Colchester United end season on winning note with Craig Eastmond on target
PUBLISHED: 16:53 03 May 2014
Walsall 0 Colchester United 1
Colchester United ended their season on a winning note, thanks to Craig Eastmond’s bizarre winner at mid-table Walsall this afternoon.
James Chambers’ attempted clearance ricocheted off Eastmond, from point blank range, and was diverted past home keeper Richard O’Donnell.
Eastmond could hardly believe his luck, but his 53rd minute goal was enough to clinch all three points for Joe Dunne’s men.
It was also a special afternoon for U’s veteran Karl Duguid, who came on as a 72nd minute substitute to make his final appearance in a U’s shirt, before he retires as a player. He will be staying on as a coach.
U’s boss Dunne made four changes to the side that effectively clinched their League One safety last weekend, with a 4-1 home win over Brentford.
In came Magnus Okuonghae, Eastmond, Dominic Vose and Clinton Morrison, while injury ruled out Freddie Sears, Jabo Ibehre, Sanchez Watt and Brian Wilson.
Front-runner Morrison, ploughing a lone furrow up front in his final game for the U’s (he is being released this summer), registered the game’s first goal attempt with a scuffed shot which keeper Richard O’Donnell easily gathered.
James Baxendale offered a more serious threat at the other end of the pitch on eight minutes. The attacker’s angled drive was pushed around his far post by Sam Walker.
Gavin Massey forced O’Donnell into his first serious save in the 18th minute. Gavin Massey cut in from the left wing and cracked in a low, curling shot which the Saddlers keeper did well to parry to safety.
Otherwise, it was proving a fairly low-key affair, and neither side mustered another attacking threat until Walsall midfielder Sam Mantom let fly with a stinging shot, on the half-hour mark, from the edge of the box. Walker spilled the shot, but gathered the loose ball.
In the 39th minute, Dominic Vose sneaked past midfielder Sam Mantom to release Ryan Dickson down the left wing, but his deep cross was well caught by O’Donnell at full stretch, before Marcus Bean could pounce at the far post.
Dunne introduced substitutes Frankie Kent and Drey Wright for the start of the second half. It was centre-half Kent’s senior debut, while for Wright it was another run-out after his long-term knee injury.
Walsall came close to breaking the deadlock in the 50th minute. Midfielder Adam Chambers’ low drive was heading for the bottom corner of the net, until Walker turned it around his post.
But it was the U’s who grabbed the lead, three minutes later, with James Chambers’ attempted clearance cannoning back off Eastmond and into the net. It was Eastmond’s fourth goal of the season.
Walsall searched for a quickfire equaliser, but James Baxendale steered his shot wide of the far post from a narrow angle on the hour mark.
Baxendale had an even better chance in the 67th minute, but he was quickly closed down by both Alex Gilbey and Kent on the edge of the box. The duo combined to block the shot.
Duguid was unleashed as 72nd minute substitute, to make his final appearance for the U’s. He received a terrific ovation from the 335 away fans inside the Bescot Stadium.
The Saddlers rained in shots, around the 80-minute mark, but without reward. Adam Chambers’ rocket was blocked, before Andy Taylor’s shot from the rebound swerved wide of the far post.
Goalscorer Eastmond also did well to block a goal-bound shot by Sam Mantom, before Walker pulled off a terrific point blank range save to thwart skipper Andy Butler at his near post in the 85th minute.
A minute later and Clinton Morrison was back on the goal-line to hack away substitute Amadou Bakayoko’s shot, and so protect the U’s lead.
WALSALL: O’Donnell, J Chambers, Butler, Downing, Taylor, A Chambers, Mantom, Morris (sub Featherstone, 74), McQuilkin (sub Sawyers, 62), Baxendale (sub Bakayoko, 74), Westcarr. Unused subs: Lewis, Purkiss, Benning, Flanaghan.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wynter, Okuonghae (sub Kent, 46), Eastman, Dickson, Eastmond, Bean (sub Drey Wright, 46), Gilbey, Vose (sub Duguid, 72), Morrison, Massey. Unused subs: Cousins, David Wright, Olufemi, Bonne.
Referee: D Webb (County Durham)
Attdendance: 4,271 (335 away fans)