U’s suffer heavy home defeat and Nouble sees red
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Colchester United 0 Forest Green Rovers 3
Colchester United were caught out by two sucker punches in the first half, at the hands of play-off rivals Forest Green Rovers tonight, on their way to a disappointing home defeat.
Liam Shephard and Reece Brown put the Cotswolds club in the driving seat with two similar goals, on 21 and 33 minutes, both breakaway goals where the U’s were exposed by some poor marking.
Striker Christian Doidge made the game safe for the visitors by slotting home a third, in the 81st minute, as Rovers leapfrogged their Essex hosts in the League Two table.
And the U’s miserable night was completed by Frank Nouble being sent off, in the 85th minute, for two bookable offences. Booked for a foul in the first half, a frustrated Nouble was shown a second yellow and ensuing red for an off-the-ball incident.
It was a night to forget for John McGreal’s men, and was certainly a missed chance.
For Rovers’ opening goal, Brown broke quickly down the left flank and was able to pick out an unmarked Shephard, on the right-edge of the penalty area.
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The Rovers right wing-back let fly with a low angled drive which beat Rene Gilmartin all ends up to nestle in the bottom corner of the net.
It was the same Brown-Shephard combination which was behind Forest Green’s second goal, which arrived in the 33rd minute.
This time, though, it was Shephard who was the provider. He charged down the right flank and squared for an unmarked Brown to steer home a low shot from 15 yards out.
Brown provided the assist for the third, bagged by Doidge with five minutes remaining.
Unsurprisingly, the U’s were unchanged from Saturday’s 3-0 home win over Newport County, with the same starting line-up and same bench.
Forest Green Rovers were in the play-off race, despite losing five of their previous six matches, and losing their last three on the bounce.
And they started brightly, with leading scorer Doidge blasting a shot over the top inside the first two minutes.
The U’s threatened first from Ryan Jackson’s long throw into the box, on 12 minutes. The Rovers defence, and keeper Lewis Ward, struggled to clear their lines before a cross by Sammie Szmodics was hacked to safety.
Ben Stevenson registered the U’s first goal attempt, in the 16th minute, although his long range shot ballooned several yards over the bar.
Three minutes later and Stevenson was far closer with another shot from distance, this one flashing inches wide of the near post.
But against the run of play, Rovers took the lead shortly afterwards, via Shephard’s ferocious finish on 21 minutes which flew past Gilmartin.
The U’s were struggling to get going and Courtney Senior, man-of-the-match against Newport just three days earlier, had a shot blocked on the edge of the box, which summed up the home side’s frustrations during the first quarter of the game.
Just after the half-hour mark, the U’s began to show more urgency, and keeper Ward used an outstretched boot to good effect to divert away a dangerous angled cross-cum-shot by Szmodics.
However, Rovers once again struck, against the run of play, with Brown tucking home their second to double the lead in the 33rd minute.
The visitors came close to a third, just before half-time, when Joseph Mills’ well-struck free-kick ricocheted off the defensive wall and rolled wide of the upright.
It was a subdued start to the second half, with Rovers happy to sit on their lead, although Ward had to be alert to block a fierce shot by Nouble on the hour mark.
Substitute Brennan Dickenson crashed a low shot across goal and wide of the far post, on 66 minutes, and then delivered a cross from which Nouble headed off target.
The U’s best goal attempt of the night arrived in the 71st minute when Stevenson’s goalbound shot was superbly clawed to safety by keeper Ward.
But Rovers made the game safe in the 81st minute, Doidge slotting home their third from a central position.
COLCHESTER: Gilmartin, Jackson, Eastman, Kent, Vincent-Young, Stevenson (sub Eisa, 78), Nouble, Mandron (sub Dickenson, 58), Szmodics, Senior, Norris. Unused subs: Barnes, Prosser, Roberts, Wright, Chilvers.
FOREST GREEN ROVERS: Ward, Shepherd (sub Godwin-Malife, 84), Mills, Rawson, Collins (sub James, 57), McGinley, Gunning, Winchester, Reid (sub Mondal, 74), Brown, Doidge. Unused subs: Thomas, Grubb, Williams, McCoulsky.
Referee: Alan Young (Cambs)
Attendance: 2,871 (109 away fans)