Colchester United: Five talking points from the weekend, and beyond
Here are some talking points from the weekend, while also looking ahead.
IN A NUTSHELL
Colchester United chose the wrong time to serve up one of their poorest performances of the season, and certainly their least effective display of 2017.
Shola Ameobi’s quality brace of goals was the difference between the two sides, in terms of statistics, after Haydn Hollis’ eighth minute opener had been matched by Chris Porter’s cracking strike for a 21st minute equaliser.
But Notts County’s win was not just down to target man Ameobi, a striker who has spent most of his career terrorising defences in the Premier League at Newcastle.
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The U’s were simply outgunned in all departments.
They were vulnerable in defence, ineffective in midfield, lacking down the flanks and, with the exception of skipper Porter, fairly toothless up front.
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Certainly, the Magpies fully deserved their third win on the bounce, as Kevin Nolan’s men soared to 13 points clear of the drop zone, with just six matches remaining.
The U’s are now five points and five places adrift of the play-offs, needing to win at least four of their final six fixtures to be in the mix.
Centre-half Hollis was the unlikely scorer of the first goal. The U’s were unable to clear their lines from a free-kick, and although Ameobi’s close-range toe-poke rebounded back off the bar, Hollis capitalised by steering the ball home from just outside the six-yard box.
Out of the blue, the visitors levelled when Porter created room for himself in the box before curling a terrific left-footed shot into the far corner of the net.
But Ameobi upstaged him with a sensational goal in the 34th minute. Sam Walker pushed away a goal-bound effort by Jorge Grant, and Elliott Hewitt’s follow-up 20-yarder was blocked inside the box by Cameron James. But Ameobi was on hand to crash a long-range first-time shot past Walker – it was a dazzling finish.
Ameobi wrapped up the points by heading home Grant’s 73rd minute free-kick.
The U’s have not won on the road in 2017, a problem that looks set to cost them a play-off berth.
No wins in eight away games, and just three points from a possible 24, is relegation form rather than promotion material. That 4-2 victory at Stevenage, on New Year’s Eve, already seems a very long time ago.
By the time that the U’s play their penultimate away game, at Morecambe on Easter Monday, it will have been 107 days since the Essex club last won on the road.
The U’s simply had no answer to the quality of Shola Ameobi who, at the age of 35, is still a class act.
The ex-Newcaastle striker has always blown hot-and-cold, during his long and distinguished career, but he remains a real handful at this level.
Former Newcastle team-mate Kevin Nolan was appointed Notts County’s manager in January, and Ameobi arrived soon afterwards on a short-term deal until the end of the season, from Fleetwood.
The Nigerian’s partnership with fellow big man Jon Stead, up top, gave the U’s defence a big headache all afternoon.
Ameobi, who spent 14 seasons at Newcastle, took time to warm up with the Magpies, not surprising when considered that he had not played at all this season until February.
There were no goals in his first seven outings, but he has now scored four in five. It was the U’s bad luck that he struck top form on Saturday.
Chris Porter was the only U’s player to come near to playing at the top of his game, and he was rewarded with his 99th goal in the English Football League.
The 33-year-old began this season with 85 league goals to his name, and he boosted that to 99 with his wonderful first-half strike.
He is joint seventh in the League Two goal-scoring charts for this season, on 14 goals.
Porter will be hoping to celebrate a notable landmark at home to Stevenage on Saturday.
In addition to his 99 league goals in England, Porter also netted 23 goals during his two seasons in the Scottish Premier League at Motherwell.
BIG CUP GAME
Colchester United Under-23s have a big Premier League Cup quarter-final tie away at Portsmouth tonight (kick-off 7pm), with the match being staged at Havant & Waterlooville.
The young U’s have excelled to reach the last eight, after coming through a tough group stage featuring Manchester City, Hull City and Derby County.
They then beat Sunderland 1-0 away in the last round, thanks to an early goal by Eoin McKeown.