U's lose at home again

MANAGER Paul Lambert's honeymoon period is certainly over after his Colchester United slithered to back-to-back home defeats,

Carl Marston

Colchester United 0 Walsall 2

MANAGER Paul Lambert's honeymoon period is certainly over after his Colchester United slithered to back-to-back home defeats,

Colchester suffered their sixth defeat in nine home games since their summer move from Layer Road at the hands of well-organised Walsall.

The U's bossed possession but they lacked the penetration where it mattered, while the Saddlers soaked up the pressure and struck with two killer blows.

Midfielder Dwayne Mattis prodded home the opener in the 16th minute, steering Troy Deeney's low cross beyond the reach of keeper Mark Cousins.

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And the visitors doubled their lead on 62 minutes. Cousins failed to intercept Chris Palmer's corner and Michael Ricketts headed into the top corner of the net for his eighth goal of the season.

There was still nearly half-an-hour to play, but the U's looked rather deflated and never seriously threatened a comeback.

The U's miserable home record therefore continues. They have won just one of their nine league and cup games at the Community Stadium.

U's boss Lambert made three changes to his starting line-up. Skipper Dean Hammond was back after serving a one-match suspension, but fellow midfielder Kem Izzet missed out due to an injury picked up in training.

There was also a couple of changes to the defence, one of them expected and one of them a surprise. Left-back Lee Hills made his U's debut, just 24 hours after signing on a one-month loan from Crystal Palace, so enabling Johnnie Jackson to push further up the left flank.

But it was a surprise to see John White move from right-back into the heart of defence. White replaced Matt Heath, who was on the substitutes' bench, while Chris Coyne was not even in the 16-man squad. Coyne is off to join the Australian national squad this weekend.

Before falling behind, the U's had looked the more likely to score. An impressive run from 18-year-old Hills ended with Jackson whipping over a cross for Platt to head narrowly wide after six minutes.

But mid-table Walsall took their lead from their very first serious attack on 16 minutes.

Right-winger Troy Denney got the better of Hills down the flank and swept over a cross for MATTIS to poke home, with an outstretched boot, from 10 yards out.

United tried to respond quickly. Platt was unlucky with a header that flashed wide of the near post from Sam Williams' cross, and Jackson then blasted over following Williams' chest-down on the edge of the box.

Midway through the first half and Platt turned provider with a strong run down the right wing. His low cross rolled into the path of Hammond, but the U's skipper scuffed his first-time effort off target.

There was danger for the Saddlers when the U's earned a free-kick 30 yards from goal. Leading scorer Mark Yeates fancied his chances, and his thunderbolt shot forced keeper Clayton Ince into an unorthodox save, punching the ball into the air. The rebound would not fall kindly for the hosts.

Walsall were on the back foot, but they looked dangerous whenever they broke. That was the case when Deeney crashed in a low drive that was deflected wide on the half-hour mark.

Platt was the pick of the U's team in the first-half. The big man benefited from hesitancy between keeper Ince and defender Chris Palmer, but the angle was very narrow and his shot flew into the side-netting.

The U's best chance of the first period arrived in stoppage time. Jackson turned onto Platt's flick-on, but he could only hook his shot straight at Ince, who caught the ball with ease.

Half-time: Colchester United 0 Walsall 1

The U's began the second-half in impressive style. They were encamped in the Walsall half, and a blistering 35-yarder from White was on target, but unfortunately again aimed straight at Ince.

But Walsall again scored against the run of play to take a 2-0 lead just after the hour mark, thanks to a header from leading scorer RICKETTS.

A corner from Palmer floated over keeper Cousins, who had tried to collect, and Ricketts beat White in the air to send a looping header into the roof of the net.

That left United with a mountain to climb. The tricky Yeates managed to weave his way past three defenders inside the box, but his final shot was comfortably gathered by Ince on his haunches.

Lambert freshened up things on 66 minutes, by introducing substitutes Sunday-Akanni Wasiu and Anthony Wordsworth for Ifil and Jackson.

But Walsall defended stoically. Chances dried up until late on when substitute Wordsworth drilled in a goal-bound shot that was diverted wide off a defender's boot.

In the 88th minute, Wasiu turned inside the box but dragged his shot wide from a good position. That was the U's last chance.

Full-time: Colchester United 0 Walsall 2

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 6, Ifil 6 (sub Wasiu, 66), Baldwin 6, White 6, Hills 6, Yeates 7, HAMMOND 8, Perkins 6, Jackson 6 (sub Wordsworth, 66), Platt 7, Williams 6. Unused subs: Heath, Vernon, Gerken.

WALSALL: Ince 8, Weston 7 (sub Boertien, 90+3) Roberts 7, Gerrard 7, Palmer 7, Mattis 7, Hughes 7 (sub Reich, 79) Taundry 7, DENNEY 8 (sub Zaaboub, 69), Nicholls 7, Ricketts 7. Unused subs: Bradley, Gilmartin.

Referee: Phil Crossley (Kent)

Attendance: 4,071

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