Date: 20th September 2007 at 7:28am
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U’s Still Unbeaten Away But Is Burley On Brink?

Southampton (0) 1 Colchester (0) 1

Wright-Philips, 54

Skacel (OG), 58

Wednesday, 19th September 2007 Attendance: 18,773

St. Mary’s Stadium

The betting exchanges were buzzing with odds of 5/4 on for Southampton to beat Colchester for the first time since the 1950s last night. At the final whistle, after a Rudi Skacel deflection steered home Mark Yeates’ cross to equalise a Bradley Wright-Philips goal, a better punt could be to tip George Burley as the next manager in the Championship for the sack.

Former Colchester manager Burley, admitting before the match that his opposite number Geriant Williams was a close friend, looks to be under increasing pressure – despite instance that his job is safe – because of his side’s failure to show promotion-winning form.

The supporters are also disillusioned with the club’s precarious financial position, fearing that last season’s mistakes are simply doomed to be repeated on the pitch, while reacting with trepidation to news that administration may still be on the horizon despite. The recent sale of stars like Kenwyne Jones and Gareth Bale, and Theo Wallcot before them, appears not to have fully raised the spectre of a negative balance-sheet.

Colchester, by comparison, have sold a record number of season ticket and are yet to lose during this term on the road this season. A neat feat, given that the only blot on the Championship copybook during 2006/7 was poor away form, with just 20 points gained.

Not at Southampton, mind. A superb Jamie Cureton solvo last March secured three points last time at St. Mary’s, confirming wins both at home and away over the Saints for the U’s during a marvellous first season in England’s second league.

Colchester made three changes since their last game, the two all draw against Charlton. In came Clive Platt and Adam Virgo, promoted to the starting XI in place of Teddy Sheringham (rested) and Matt Connolly (suspended), while Aidan Davison also surpassingly got the nod over regular stopper, Dean Gerken.

Media commentators have attributed the last change, made since Virgo won a first appearance alongside Pat Baldwin in defence, to the fact that picking Gerken might have represented a liberty. Gerken was afforded a rest ahead of next Saturday’s consecutive away trip to Blackpool in light of recent disciplinary problems.

Colchester coped admirably with the Saints’ attacking diamond overall, although the first shooting opportunity fell to the home side.

Davison’s palms were stung by a 35-yeard piledriver after eight minutes from Youseff Safri that bounced up off the turf, but not into the path of the lurking striker Bradley Wright-Philips. Southampton’s eventual scorer did get a chance 20 seconds later, though, pulling wide from the inside right a powerful cross-goal drive.

If statistics pointed potentially toward the match producing a handful of goals, as there have been 41 between them during the past ten encounters, then this first-half did not live up to that billing. Colchester, owing the league’s most prolific goals-for column to date, now showing 12 goals from seven matches, failed to breach the Kelvin Davis net.

Not that the audience were exactly left lamenting a lack of action, because Southampton might have had a perhaps valid penalty claim. Midfielder Nathan Dyer lobbed the ball to Wright-Philips in the area when Davison appeared to clip him, although the referee rejected all appeals. His partner, Pole Grzegorz Rasiak, was then presented with a half-chance against Davison, but fluffed a close-range effort that could have seen him go beyond the five gaols he already has this season.

A moment later, Kevin McLeod failed to test Davis in the opposite goal, fashioning another half-chance. He really ought to have found Platt in the box with a cross that, in the end, was all-too easy for Davis to collect. In fact, the U’s had to wait until just before the interval for two first guild-edged chances. Kevin Lisbie rolled the ball inexplicably wide during a defensive mix-up, while, a fraction before, Mark Yeates was unable take advantage of another lapse at the back.

After the break, renewed vigour from both sides saw the game open up. A flurry of chances directly following half time began to materialise. Kevin McLeod conceded a free-kick on the 18-yard line, which Davison did well to claw away after Rudi Skacel delivered it ten feet under the cross-bar. The home side soon scored through Wright-Philips, who hit the string, after good close control, by beating Davison on the turn at his near post.

That lead lasted less than five minutes, however, as a Mark Yeates cross needed one touch before the cross was delivered and diverted into the net. Colchester’s first attack of the half began with Kevin Lisbie found Yeates and the Irishman, who will take the plaudits, wasted no time in serving a cross that was too hot for Skacel, the unfortunate own-goal victim.

For the U’s, the draw represents the continuation of their solid. For Southampton, who have won just two out of last seven games, it represents a worrying slide from a slide slightly slow off the season’s starting blocks.


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