`s had every right to feel aggrieved, having been two gaols clear, first through Mark Yeates and then Kevin Lisbie, although the Addicts, given their multimillion-pound squad, ought to dispatch lesser teams with ease.
This was definitely not a sanitised encounter, the like of which we have come to associate so readily with the Premiership. If, at kick-off time, the weekend`s mini-saga was billed as a friendly family-oriented case of Friends Reunited, the post-match prognosis threw that tame idea out with Charlton`s dented pride.
Genuine red and blue corner stuff unfolded. Former United boss Phil Parkinson, who won promotion for the club in 2006 and is now Pardew`s assistant and Iwelumo, returned to there adopted roots. The U`s also gave starts to Lisbie and Kem Izzet, both former graduates at the Valley.
Izzet, surprisingly, might have won the game for Colchester. His failure to convert a Clive Platt lay-off with little time remaining meant that the U`s number 10 could not feel the same joy as Lisbie, who netted against his one-time employers. His headed finish, and third goal of the season, in the first half saw him prove once more that height is sometimes of less importance than technique.
Iwelumo, though, with an insistence on impeding Dean Gerken`s gaol-kicks and low centre of gravity, has ensured himself an almost exclusive domination of the headlines, and not all for what media commentators often call the 'right reasons.` On the incident between Iwelumo and Connolly, Pardew insisted that the Scot "wouldn`t dive," although wisely remained non-committal.
Such drama, and at such intensity, often delights punters and the imagination of neutrals, yet sometimes insults the inelegance, too, because it tends to mock the values that underpin ideals like footballing fair play and sportsmanship.
Cheer or boo? Laugh or cry? For the watching masses or for the playing team, these contradictions can soon become individual preferences in what is traditionally a very collective sport.
Last weekend, the emotion was tested to the extent that some had their cake and ate it by doing both, reserving Iwelumo a respectful ovation in recognition of his 37 goals in stripes at first, before later venting vocal frustrations. The man himself, post-match, denied he deliberately influenced Mike Russell`s decision over Connolly`s 55th- minute dismissal, awarded after contention over a long ball.
"I didn`t dive, I was caught by the defender," Iwelumo maintained. "To be honest, I thought the referee had already made the decision himself. I didn`t realise that it was the linesman who changed his mind."
At this point, the game was still in the balance because of a goal by Svetoslav Todorov. Assisted by the powerful Iwelumo, after an Ambrose cross, it left the London side just a goal down. The significance of timing, as opposed to the actual quality of the astute strike, was what resounded most, although the U`s numerical disadvantage is undoubtedly what lead to Chinese attacker Zheng Zhi hitting the string for two all.
Iwelumo had already been prevented from beating Dean Gerken thanks to an athletically superb clearance from skipper Karl Duguid right on the goal line. It had looked a dead certain goal after the striker`s volley, but the clearance was instinctive. It also served to show that the game was only ever simply going to be about one man, and one man only.