Preston North End 0 Colchester United 0

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COLCHESTER United kicked off their new League One season with a classic away display, and a gutsy goalless draw at Preston this afternoon.

Preston were lucky not to be playing with 10 men, for the bulk of the game, when young winger Jeffrey Monakana made a rash challenge on Mark Cousins in the 22nd minute.

Monakana over-ran the ball but persisted with his run and clearly caught Cousins very late with a despairing lunge.

A red card looked the likely outcome, but referee Mr Gibbs chose to consult with his assistant and eventually opted for a booking rather than a red card.

But it was the home side who created the better chances, especially in a dominant period, and Mark Cousins made a string of excellent saves to preserve a point.

The U’s improved in the second period, and enjoyed long stints of possession, but without really threatening a winner.

U’s boss Ward handed a debut to summer signing Marcus Bean, who therefore became the 771st player to make a senior appearance for the Essex club.

Both Bean and striker Clinton Morrison were also celebrating their league debuts.

The visitors started well, despite their midweek reverse at Yeovil, and Anthony Wordsworth blasted over from long range after five minutes.

Wordsworth was back defending on eight minutes. He intervened with a last ditch block on skipper John Mousinho, who was shaping to shoot on sight.

Three minutes later and it was John-Joe O’Toole’s turn to come to the rescue. Having survived handball appeals against him, inside the U’s box, he then raced out to close down Scott Laird, charging down his shot with a lunge.

Bean was booked for a clumsy challenge on Mousinho in the 14th minute, and Cousins made a terrific save from the ensuing free-kick, finger-tipping a rising 20-yarder over the bar.

Preston were lucky not to be reduced to 10 men in the 22nd minute. Winger Monakana over-ran the ball but continued with his run, sliding into Cousins and catching him late.

Referee Mr Gibbs consulted his assistant referee before deciding to give Monakana a yellow card, rather than a red one. Cousins needed a couple of minutes of treatment before being able to continue.

United were so nearly caught out by a slick free-kick routine on 35 minutes. The ball was rolled to an unmarked Nicky Wroe, and his low angled drive was well blocked by Cousins from 12 yards out.

Cousins made on more important save before half-time. Danger-man Monakana sprinted past Michael Rose and crashed in a shot that was again well snuffed out by the U’s keeper.

Matt Heath was almost an unlikely goal-hero early in the second half. Firstly, the U’s centre-half headed a free-kick into the danger zone, and when the ball broke for him again, he lashed in a shot that curled only inches over the bar.

At the other end, Cousins was required to make his fourth fine save of the match. Monakana cut in from the right and let fly with a goal-bound 20-yarder, which Cousins was at full stretch to claw behind.

Cousins was soon in the spotlight again, this time arching back to tip Laird’s 30-yard rocket over his bar. By this time, Tom Eastman had replaced Matt Heath in central defence after the latter had sustained a cut to the head.

The U’s finally recorded their first shot on target in the 62nd minute. Freddie Sears set up O’Toole inside the box, although the midfielder could only aim his shot straight at keeper Thorsten Stuckmann, who smothered with ease.

Five minutes later and Morrison had his first sight of goal. Bean helped on Ian Henderson’s cross and Morrison’s first time shot on the turn flashed past the near post.

The U’s enjoyed a lot of possession during the final quarter of the game, but without threatening a winner.

Squads

PRESTON: Stuckmann, Keane, Huntington, Cansdell-Sherriff, Laird, Monakana, Wroe, King (sub Proctor, 70), Mousinho (sub Welsh, 61), Buchanan (sub Amoo, 56), Beardsley. Unused subs: Robertson, Cummins, Sodje, Simonsen.

COLCHESTER: Cousins, Wilson, Okuonghae, Heath (sub Eastman, 56), Rose, Bean, O’Toole (sub Bond, 77), Henderson, Wordsworth, Sears, Morrison (sub WHite, 90+3). Unused subs: Duguid, Izzet, Wright, Pentney.

Referee: P Gibbs (West Midlands)

Attendance: 10,034

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