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U's 2 Preston North End 1
U's 2 Preston North End 1
Tuesday, 12th Feb 2008 22:37

Johnnie Jackson's 88th minute right-footed volley from the edge of the area lifts the U's off the bottom of the Championship tonight.

Colchester United lifted themselves off the bottom of the Championship table this evening with a 2-1 win over Preston North End at Layer Road. Scott Vernon put the U's ahead from the spot after Sean St Ledger had seen red for his challenge on U's skipper Karl Duguid but Preston fought back to equalise through Neil Mellor's fortunate goal nine minutes from time. A draw looked be the destiny of the game but Johnnie Jackson rifled home Clive Platt's knockdown from the edge of the box to send the U's fans home happy.

With Kevin Lisbie ruled out following an injury at Burnley on Saturday, U's boss Geraint Williams selected veteran striker Teddy Sheringham ahead of the lively Scott Vernon to partner Clive Platt. Kevin McLeod continued in place of Mark Yeates while Chris Coyne and Adam Virgo were at the back.

Preston had former U's player Liam Chilvers in the starting line-up and went with former Carlisle hotshot Karl Hawley and Chris Brown in attack. Former Liverpool striker Neil Mellor was on the bench alongside Brett Omerod.

The opening half of this game was a turgid as it comes with both sides desperate not to suffer defeat. United spluttered in to life occasionally, but without Lisbie, the U's had no pace with which to threaten the visitors who came in to the match just outside the bottom three.

Hawley lifted a shot over the goals from just outside the penalty area before Brown looked destined to score with a diving header after McKenna's left footed free kick but the former Sunderland man failed to direct his header on goal from six yards out.

When the U's won a free-kick twenty-five yards out, just to the right of the goal, it was no surprise when Jackson took responsibility only to see his shot come back off the wall. However, from where I was stood, the better option was that of Karl Duguid, who only had to find the top corner of the net with the wall incorrectly placed by keeper Andy Lonergan.

Kevin McLeod's cross found the run of Jackson in to the box but the ex-Spurs man didn't time his side-footed effort and Lonergan was unduly worried as Chilvers, who had another decent return to Layer Road, hacked away to safety. Gerken was alert to catch Whalley's curling shot just before it hit the ground before Chris Brown's control and volley on the turn was only just wide of Gerken's left-hand post.

That was pretty much all the incident from a dour second half and the crowd seemed to agree that the U's needed to pep up the front line with the introduction of Vernon for the ineffectual Sheringham. The former Manchester United and England International simply does not have the mobility required at this level and, by playing him from the start, the U's are almost playing with ten men. I believe that he does work when he plays alongside Lisbie - who has the pace that Sheringham lacks, but alongside Platt it is just too easy for the opposition defence.

Neither side made a change at the break and it was the visitors who made the first impression as McKenna swung in a low cross which Brown controlled on the edge of the six yard box but Gerken saved low down as he tried to find the far corner of the net.

An attempted turn inside the Preston box from Duguid almost let in Izzet but the ball was just too far ahead of the U's midfielder before the U's skipper almost got away from him marker to latch on to a long ball from the impressive John White but could only tow-poke the ball towards Lonergan from the edge of the box. Ifil, who attacks with relish down the right, saw his first real shot in anger at Layer Road, curl further and further away from the goal.

Geraint Williams made the tough decision to replace Sheringham just after the hour mark. It was not a decision that the former Spurs man agreed with as he walked slowly off the pitch, and straight down the tunnel.

The introduction of Vernon for Sheringham revitalised the U's and suddenly, they looked far more dangerous than they had been for the last hour's action. Indeed, six minutes later they took the lead and saw the visitors reduced to ten men.

I think it was John White who hooked the ball back towards the penalty box and three U's players lumbered back from offside positions. Duguid, spotting the opportunity, burst through, clearly onside, and raced in to the box only to be caught by Sean St Ledger. Referee Taylor immediately showed a red card to St Ledger - who had his parents at Layer Road watching the game - which means he misses North End's 5th Round FA Cup tie against Portsmouth. Taylor checked with his Assistant who confirmed that the incident was inside the box and with penalty takers Teddy Sheringham and Kevin Lisbie off the pitch, Scott Vernon took the kick. It was hard to the goalkeeper's right, and though Lonergan got something on the ball, he was unable to prevent it from going in. Finally, the U's had broken the deadlock.

Three minutes later, and Preston were fortunate not to be down to nine men. A two-footed, intentional lunge on McLeod by Sedgwick who was only shown a yellow card. Preston manager Alan Irvine took his midfielder off immediately and he was replaced by Youl Mawene who slotted in to centre-half in place of St Ledger.

Platt and Vernon combined neatly inside the box, but the former Blackpool man looked surprised to receive the ball back and could only side-foot the ball straight at Lonergan.

Irvine sent on Neil Mellor in place of Hawley and almost immediately he had an impact. First, his run down the inside right channel was ended by Gerken's save at his post before Chaplow scored a disallowed goal - though I'm not 100% sure why.

With nine minutes remaining, Preston found the equaliser - and again, Colchester United looked to be unfortunate in conceding. A long ball forward was flicked on to Mellor whose shot appeared to hit the onrushing Dean Gerken, bounce down off his body, and spin back in to the net.

Could United find a winner for only the third time this season? Platt's header from Ifil's cross was easy for Lonergan to handle but when Jackson crossed to the same player from the left, it looked as though Lonergan thought the ball was going wide and at the last minute, had to palm the ball away to safety just before it crossed the line. Williams brought Luke Guttridge on for McLeod before Vernon tested Lonergan from a tight angle but the North End keeper was well up to the task.

With two minutes remaining, that winner finally arrived and what a goal it was too. Ifil crossed in to the box and as he did so, Jackson peeled away from the mass of players inside the area to find some space just outside the eighteen yard box. Platt got up highest to knock the ball down to the edge of the box where Jackson struck a superb right-footed volley which Lonergan had no chance with.

United should have made it three shortly afterwards, and my, would Clive Platt have earned his goal after a terrific evenings work. The creator was Vernon from Guttridge's interception, but as Vernon set him up, Platt's first touch was far too heavy and the North End keeper was able to smother the ball though he took a knock for his trouble.

The remaining four minutes of injury time went past without much incident, and there was a large cheer when referee Taylor - who aside from the missed two-footed lunge from Sedgwick - had a good game, finally signalled the end of the encounter.

Shot of the Match: Brown's first time control, turn and volley was excellent - and just a yard wide thankfully.

Save of the Match: Not too many saves of real note, but Lonergan did well to keep Platt's header out towards the end.

Moment of the Match: The substitution of Sheringham gave the U's a much needed bit of pace and energy up front.

Man of the Match: Coyne and Virgo were steady, White had a very solid game as well, but my MOTM goes to the outstanding Clive Platt. He gave a selfless performance this evening, chasing lost causes and generally creating havoc wherever he went. The pity is he missed his own golden chance for a goal late on.

Colchester: Gerken, Ifil, Coyne, Virgo, White, Duguid, Izzet, Jackson, McLeod (Guttridge 84), Sheringham (Vernon 62), Platt. Subs Not Used: Cousins, Granville, Watson.

Goals: Vernon 68 pen, Jackson 88.

Preston: Lonergan, Jones, St. Ledger, Chilvers, Davidson, Sedgwick (Mawene 71), McKenna, Carter, Whaley (Chaplow 78), Brown, Hawley (Mellor 77). Subs Not Used: Szamotulski, Ormerod.

Sent Off: St. Ledger (68).

Booked: Sedgwick, Carter.

Goals: Mellor 81.

Att: 5,122

Ref: Paul Taylor (Hertfordshire).

Photo: Action Images

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