Colchester United 1 Barnsley 2: Colchester rue Howard's end

Life in the second tier already looks a struggle for Essex new boys
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The Independent Football

A gloomy assessment of Colchester United's survival chances from one supporter perhaps said it all. "I think that if we end the season fourth from bottom, it will be a bigger achievement than getting promoted last season," he said. "I am not sure what the division is going to make of a little club like us and our ancient stadium. I mean, we still have terraces here, for heaven's sake!"

A near-capacity crowd at their rickety Layer Road home watched Colchester fall on their sword, this time to fellow Championship newcomers Barnsley. It was the second time in a week that they had relinquished a lead. Their manager, Geraint Williams, the man charged to take control of the club in their first season in the second tier of English football, knows there will be plenty more days like this.

Williams took over the reins from the departed Phil Parkinson, and with his side having failed to register any points this season, this visit of Barnsley was a chance to reverse the trend. It was a chance lost.

"The town is buzzing, we are all buzzing because we are in the Championship," he said. "But we just want to be a little higher up in the League."

The game itself was an ugly affair, much as both sets of supporters had expected. What some may have missed was Graham "Three Cards" Poll taking to the pitch as he led out the teams. Ironic cheers greeted him as his name was bellowed out over a scratchy Tannoy that had seen better days. It took just 17 minutes for the Colchester fans to find an excuse to remind him of his now infamous exit from the World Cup. The referee, taking charge of his first competitive appearance since the tournament in Germany, booked Colchester's midfielder Kemal Izzet for an ill-judged challenge on Barnsley's Brian Howard.

"He only needs two more, he only needs two more," chanted the Colchester supporters. Whatever the outcome of this season, they fully intend to have as much fun as they can.

A lone drummer's furious and rhythmic beating added to the occasion as Colchester's supporters made the best of a blustery and rainswept day in Essex. There weresigns of promise in their side's performance, but little sign of a breakthrough.

On 42 minutes, and with the drummer's enthusiasm wavering, he rediscovered his beat after the home side scored. Colchester took the lead when Izzet supplied Greg Halford with a low cross. It was converted from close range.

Shivering in their short-sleeved replica jerseys, those hardy souls who had made the long journey from Yorkshire had huddled together on terraces that required special Football League dispensation behind one of the goals, trying their best to shield themselves from the elements. Thoughts must surely have drifted back to 1998, the year they left the Premiership. This all seemed a distant cry from those days.

"It is a little bit pie-in-the-sky to think that we can get back to the Premiership," said their manager, Andy Ritchie, who guided them to the Championship via the League One play-offs last season.

The game turned after Marc Richards took advantage of some slack marking to claim the equaliser on 57 minutes. The midfielder Brian Howard then struck a firm shot from the edge of the penalty area on 78 minutes to give the visitors the lead.

It was enough to take all the points. They may never again be a Premiership side, but like the Barnsley supporters claimed, watching their side will always be "like watching Brazil".