Nouble rekindles U’s play-off hopes with winner to sink the Mariners
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United 1 Grimsby Town 0
Colchester United breathed new life into their flagging play-off bid, with a home victory over Grimsby Town this afternoon.
The U’s had slipped to five points adrift of the top seven, following a run of five defeats in six outings.
But Frank Nouble’s 25th minute winner against the Mariners, combined with a surprise 3-1 home defeat for seventh-placed Exeter City at the hands of Crawley Town, saw the deficit cut to just two points, with three fixtures remaining.
In truth, the U’s should have scored three or four goals, not just the one bagged by Nouble. But it was enough to keep their season alive.
Sammie Szmodics made a nuisance of himself in the Grimsby box before squaring for an unmarked Nouble to sweep home his ninth goal of the season.
Now John McGreal’s men will be looking to maintain their top-seven push at relegation-haunted Yeovil Town on Easter Monday.
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The U’s showed three changes from the side that lost their fifth match in six outings, 2-0 at Bury last weekend.
Dillon Barnes replaced Rene Gilmartin in goal, Tom Eastman celebrated his 300th career Football League appearance by coming in for the injured Luke Prosser in defence, and Brennan Dickenson was preferred to Mikael Mandron in an attacking role.
The U’s fans were in good voice before kick-off, buoyed by news of seventh-placed Exeter’s surprise defeat to Crawley, and they were so close to celebrating an opening goal on three occasions inside a hectic three-minute spell before the quarter-hour mark.
Firstly, Dickenson’s cleanly-struck free-kick, awarded for a foul on Sam Saunders, forced a fine diving save from Mariners keeper James McKewon on 12 minutes.
From the ensuing corner, delivered by Dickenson, centre-half Eastman’s close-range header was cleared off the goal-line by Joe Grayson.
The third lucky let-off for the visitors arrived just a minute later, as Courtney Senior’s low shot thudded back off the inside of a post and rolled to safety.
The hosts continued to press and Saunders, on his home debut, cracked in a 20-yard shot that deflected narrowly wide of the near upright.
Midway through the first period and Senior squandered a great chance to break the deadlock. Set up by the strong presence of Nouble, winger Senior eyed up the target before ballooning his 10-yard shot well over the bar.
But the U’s did get their noses in front, when Nouble tucked home a low shot from Szmodics’ lay-off on 25 minutes.
Ten minutes later and it was very nearly 2-0. Keeper McKeown struggled to block Szmodics’ goal-bound drive, and the ball squirmed free from his grasp, although it just eluded the awaiting Nouble, who would otherwise have had a tap-in.
The U’s continued to press, and McKeown had more work to do in the 37th minute when smothering a daisy-cutter from Kane Vincent-Young.
It was the same one-way traffic at the start of the second period, Frankie Kent having an acrobatic overhead kick cleared off the goal-line by Jake Hessenthaler in the 48th minute, after Eastman had headed on a corner.
Grimsby did not earn their first corner until the 58th minute, and keeper Dillon Barnes had virtually nothing to do until the 63rd minute, when he punched away a dangerous cross by Reece Hall-Johnson.
At the other end, McKeown denied Szmodics by saving at the U’s attacker’s feet, following Saunders’ slick break in the 82nd minute, asnd substitute Abo Eisa blasted into the side-netting just 60 seconds later.
COLCHESTER: Barnes, Jackson, Eastman, Kent, Vincent-Young, Lapslie, Saunders, Senior (sub Eisa, 79), Szmodics (sub Stevenson, 90+1), Dickenson (sub Mandron, 70), Nouble. Unused subs: Ross, Norris, Chilvers, Kensdale.
GRIMSBY: McKeown, Hendrie, Davis, Collins, Hall-Johnson (sub Burrell, 90+1), Vernam, Hessenthaler, Woolford (sub Clifton, 46), Grayson (sub Rose, 46), Dennis, Cardwell. Unused subs: Russell, Whitmore, Curran, Pollock.
Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffs)
Attendance: 3,677 (323 away fans)