U's let slip two-goal lead

COLCHESTER United let a two-goal lead slip through their grasp against Premier League opponents Aston Villa, in a pre-season friendly at the Community Stadium last night.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United let a two-goal lead slip through their grasp against Premier League opponents Aston Villa, in a pre-season friendly at the Community Stadium last night.

Scott Vernon handed the U's a 25th minute lead by nipping in between two defenders to deftly head home Dean Hammond's inswinging free-kick.

And Paul Lambert's men seemed on course for victory, and a notable scalp, when Ashley Vincent crashed home a marvellous second goal in the 56th minute, following Clive Platt's lay-off.

Both Vernon and Vincent had also scored in the U's previous pre-season friendly, against Troisberg FC in Germany on Saturday.

But Villa finished the stronger and goals from Steve Sidwell and Adam McGurk during the final half-hour secured a draw.

Most Read

Lambert had named 20 of his 27-strong squad for this high-profile friendly. Defender Paul Reid remained the one long-term injury - he will definitely miss the start of the season - while striker Steven Gillespie described his absence as “precautionary.”

The other first teamers to miss out were Johnnie Jackson, John White, Phil Ifil, Matt Lockwood and Medy Elito.

The U's operated with a conventional 4-4-2 formation in the first half. Two of this summer's new recruits were in the back four, with Lee Beevers at right-back and Magnus Okuonghae in central defence.

Anthony Wordsworth was behind United's first real attack on 12 minutes. The left winger exchanged a one-two with David Perkins and whipped over a threatening cross that experienced keeper Brad Friedel was able to smother inside his six-yard box.

Vernon then obliged with the opening goal, midway through the first period, thanks to his precise header from Hammond's free-kick.

Villa almost notched an immediate equaliser. Perkins lost possession and suddenly young winger Marc Albrighton was scurrying down the flank. His deep cross was well intercepted by Beevers, who directed his defensive header over his own bar.

Albrighton was certainly the pick of the Villa side during his 45 minutes of action, and the 19-year-old cut inside skipper Dean Hammond before unleashing a stinging drive that Mark Cousins saved in front of his near post.

The U's made five changes at the break, including home debutants Ben Williams and David Fox, but it did not initially disrupt their flow.

Vernon nearly doubled the lead when volleying straight at Friedel from Kem Izzet's delivery on 55 minutes, but the U's were celebrating their second goal just a minute later, thanks to Vincent's excellent finish.

The Premier League side finally got on the score-sheet in the 63rd minute, halving the deficit via Sidwell's slick shot on the turn inside the box. Sidwell had also scored in Villa's 3-0 win at Peterborough on Saturday.

Ten minutes later and the U's leaked a soft equaliser. Andreas Weimann's initial shot was blocked on the goal-line by keeper Ben Williams, but the ball ricocheted off covering defender Alan Maybury and into the path of McGurk, who bundled home from point blank range.

It was a messy goal, and it cost the U's victory.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter