United fail to live up to the hype

Blades 2, Colchester 2 Attendance 26,202

BOXING promoter Dennis Hobson knows a sucker punch when he sees one.

He watched two at Bramall Lane. So a split-points verdict for manager Bryan Robson in his first game calling the shots.

When it counted United simply couldn't shake off Colchester. James Beattie scored on his debut. That lead lasted seconds. Off the bench Michael Tonge made it 2-1 and inside eight minutes it was 2-2 and final score.

Wednesday are Hobson's choice as a rule. The lure of a game on his doorstep was too much on Saturday.

He must have wondered why at half-time.

The only joy after 45 turgid minutes came from United's electronic scoreboard. Hard to tell whether Wednesday's road crash run in with the tractor boys was better received than West Ham's beating by the new Sven men of Manchester City.

United and Colchester were for the first part making very hard work of what was hard work in blazing sunshine.

Robson opted for new boys Beattie, Lee Hendrie and Gary Naysmith in his first 11 with comeback kid Billy Sharp on the case too.

With skipper Chris Morgan out crocked, in came Matt Kilgallon and Chris Lucketti at centre back. Lucketti captained the team.

"We're disappointed, we've had words in the dressingroom. We're disappointed as a team and he (Robson) is disappointed as a manager," Lucketti reflected.

"We are very strong, probably the best squad in the Championship. We're well organised under the manager and we're all looking forward to moving the club forward."

Robson went for power and graft in his central midfield pairing of Nick Montgomery and Mikele Leigertwood.

United looked better for Tonge being in the mix after 65 minutes.

By now everyone knows that Colchester, the best of the 2005-6 promoted teams, are no mugs. They weren't last year, won't be this particlularly at the allotment-like ground they call home.

Away on Day 1, they were tidy enough. Maybe slightly second best in the first half.

Their big test came after the break as United started to believe 'the best in the Championship' spin the bookies have been giving out of late.

While Hendrie's debut was a decent one and he gave as much as anyone else, it was down the right side and through Keith Gillespie that things started happening.

Before that Hendrie missed a rare chance after a good Beattie lay-off as football finally broke out at the Lane.

Colchester's response was a 30 yard freekick from Johnnie Jackson which Paddy Kenny was top class in stopping. Just as well, it wasn't a foul anyway.

United stepped it up again and a dress rehearsal for the game's opening goal came as Gillespie turned a cross towards the far post, Beattie was on it but nodded it at the crossbar.

On came Tonge and Chris Armstrong for Hendrie and Leigertwood and in an instant Beattie began to pay the 4m bill that came with him. Again Gillespie lifted one across goal. This time the former England striker's header flew in.

Virtually from the kick-off Colchester equalised. Mark Yeates led a charge down the right before delivering a centre only Kevin McLeod expected. He got it and tapped it in.

Tonge had messed up a freekick before he forced home United's second goal. Colchester let a Gillespie corner pinball around the box before the United midfielder slammed it low through the crowd scene and home from around 15 yards.

That should have been job done, except Colchester had other plans. The 41-year-old Teddy Sheringham, still ambling about the Lane after 88 minutes, spread the ball out to captain Karl Duguid and his high ball into the area found the lanky Clive Platt free of any marker and able to force a header home.

"When you're in front twice, it's disappointing to lose goals especially in the manner that we did," Lucketti explained. "We've all got to do better than we did.

"For the first goal we just switched off. I think everyone was that delighted at going in front, we took our eye off the ball. Their second goal was a free header in the box."

Colchester boss Geraint Williams was as chuffed as you'd expect.

"I didn't think Teddy would last 90 minutes, especially in the heat, but in the 88th minute he was part of the build-up which got us the equalising goal. That's a fantastic testimony to how he keeps himself, fitness-wise.

"I thought the way Clive just took the pace off the cross to loop the header in was superb."

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