Colchester United power to shock Charlton win
COLCHESTER United pulled off a stunning away victory at league leaders Charlton Athletic, inflicting a first home defeat of the season on the Addicks.
Anthony Wordsworth’s fifth-minute thunderbolt and Steven Gillespie’s second-half strike, which rolled into an empty net after the striker charged down a clearance from Ben Hamer, gave the U’s a first win at The Valley since 2008.
The visitors had to defend manfully between the two strikes and had more than a slice of luck, with former U’s star Johnnie Jackson crashing an effort off the bar and Bradley Wright-Phillips squandering several chances, one of which saw Ben Williams pull off a fine one-handed save.
But the visitors were good value for their win with Kayode Odejayi leading the line superbly and Tom Eastman and Magnus Okuonghae brilliant in defence.
U’s boss John Ward named an unchanged side from the one that saw off Preston, 3-0, at the weekend, as did his Charlton counterpart Chris Powell, whose side were unbeaten in 11 league games.
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United went into the game full of confidence and made the dream start when Wordsworth gave his side the lead with a thunderous strike.
Gillespie passed inside to Odejayi and after the big front man laid the ball off, United’s top scorer took a touch before hitting a left-foot screamer into the top corner from 25 yards.
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The hosts forced their first chance on 14 minutes when Danny Green broke down the right, but a combination of Okuonghae and John White saw Wright-Phillips’ close range shot deflected for a corner.
Danny Hollands was next to try his luck as Charlton ramped up the pressure but his left-foot volley, from 25 yards, deflected over the bar for another corner, before Danny Green’s long-range volley stung Williams’ knuckles.
After an indifferent start, the Addicks were soon in the ascendancy and a powerful run and slide-rule pass from Chris Solly found Jackson on the left, but the former U’s man struck the bar with a dipping drive.
Despite their pressure, Powell’s men were lacking the fluidity of a side leading the table and after the U’s won a throw-in on the left, Wordsworth’s left-wing cross caused problems for a nervous home defence.
The game petered out for a period after that as Ward’s side pressed their more illustrious hosts at every opportunity then looked to support lone frontman Odejayi who was holding the ball up superbly.
United looked comfortable in possession but were relieved when Wright-Phillips fluffed two close-range chances just before the break.
Charlton went on the offensive straight from the restart and Yann Kermorgant’s effort was deflected wide before Williams pulled off a fine save to his right-hand side to deny Wright-Phillips a certain equaliser.
United still looked a threat in attack, Gillespie being inches away from getting on the end of an Odejayi through ball.
The hosts hit back and Hollands’ shot into a crowded goalmouth brought cries of handball from the home faithful, before Kermorgant slipped at the back post and fell on the ball. The Frenchman then nodded home a cross moments later but the flag was already up, as the ball had already gone out of play.
For all their pressure, the hosts looked susceptible at the back and Gillespie brought a smart save from Williams as the visitors looked for and smash-and-grab second.
And that goal did come when Gillespie charged down keeper Hamer’s clearance and gleefully watched the ball roll into the net, before celebrating his ninth goal of the campaign in front of a small band of support from Essex.
The second goal deflated Charlton, who created chances only spasmodically after Gillespie’s effort, and it was Kem Izzet, who almost gifted them a way back into the game, heading over his own crossbar – too close for comfort for Williams.