|The Laitt Report - U's 3 Cheltenham Town 1|
Saturday, 17th Jan 2009 18:05
Second half goals from Dean Hammond, Steven Gillespie and Mark Yeates helped United to a deserved 3-1 victory over ten man Cheltenham Town at the WHCS this afternoon.
Colchester United finally recorded back to back wins at their new home with a convincing 3-1 win over struggling Cheltenham Town. Goals from Dean Hammond, Steven Gillespie and Mark Yeates secured the points but it took the Cheltenham Town goal to fire the U's in to action. From that point on though, there was only going to be one winner.
Following Monday night's impressive performance at Stadium:MK it was no real surprise that Paul Lambert retained the same starting eleven that had played so well there. That meant Johnnie Jackson retained his place at left-back despite Marc Tierney - now a permanent U's player - being available again after suspension. Scott Vernon and Clive Platt led the line which meant that Steven Gillespie would have to wait on the bench to face his former employers.
United were not at their best in the first half but had enough about them to dominate proceedings and create three or four good chances which, on another day, they would have scored from.
Robin’s keeper Scott Brown was called in to action to prevent Mark Yeates shot from hitting the back of the net and, from the resulting corner, Paul Connor was grateful to see his miscued header go inches over the bar.
After quarter of an hour, Martin Allen was forced in to his first change of the afternoon with Paul Connor replaced by the pacey Elvis Hammond up front. Shortly afterwards and Yeates picked out the unmarked Clive Platt with a wonderful cross but the target man's header lack confidence and allowed Brown to make an easy save.
United had to make their own change just before the half hour mark after Johnnie Jackson appeared to injury his shoulder after an aerial challenge. John White replaced him with Maybury switching to left back.
Perkins and Vernon then combined to give Mark Yeates a shooting chance but from a narrow angle the U's leading goal scorer blazed over when perhaps a chip to the far post might have provided more dividends.
Then came the chance of the half. After White's dangerous cross from the right, it was the turn of his fellow fullback Alan Maybury to cause problems with a ball in to the box. Scott Vernon did well to control the ball on his chest and seemingly, only needed to volley the ball home for the opening goal but somehow Brown was able to make an excellent save to keep his side in the game.
A long ball from the back from Paul Reid caught nearly everyone out except Clive Platt and keeper Brown. The two of them challenged for the ball some 35 yards out from goal and that allowed Perkins to collect the loose ball. The former Rochdale man tried to place his long-distance effort along the ground but that gave Westwood the time to get back and clear. Perhaps a first time lofted effort would have broken the deadlock against the League One strugglers.
A rare Cheltenham attack saw John White having to clear a dangerous ball in from Ridley following a free kick whilst Hammond's excellent challenge inside the penalty area gave the rest of the U's defence the time to re-organise after the swift Robins break had caught them out of position.
Though the U's had had the better of the clear cut chances the game still needed a lift to take it out of the 'mediocre' box and in to the 'pleasing' category at the halftime break.
It was the visitors who started the brighter of the two teams at the restart with Ashley Vincent testing Jimmy Walker in the U's goal with a shot from distance. The U's loanee shot stopper had to be at his very, very best to deny Elvis Hammond though. The former Fulham strike made space for himself down the inside left channel and fizzed in a shot which Walker did well to deflect behind for a corner.
However, it was from the resulting corner that Martin Allen's side took the lead - and it was possibly a match defining moment in the afternoon. The U's defence seemed to stand off Chris Westwood to allow him to stoop and head past Walker. It’s the second goal conceded from a corner by the U's within a week and must be of concern to Lambert and Ian Culverhouse.
Before play could resume, Steven Gillespie came on to replace Scott Vernon in attack and immediately the U's took control of the afternoon. Gillespie offers the U's pace up front and is prepared to run off the last defender which neither Vernon nor Platt can really do. Cheltenham rarely coped with their former team-mate.
Scott Brown had to be alert to deny both Hammond and Gillespie in a short period of time - the latter should probably have done better with his diving header at the far post.
However, the U's got their equaliser just after the hour mark thanks to Captain Dean Hammond. A free kick from Yeates' from near the touchline was whipped towards the far post where Hammond rose highest to get a deft touch on the ball which was enough to divert it into the far corner of the net.
Lambert introduced Lewis Gobern - signed on loan from Wolves in the week - for the hard-working David Perkins with twenty minutes of the half gone whilst John Finnigan came on from Lewis Montrose at the same time.
John White did really well to recover after his sliced clearance gave Hammond a sniff of goal with the fullback's challenge clearing the danger.
United then won a free-kick after a rash challenge by Finnigan on Izzet for which the visiting player rightfully received a yellow card. The incident occurred inside the penalty area semi-circle, but Yeates' cleverly brought the ball back a few yards in the hopes of giving himself a chance to get it up and over the wall and down again in time. In the end though, his effort deflected off Kem Izzet for a goal kick.
The visitors were then reduced to ten men with fifteen minutes left to play. Finnigan, who had only come on eight minutes earlier, saw a second yellow card after his late challenge on Mark Yeates. Even the most die-hard Cheltenham Town fan would have found it hard to argue with the referee's decision in either case.
Gillespie then became the first U's player in to the book though he might be have been a shade unfortunate. He certainly used a hand to divert the ball past Brown in the goal as the goalkeeper rushed out to challenge for a bouncing ball, but I felt that the U's record signing may well have got a shove in the back at the vital time which saw the U's striker try to kid the referee.
However, five minutes after the sending off, United were ahead. After a corner was initially cleared, Gobern combined with Baldwin on the winger and it was from the central defender's accurate left foot cross that Gillespie headed past Brown and in to the corner of the net for an excellent headed goal.
Baldwin, who has only one goal to his U's career in the last Essex Derby at Layer Road, might have grabbed his second goal after turning smartly in the box but he failed to get any power on the shot and Brown saved thankfully.
Cheltenham were then caught on the break by the impressive Gobern who picked the ball up just outside the U's box and, at pace, dribbled the ball unchallenged towards the edge of the Robins' area. With Yeates and Gillespie offering him options either side, he took perhaps the weakest option and let fly from 25 yards which failed to worry the keeper.
Yeates forced Brown in to a fantastic save from his curling effort from just outside the box - the keeper just getting a finger on the ball to tip it on to the bar. The winger then tried his luck with a more powerful effort which again, the keeper did well to parry.
It was third time lucky for the Irish winger though as Gobern found him inside the area and Yeates was able to pick his spot to fire past Brown from 10 yards out. The Cheltenham keeper then found his kicking game deserting him much to the enjoyment of the four thousand plus in the crowd, but he can keep his head in knowing that the score line might have been much worse without his efforts.
Shot of the Match: Yeates curling effort looked to be dropping just under the bar late in the second period before Brown's intervention.
Save of the Match: Though Brown's save was excellent, Walker's save from Elvis Hammond was more important in the context of the game.
Moment of the Match: Probably Cheltenham taking the lead. Conceding the goal, plus the arrival of Steven Gillespie, seemed to fire the U's up and helped them to their 4th win at the home this season.
Man of the Match: Another of those performances where it’s difficult to pick out the MOTM. Of the midfielder I thought Kemi Izzet was excellent throughout the afternoon whilst the back line rarely put a foot wrong. However, after due consideration, I think the award probably had to go to MARK YEATES who did pretty much everything that was asked of him this afternoon.
Colchester: Walker, Maybury, Baldwin, Reid, Jackson (White 28), Perkins (Gobern 65), Izzet, Hammond, Yeates, Vernon (Gillespie 58), Platt.
Subs Not Used: Cousins, Wordsworth.
Goals: Hammond 62, Gillespie 77, Yeates 88.
Cheltenham: Brown, Gallinagh, Westwood, Ridley, Wright, Montrose (Finnigan 65), Westlake, Russell, Bignall, Vincent, Connor (Hammond 15), Hammond (Owusu 74).
Subs Not Used: Puddy, Bird.
Sent Off: Finnigan (72).
Booked: Montrose, Finnigan.
Goals: Westwood 57.
Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).
Photo: Action Images
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