U’s keep play-off hopes alive as Szmodics and Kent net goals against MK Dons
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United 2 MK Dons 0
A goal early in each half, by Sammie Szmodics and Frankie Kent, ensured that Colchester United’s play-off interest will be extended into the final day of the regular season.
The U’s produced a terrific performance to beat the promotion-chasing MK Dons, whose hopes of an automatic promotion spot took a big hit.
Most of the U’s rivals for the final play-off berth also won, but John McGreal’s men will still be in with a shout of snatching a top-seven berth, at champions Lincoln City next weekend.
The opener arrived inside the first two minutes.
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The Dons could only half clear a corner, the ball rolling into the path of Szmodics on the edge of the penalty area, in a central position.
And Szmodics emphatically beat keeper Lee Nicholls with a crisp low drive that whistled into the bottom corner of the net.
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Szmodics turned creator to set up the U’s second goal, in the 48th minute.
Frank Nouble caused problems with a strong run down the left flank, and although his cross-cum-shot was blocked, Szmodics was able to nip in and slide the ball back towards Kent, who planted a low shot into the net from 15 yards out.
The U’s showed just one change to the side that drew 1-1 at Yeovil on Easter Monday.
Keeper Dillon Barnes, sent off early in the second half for violent conduct, was serving the first of a three-match suspension, which meant a full debut (and home debut) for Ethan Ross.
Ex-West Brom trainee Ross, 22, had come on as a substitute following Barnes’ dismissal at Huish Park to make his U’s debut.
It took the U’s just 95 seconds to break the deadlock, through Szmodics’ deadly finish to rattle up his 13th goal of the season.
The goal had followed some good early pressure from the U’s, including two early corners.
The U’s had a great chance to double their lead, in the ninth minute. Szmodics turned creator this time, threading a precise through ball into the path of the onrushing Frank Nouble, who got beyond the defence but could not direct his shot past keeper Nicholls, who saved with relative ease.
Nouble was in the action again in the 18th minute, exchanging a slick one-two with Ryan Jackson before whipping over a cross which Szmodics was only a whisker away from connecting with a diving header, in front of goal.
Four minutes later and Nouble was once again charging beyond the Dons’ defence, though this time he dragged his shot across goal and wide of the far post, with Nicholls untroubled.
MK Dons showed little as an attacking threat, during the first quarter of the game, although centre-half Russell Martin headed wide from Dean Lewington’s 27th minute corner, and Conor McGrandles scuffed a shot wide a few seconds later.
The visitors were thwarted by the woodwork on 29 minutes, as David Wheeler’s first-time shot from Callum Brittain’s low cross cannoned back off the bar.
In fact, the Dons certainly had the better of the last 20 minutes of the first period. Cisse sent a free header wide of the far post, from Lewington’s 41st minute free-kick, while keeper Ross showed good composure dealing with long balls into the box.
A terrific break by Courtney Senior almost led to the U’s notching a second goal, just a minute before half-time. Senior won possession and then ran more than half the length of the pitch, showing defenders a clean of heels before his final shot was clawed away by the diving Nicholls.
But the home side did get their second goal, inside three minutes of the second half, thanks to Kent’s calm finish from Szmodics’ assist.
It was a great start to the second half from the U’s, and Szmodics peppered the target with efforts around the 55-minute mark. A close-range shot was deflected wide from Brennan Dickenson’s cross, and just seconds later his long-range thunderbolt was diverted a foot wide off a defender.
The Dons got on top as the second half wore on, but the U’s should have been celebrating a third goal in the 73rd minute, only for Senior to be denied on a one-of-one situation with keeper Nicholls, following a swift break. If he had passed to an unmarked Szmodics, then it would have been a goal.
The U’s enjoyed a double escape in the 79th minute. Substitute Chuks Aneke’s ferocious shot beat Ross but thudded back of the post, and although Agard tucked home the loose ball, he was standing in an offside position.
COLCHESTER: Ross, Jackson, Eastman, Kent, Dickenson, Lapslie, Saunders, Senior (sub Stevenson, 79), Szmodics, Eisa (sub Mandron, 72), Nouble (sub Norris, 90+1). Unused subs: Vose, Wright, Kensdale, Clampin.
MK DONS: Nicholls, Brittain (sub Williams, 59), Martin, Houghton, Lewington, McGrandles, Cisse, Harley (sub Aneke, 46), Wheeler (sub Walker, 68), Agard, Hesketh. Unused subs: Moore, Walsh, Watson, D’Ath.
Referee: Antony Coggins (Oxfordshire)
Attendance: 5,000 (1,007 away fans)