U's suffer disastrous start

COLCHESTER United suffered a disastrous start to their League One campaign in an embarrassingly one-side contest at Victoria Park, despite two late goals from Steven Gillespie.

Carl Marston

Hartlepool United 4 Colchester United 2

COLCHESTER United suffered a disastrous start to their League One campaign in an embarrassingly one-side contest at Victoria Park, despite two late goals from Steven Gillespie.

Hosts Hartlepool dominated from the first whistle to the last, and never looked back from the moment that star striker James Brown scored two goals in a 60-second spell on 13 and 14 minutes.

Things didn't improve after the break, even though the U's had the wind at their backs in the second period. Dean Gerken was beaten twice more by long-range shots from midfielders Willie Boland (65) and Ritchie Jones (76).

The U's scored their first consolation goal on 77 minutes, thanks to a penalty from Gillespie. He converted from the spot after Boland had handled in the box.

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And in the fourth and last minute of injury-time, Gillespie headed home Mark Yeates' free kick at the far post, to at least give the score-line some respectability.

But otherwise this was a very poor performance from the visitors. They lacked cohesion or much pattern to their play, with the Pools bossing possession and attacking almost at will.

Geraint Williams' men will have to improve dramatically for their Carling Cup visit to Gillingham on Tuesday evening.

The U's handed debuts to summer signings Gillespie, Matt Lockwood and Paul Reid, while two of the other close-season recruits, Matt Heath and Akanni-Sunday Wasiu, were both named amongst the substitutes.

Midfielder David Perkins, the last of these new faces, was serving the second of a five-match suspension, incurred for his sending-off in Rochdale's League Two play-off semi-final from the end of last season. Defender Pat Baldwin was the other absentee, due to his long-term shoulder problem.

Hartlepool should really have taken the lead inside the first couple of minutes. Gary Liddell burst clear into the penalty area, from James Brown's pass, and suddenly had just Dean Gerken to beat. But the U's keeper stood up well to block with his legs and so concede a corner. Gerken then comfortably caught the ensuing corner.

Pools centre-half Michael Nelson was booked in the 11th minute, following two fouls inside a minute, the first on Mark Yeates and the second on Gillespie. From the second free kick, Yeates curled a 25-yarder over the bar.

Disaster then struck as Colchester conceded two goals inside 60 seconds, to leave them trailing 2-0 after just 14 minutes.

Both goals were scored by Brown, and both were the result of poor marking from free-kicks.

Andy Monkhouse headed on a free-kick from Sam Collins and BROWN was able to control and take his time before unleashing a thunderous 12-yard shot that flew past Gerken into the top right-hand corner of the net.

That was a slick finish from BROWN, and the Pools striker could not believe his luck when he again exploited space, from a quickly-taken free-kick by Jones, to slide the ball under Gerken from just six yards out.

The U's were reeling, and took some time to recover from this double body-blow.

In fact, Brown was searching for his hat-trick goal in the 23rd minute when bursting into the box on another strong run. He ended up on the deck, appealing for a penalty with both John White and Reid in close attendance, but referee Mr Taylor was in a good position to wave play on.

The U's had shown virtually nothing as an attacking force during the first half-hour. Gillespie did nearly sneak clear of the home defence on 27 minutes, but skipper Sam Collins made a great last ditch tackle.

The visitors' best moment of the first-half arrived in the 35th minute, and it was all down to Yeates. The Dubliner deceived two defenders on the left edge of the penalty area, but the finish could not match his silky build-up. His shot flew across goal and wide of the far post.

The Pools ended the first-half on top and skipper Nelson was close to scoring the third when hooking a shot over the bar from close-range, after the U's defence had failed to deal with a corner in the swirling wind.

Half-time: Hartlepool 2 Colchester 0

Anthony Wordsworth finally registered the U's first effort on target on 53 minutes. The youngster benefited from Dean Hammond's strong run, although his optimistic 25-yard drive didn't really trouble keeper Arran Lee-Barrett.

Debutant Lockwood did well to sprint onto Scott Vernon's lay-off just before the hour mark. However, the left-back sliced his shot wide, which summed up the display of his team.

The Pools then earned a succession of corners, and from one of Willie Boland's deliveries, an unmarked Collins stabbed a shot wide from just six yards out.

But the hosts made their pressure count with a killer third goal in the 65th minute. BOLAND delighted the home crowd by beating Gerken all ends up from long-range, after the midfielder had not been picked up following a throw-in by Anthony Sweeney.

A minute later and it was nearly 4-0. Joel Porter scampered onto Monkhouse's pass and had just Gerken to beat, although the U's keeper managed to block the goal-bound shot.

Vernon nearly pulled a goal back on 71 minutes. His astute shot was diverted onto the bar by back-pedalling keeper Lee-Barrett.

Five minutes later and the U's were staring down the barrel at 4-0 down. This time BOLAND was the marksman, advancing a few yards before unleashing a stunning shot from the edge of the box, the ball whistling past Gerken and dropping into the net via the underside of the bar.

Williams' men at least grabbed a consolation goal in the 77th minute. Boland was adjudged to have handled inside the box, and GILLESPIE safely dispatched the spot kick for his first competitive goal in a U's shirt. But it was too little, too late.

Gerken prevented Hartlepool from helping themselves to a fifth goal with five minutes remaining. The over-worked keeper blocked Jones' goal-bound drive with his legs.

GILLESPIE scored his and Colchester's second goal in the last minute of injury-time, by heading home a free-kick from Yeates, but Hartlepool still ran out comfortable winners.

Full-time: Hartlepool United 4 Colchester United 2


HARTLEPOOL: Lee-Barrett, Sweeney, Nelson, Collins, Humphreys, Jones, Boland, Liddle, Monkhouse (sub Robson, 85), Brown (sub Foley, 82), Porter (sub Barker, 89). Unused subs: McCunnie, Power.

COLCHESTER: Gerken, White, Coyne, Reid, Lockwood, Yeates, Hammond (sub Izzet, 71), Jackson, Wordsworth (sub Wasiu, 62), Gillespie. Vernon (sub Platt, 71). Unused subs: Heath, Cousins.

Referee: Mr A Taylor (Manchester)

Attendance: 3,831