Sealed With A Kick: Vital Three Points – The Start of a U’s Revival?
U’s Scorers: Vernon (68), Jackson (88)
Preston: Mellor (81)
Tuesday 12th February 2008, Layer Road
Attendance: 5, 122 By Steven Green.
Johnnie Jackson was the hero once more, as he struck a superb winner two minutes from time to haul Colchester United off the foot of the Championship table last night.
The U`s made one change from Saturday`s draw away to Burnley, with veteran striker Teddy Sheringham replacing the Kevin Lisbie, who missed the game with an ankle injury despite being named in the squad.
In a poor first half, Paul McKenna and Karl Hawley both came close for North End and Chris Brown fired wide with a clever volley. U`s left back John White also saw his stinging shot blocked at the other end, but the visitor`s ended the first-half the stronger side.
As the second-half grew older Colchester slowly began to get a foothold on the game. Colchester captain Karl Duguid should have done better when through one-on-one with Andy Lonergan in the Preston goal, but Lonergan easily saved Duguid`s weak effort.
The skipper put in an impressive display and so easily could have repeated the goal heroics that saw him win three points important for the club against Preston eight years ago.
U`s man Scott Vernon replaced Sheringham, just after the hour mark a substitution what proved pivotal in the game, despite Teddy`s obvious displeasure at being taken off.
Four minutes later, the ever-improving Duguid latched onto John White`s looping pass from the back just as Preston`s back-tracking centre-back Sean St Ledger hauled down the Colchester man inside the box.
The result: a penalty to the U`s, a red card for the young Lilywhites` defender and just over four-and-a-half-thousand wild home fans.
Vernon it was who took up the responsibility for the spot-kick and the former Blackpool front-man side-footed the ball home, as goalie Andy Lonergan could only help it on its way into the net. Vernon had glaring chance to make it two soon after, but he shot straight at Lonergan from six yards.
As the visitors looked for an equalizer, second-half sub Richard Chaplow saw an effort ruled out for offside, for a foul on the U`s full-back White. A minute later fellow sub Neil Mellor leveled for the Lilywhites, after being denied by U`s keeper Gerken, as the U`s looked like once again squandering a lead.
Forward Clive Platt then forced Lonergan to palm his header on to the foot of the post, as the big striker`s baron run in front of goal continued. But the U`s weren`t to be denied their victory.
The impressive Phil Ifil whipped in a clever cross which Aussie Chris Coyne headed down into the path of Jackson. The Colchester vice-captain let fly with a ferocious right-footed volley that Lonergan could do nothing about, as Jackson found himself on the score sheet for the third game running, with what was arguably the most important goal of his career so far.
The home side hung on for which could be a crucial victory as Geraint Williams looks to steer the Essex side away from the Championship trapdoor.