Date:Wednesday August 12 2009
Matt Calmus @ WHCS
COLCHESTER UNITED'S defeat to Layton Orient in the League Cup last night proved the substance behind that old after Lord Mayor`s show saying. This performance was in stark contrast to the U`s weekend extravaganza away against Norwich City, a magnificent club-record-forming 7-1 victory.
The lowly attendance of just over 3,000 was enough evidence that some stay-away punters thought it might just happen like this. Not even another guest appearance in the opposing dougout from a man who was formally Colchester`s most successful-ever manager, Geraint Williams, was enough to lift some from the sofa or sun-backed holiday destinations.
Williams said before kick-off he had a point to prove personally in the competition, given his previously abysmal record with Colchester, failing to overcome First Round opposition in three attempts.
Adrian Patulea`s bundling header at the far post, after left-back, Lee Beevers, failed to close an assisting cross by the in-form JJ Melligan, gave him the perfect platform after just eight seconds. His forward-partner, former Ipswich striker James Scowcroft, although not scoring, also caused problems with many well-timed off-the-shoulder runs at the U`s defence.
Melligan himself got the second, halfway through the second period. Melligan`s awkwardly unpredictable effort, drilled across goal, beat U`s keeper, Mark Cousins, on 63 minutes. Simon Hackney`s late free-kick, a powerful shot that only just crept in, was too little, too late deep in stoppage time United.
Williams claimed glory here against a side he had half-helped to build; Cousins, Kem Izzet, David Perkins, Kevin Lisbie and Clive Platt, sent-off here for an alleged violent conduct, were all originally signed by the Welshman. But Colchester`s team now unmistakably bears Paul Lambert`s mark and he made four changes from the side that played last Saturday.
Beevers looked less-than-comfortable at left-back, switched in favour of Alan Maybury, who took his place as right-full-back. Both were at fault for the goals, especially Maybury, who endured the ignominy of a ball bouncing off his back in the build-up to Melligan`s eventual winner.
Other U`s changes included starts for weekend substitutes Kem Izzet and David Perkins, who although both tenacious and hard-working appear unable to play together in central midfield, plus Cousins. Perkins took passes time-and-again into his ill-favoured right foot alongside Izzet, whose running did not make up this time for many stray passes.
Lambert, however, was sensible in revealing at full-time that he had backed his new signings and the squad permutations to play well when called upon. His honesty was appreciated but at least the result what transpired as a meaningless game for United might invite him to reassess his opinion in time to improve his side`s home form for a sustained challenge in League One`s top-half.
The U`s had good forward-thinking intentions last night but Orient played a compact game and got men forward effectively to support their sporadic attacks. That the U`s widemen, Ashley Vincent and particularly Simon Hackney, tackled the visiting full-backs with inside runs, showed as much. Perhaps far few crosses actually found either Platt, who worked well until his dismissal, or Lisbie.
A lack of tight close-down tackles, however, allowed Orient first to score a then to pepper Cousins` goal with several shots inside the game`s first quarter. Patulea was allowed an unmarked header after opening his account and Jimmy Smith also powered one into Cousins` arms.
Lisbie could have then squared the game for Colchester with a shot which went the wrong side of the net as the U`s began searching for a way back into the match. He combined well wish Simon Hackney through the rest of the half to forge the best chances, although few and far between, for the U`s.
Half-time: U`s 0 - Orient 1
Colchester could not find an equaliser despite their renewed second-half vigour and after going two down, Lambert realised the need for steady passing to unlock Orient`s deference. They`d scored with only their second real attack of the half just after an hour. The boss also removed Beevers in an attacking swap, playing three strikers by bringing on the in-form Scott Vernon.
Ball-winner, Dean Hammond was introduced, although probably too late to find the full pace of the game - club skipper Hammond played a few tricky diagonal passes but also went quite close to scoring when he put a shot straight over the bar.
Towards full-time, though, the U`s were reduced by a man as Clive Platt, who until then was a contender for man of the match given his hard-working display, Platt was given his marching orders after an off-ball fracas with involved most of the on-field players and even Glenn Morris, Orient`s goalie.
The U`s had a free-kick, which was thumped in, almost in pure frustration, by Hackney directly after Platt had left play. Colchester, having scored it without him in the final moments, have probably lost him for a further three given as his red will result in a compulsory ban.
United must improve at home when they play again on Saturday against possibly an all-together bigger crowd, if they are to avoid inevitable accusations of last season from fans: namely, that an almost new team and hard-worked tactics have so far done little to ease their predictable play on home soil.
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