Colchester United (1) 1 V Bolton Wanders (2) 2
Platt S/0, 25
Speed, 8 (Pen)
Vaz Te, 11
Vintage Ted Arrives But U’s Beaten By Knock-out Red
The archetypal description of a pre-season friendly as either boring and tepid never sprung further than the mind at Layer Road on Saturday when Premiership side Bolton arrived in Essex. Three goals, a penalty, and a dismissal within the game’s first quarter explain why.
The prospect of Teddy Sheringham’s long-awaited debut, (albeit from the bench) and a sprinkling of top-flight stardust on the opposition team-sheet, seemed to help matters. Names like Kevin Davies, Nicolas Anelka and Vaz Te simply rolled off the tongue.
This fixture, which brought the chance to see players of international calibre, spoke volumes for Colchester’s desire to demonstrate ambition, compete with the elite, and ticked the corporate box to satisfy a modern bums-on-seats requirement.
In the event, ironically, United’s biggest non-competitive game of the summer was a box-office flop, as evidenced by a sea of empty space on the terraces.
Teddy’s Essex arrival, it seems, was not luring enough to prompt a mass postponement of holiday bookings.
His reintroduction to Championship life in the second half, left the watcher with a feeling that, far from being past it at 41, his new on-filed colleges had all the work to do; at times they couldn’t read him.
Sheringham was impressive, serving a few knock-down passes, and making dummy runs; he also advised his striker partner, Jamie Guy, that the ball ought to have been arriving in at his feet a little more often.
Not even Sheringham, with his wealth of experience, dared to shoot from outside the box, though – a point that seemingly reinforces Teddy’s favourable deployment as a target man, as opposed to the runner, in a forward paring.
To that end, it was a pity that injury denied U’s fans the chance to see recent acquisition Kevin Lisbie, who opened the scoring after five minutes, and Sheringham in attack simultaneously. It was in fact Lisbie, whose trial became a permanent switch last week, who pounced on a loose ball in the box and fired Colchester in front for a third goal thus far during pre-season.
That slender lead did not last long. Bolton showed some undoubted class by threatening Dean Gerken’s goal almost immediately.
Left winger Mark Yeates then brought down the in-form Ricardo Vaz Te in the penalty area, leaving Bolton’s first-team player and coach, Gary Speed, the chance to dispatch the ball from 12 yards. Yeates’ trip on Vaz Te proved a costly lack of concentration, because Speed levelled the scoring.
The game then turned fully as Colchester surrendered their remaining advantage when, at 1-1, Portuguese man Vaz Te netted his third goal inside seven days to give the away side the lead.
The clinical finish, planted to Gerken’s right, superbly rounded-off a move that involved a dozen players and an assist by Kevin Davies. Scorer Vaz Te, along with the deep-lying and ominous Anelka, were probably Bolton’s best performers of the afternoon.
From a Colchester perspective, young left back George Elokobi had a good game, continuing recent form. He even gave the Bolton goalie a scare; his one shot in the final third of the field deserves credit not for accuracy but ingenuity.
Elokobi, a shoe-in for man of the match, even outshone Kevin McLeod, the winger whose early penetrating forays lacked consistent potency over the entire game.
Admiralty, this had less to do with McLeod’s individual efforts than he will be given credit for. His waning influence should be attributed to the moment when the club’s all-time record buy, Clive Platt, raised an elbow, and the roof, which resulted in a red card.
The referee, following an adjudged infringement on Bolton’s defender Lubomir Michalik, issued Platt’s marching orders.
As an inevitable lull in the action occurred – there would be no more goals – fans were left pondering what long-term impact, due to a probable mandatory suspension of three games, Platt’s moment of rashness would have in real terms.
The answer is that it will leave Colchester without one of their forwards for the trip to Sheffield United on Saturday, as well as matches against Barnsley and Shrewsbury Town, the latter being in the League Cup.
Add to the conundrum the fact that Lisbie left the field with an injury partway through the second half, and, in all probability, the order of goal-poaching merit leaves Guy and Sheringham as next weekend’s paring almost by default.
If that’s the case, Guy will have to spend a few more sessions on the training pitch with Teddy before the weekend arrives; this duo can work, with practice and time.
Sheringham to Colchester, and his ensuing debut, has not been a carbon copy of the Beckham to America blockbuster, even if Teddy’s lack of fitness, and rush to return to the fold, offered one distinct parallel between them.
The impact of Sheringham’s fame – good or bad – is, however, only a charming sideshow that detracts from the lessons to be learnt here from the defeat. Bolton, somewhat inevitably, fashioned geometric shapes on the pitch that undid their opposition, so an obvious conclusion is that the close-down response of those in stripes needs improving.
A startling fact also is that, by the time this latest U’s clan heads for Bramall Lane, the punters will be comparing Colchester’s frontline firepower with a potential combination of Billy Shape and James Beatie at the other end.
One thing you can say, going on the basis that Sheffield are an ex-Premiership side, is that the Bolton game was a good dummy-run for competitive game No 1. Learn, replay against a similar standard of opposition, but do not repeat the scoreline.
In light of today’s result, you would not need a sage to predict goals, and a helping of high drama, might be in plentiful supply when the season kicks off in earnest five days from now.
Col U V Bolton – Match Report
Colchester United (1) 1 V Bolton Wanders (2) 2