U’s undone by two first-half goals in home defeat to Stevenage
PUBLISHED: 17:11 26 December 2018 | UPDATED: 17:14 26 December 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Colchester United 1 Stevenage 2
There was precious little festive cheer as Colchester United suffered only their third home league defeat of the season, at the hands of Stevenage this afternoon, despite a full-committed display.
The U’s had won eight of their previous 11 home fixtures, but they were stunned by two scrappy first-half goals and, try as they might, they could not get back on level terms, despite a late goal by Luke Prosser.
John McGreal’s men were stunned by conceding as early as the fifth minute, via a very unfortunate own goal by keeper Rene Gilmartin.
And their task was made doubly difficult by Stevenage’s second goal, notched in the 35th minute. Danny Newton steered home from a couple of feet out, with the U’s appealing for a foul on Frankie Kent and also a suspicion of offside.
The U’s threw everything at Stevenage in the second half, and Prosser converted from an 83rd minute corner. Tom Eastman headed on Brennan Dickenson’s delivery and Prosser was on hard to stab over the line.
However, there was no late equaliser for the Essex club, although it was not for want of trying.
The kick-off was delayed for 15 minutes, due to the Stevenage team coach breaking down en route to Essex. The players arrived in a fleet of taxis, most of them just after 2pm.
The U’s were unchanged from last weekend’s 1-0 win at MK Dons, although Kane Vincent-Young returned to the squad on the bench after a foot injury.
But despite Stevenage’s late arrival, and the U’s confidence gained from the win at Stadium MK just three days earlier, it was the visitors who were celebrating an early goal.
It was a very unfortunate goal to concede. Nugent’s header, from Joel Byrom’s teasing free-kick, struck the post and rebounded off the back of Gilmartin’s legs and over the goal-line, for an own goal.
The U’s tried to respond quickly and joint leading scorer Sammie Szmodics had a shot blocked on the edge of the box, on 10 minutes.
They came closer to an equaliser six minutes later, as Harry Pell’s downward header from a corner was pushed to safety by keeper Paul Farman, who was at full stretch.
Stevenage were content to sit back, and Farman was happy to see a 20-yarder from Pell fizz past his goal and wide of the far post, just after the 20-minute mark.
Similarly, Farman was untroubled as Brennan Dickenson ballooned a 25-yarder well over the bar on the half-hour.
The U’s were starting to pepper the target. Luke Norris headed inches wide from Frank Nouble’s cross in the 31st minute and, just seconds later, skipper Luke Prosser’s acrobatic kick flew into the arms of Farman.
However, the home side were stunned by Stevenage doubling their lead, in the 35th minute, through Newton.
U’s old boy Kurtis Guthrie headed Jamal Campbell-Ryce’s deep cross into the danger zone, where Newton was on hand to bundle the ball over the line from a few feet out.
There was a suspicion of offside, while the U’s also appealed for a foul on Kent by Guthrie, but the goal was allowed to stand.
Farman again thwarted the U’s, on the stroke of half-time, reaching up to fingertip Nouble’s rising shot over his bar from a tight angle.
There were further chances during first-half stoppage time, with Farman doing well to parry Szmodics thunderous drive to safety with strong hands, but Stevenage held on until the break.
The U’s made a tactical switch at half-time, with full-back Vincent-Young replacing centre-half Kent to switch to a four-man defence.
Norris pulled a shot just wide of the upright, from a 47th minute corner, as the U’s continued where they left off at the end of first period.
Norris turned creator on 65 minutes, whipping in a free-kick from which Nouble’s bullet header soared only a foot over the bar.
Only the woodwork denied the U’s a goal in the 82nd minute. Substitute Mikael Mandron met Ryan Jackson’s cross with a firm header which clipped the far post.
But just a minute later and the hosts were level, through Prosser, to set up an exciting but ultimately disappointing finish.
COLCHESTER: Gilmartin, Eastman, Prosser, Kent (sub Vincent-Young, 46), Jackson, Lapslie (sub Senior, 65), Pell, Dickenson, Szmodics, Nouble, Norris. Unused subs: Barnes, Kensdale, Comley, Gondoh, Mandron.
STEVENAGE: Farman, Vancooten, Cuthbert, Nugent, Seddon, Campbell-Ryce (sub Hunt, 86), Iontton, Byrom, Kennedy (sub Henry, 83), Guthrie, Newton (sub Revell, 78). Unused subs: Ball, Sonupe, Reid, Wilkinson.
Referee: Lee Collins (Surrey)
Attendance: 5,032 (282 away fans)