U's are capable of doing it again

LAST season was no fluke. The main protagonists might be different, but Colchester United still produced another irresistible performance to bombard the Baggies in a Layer Road thriller on Saturday.

By Carl Marston

LAST season was no fluke. The main protagonists might be different, but Colchester United still produced another irresistible performance to bombard the Baggies in a Layer Road thriller on Saturday.

West Brom remain the leading scorers in the Championship, but they were outgunned by Geraint Williams' men in a breathless, end-to-end affair. There was hardly time to blink.

Forget the likes of Jamie Cureton, Chris Iwelumo and Richard Garcia. The U's have some new attacking stars in their ranks, and they were too good for opponents whom manager Williams considered to be “the best footballing side in the division.”

Once again, winger Mark Yeates was the shining light, ably supported by a potent strike-force of Kevin Lisbie and Clive Platt. Furthermore, with a player of Teddy Sheringham's class to summon off the bench, the future remains bright at Layer Road - and beyond!

With a couple of exceptions, most noticeably the home defeats by Burnley and Scunthorpe, the U's have been a model of consistency this season. Now they are starting to regain that winning feeling on home turf.

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Back-to-back home wins over QPR and West Brom have propelled the U's into mid-table, suggesting that the Essex club are more than good enough to retain their Championship status for their keenly-anticipated summer move to the new Community Stadium.

The match was played at a blistering pace, but in the end West Brom had no answer to the deadly precision of Yeates, who boosted his tally to seven goals for the season with another trademark free-kick and a coolly-taken penalty.

Yeates' cracking free-kick quickly cancelled out Kevin Phillips' sixth minute-opener, and although Lisbie's 19th-minute goal was nullified by Ishmael Miller's headed equaliser before half-time, it was apt that the U's bubbly Irishman should seal the points with a 68th-minute penalty.

On this form, ex-Tottenham winger Yeates looks destined for a return to the Premier League. Only Sheffield United's James Beattie (nine) has scored more goals than him in the Championship, and he's an out-and-out striker. It should also be remembered that Yeates has not been credited with his deflected free-kick at Southampton - otherwise he would be on eight goals.

But it's not just his goals that are catching the eye. Yeates is delivering top-notch performances down the right wing, game-after-game.

In fact, he is fast developing into one of the most exciting players to don a U's shirt in recent times, representing a mixture of the tricks of Lomana Lua Lua, the expert shooting of a Mark Kinsella, and the craft of a Steve McGavin.

The frantic pace of the game was set very early on. Veteran front-runner Kevin Phillips, back in the side after a two-game absence with an ankle injury, produced a deadly finish to stun Layer Road's biggest crowd of the season.

Adam Virgo and Pat Baldwin failed to intercept keeper Dean Kiely's big punt forward, and Phillips nipped behind the U's defenders to lob over the advancing Aidan Davison. It was the ex-England striker's seventh goal in eight matches.

It may have looked ominous as West Brom had doubled the U's last season, but their lead lasted barely two minutes on Saturday. Belgian full-back Carl Hoefkens felled Johnnie Jackson just outside the box, and there was no prize for guessing who fancied his chances from the free-kick.

Yeates had scored from a brace of free-kicks at Blackpool, but this latest was perhaps the pick of the bunch. Kiely was rooted to the spot as Yeates gleefully curled home an eighth-minute equaliser.

The Midlanders were in charge for large periods of the first-half, but they were rocked by a breakaway goal from livewire Lisbie on 19 minutes. Phillips erred with an attempted back-heel, and Jackson turned defence into attack with an excellent ball forward for Lisbie to chase.

The ex-Charlton man outwitted defender Martin Albrechtsen - he had an afternoon to forget - before beating Kiely with a cleanly-struck low drive. The Baggies keeper got a hand to the ball, but could not prevent Lisbie from chalking up his fourth goal of the season.

Ironically, it was just when Colchester were enjoying a purple patch that West Brom netted an equaliser to peg the score back to 2-2. Centre-forward Miller, a promising 20-year-old on loan from Manchester City, nodded home his sixth goal of the campaign from James Morrison's deep cross.

There was no let-up in the second period, although there was just one more goal. Yeates was appropriately both the creator and the executer. He scampered onto Danny Granville's pass and was tripped in the box by the ponderous Albrechtsen.

Referee Kevin Friend pointed to the spot, and Yeates had no hesitation in picking up the ball and taking on the responsibility himself, calmly side-footing home with Kiely having dived the wrong way.

The confidence visibly drained away from Tony Mowbray's star-studded team.

They will still surely be a promotion force this season, but they will not forget their visit to Layer Road for a while.