U's domestic strife

HOME, sweet home. Try telling that to Colchester United

Carl Marston

HOME, sweet home. Try telling that to Colchester United

The Weston Homes Community Stadium is a fantastic venue for football, but as yet it does not feel like home for the troubled U's.

Of course there's no point in pining for good old Layer Road where, with the odd exception (last season being one of them), the U's used to be a powerful force. That's all in the past, and United still have a very bright future in front of them.

But for the moment, at least, United cannot even buy a home victory. Saturday's 1-0 defeat by Bristol Rovers, who are not exactly away-day specialists, was just the latest in a long line of Community Stadium flops.

Having lost their only pre-season fixture at the new ground, to Athletic Bilbao, the U's have now failed to win any of their first five home league games - two draws and three defeats is a dismal record.

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A 52nd minute header from Rovers' in-form marksman Rickie Lambert was sufficient to beat the U's in home league game No. 5, at the same time seriously jeopardising Kit Symons' chances of landing the manger's job full-time.

The result was depressing and the performance was not much better. Rovers, without an away win before Saturday, were the better team and good value for their victory.

The U's are already lumbered with the worst home record in League One. Yeovil are the only other team yet to win on home turf, although they have at least drawn four of their five games at Huish Park.

Discounting the Premier League, only one of the other 71 Football League clubs have a poorer set of home results than the U's - League Two strugglers Grimsby Town have picked up just one point at Blundell Park.

It's perhaps just as well, then, that the U's next three games are on the road, starting with tomorrow's visit to Gillingham in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, followed by league trips to Cheltenham and Stockport.

The hosts were in the ascendancy for the first 20 minutes against Rovers, but they were second best thereafter. Things might have been different if Clive Platt's 18th minute looping header had dropped into the net, from John White's cross, rather than be hooked off the goal-line by defender Danny Coles. Platt is still waiting for his first goal of the season.

But a confidence-boosting goal never arrived, and it was Rovers who finished the first half on top. In fact, it needed a combination of Dean Gerken and the woodwork to keep the score-line blank at the interval.

Tall midfielder Chris Lines met Craig Disley's teasing cross with a thumping header that Gerken, standing at point blank range, managed to push onto the underside of his bar. It was a fantastic save,

It didn't take a genius to work out where Bristol's most likely goal-threat would come from, but the U's failed to stem that tide. Lambert was safely installed as League One's most prolific goalscorer before kick-off, and he retained that tag by scoring his ninth goal of the campaign.

The warning bells had already sounded a minute before Lambert's winning goal, when Gerken kept out the hit-man's goal-bound header from a Stuart Campbell corner.

But the warning was not heeded. Soon afterwards, Campbell directed another corner into the danger-zone, and an unmarked Lambert duly headed into the roof of the net.

There were still 38 minutes remaining for Colchester to mount a comeback, and Symons was quick to introduce his own leading scorer, Steven Gillespie, as a substitute.

Yet there was no rip-roaring finale. Pirates keeper, Steve Phillips, enjoyed a quiet afternoon with just one real save to make in either half. He was well protected by his defenders, who blocked several shots inside the box.

The U's last hope of some reward disappeared with Mark Yeates's last minute free-kick, which ended up in the stand accommodating the jubilant Rovers fans.

It's just as well that it's more than a fortnight before the U's host another match on their home patch. By the time that Millwall visit, on Tuesday, October 21, the Essex club should have appointed a new manager.

He has a hard job on his hands.


COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 7, WHITE 7, Reid 6, Heath 6, Borrowdale 7, Yeates 6, Izzet 5 (sub Gillespie, 55), Hammond 7, Perkins 6 (sub Wordsworth, 66), Jackson 6, Platt 5 (sub Vernon, 66). Unused subs: Coyne, Cousins.

BRISTOL ROVERS: Phillips 7, Pipe 7, Coles 8, Hinton 7, Lescott 7, Disley 6, Lines 7, Campbell 7, Hughes 6, Duffy 6 (sub Hunt, 81), LAMBERT 8. Unused subs: Jacobson, Anthony, Kuffour, M Green.

Referee: Mr Jarnail Singh (Middlesex)

Attendance: 4,811