U’s win 3-0 at Lincoln but miss out on play-offs
Lincoln City 0 Colchester United 3
Colchester United produced a fantastic display to win at champions Lincoln City this afternoon, but they ultimately missed out on the League Two play-offs.
The U’s played out of their skins at Sincil Bank, easing to victory thanks to Brennan Dickenson’s opener and a brace from Sammie Szmodics, all in the first half.
And that left John McGreal’s men in the play-off zone, sitting in seventh spot, for most of the afternoon until Newport County netted a late equaliser at Morecambe to draw 1-1 and so pip the U’s to the final play-off berth.
Dickenson gave the U’s the lead in the 21st minute by meeting Sam Saunders’ corner with a first-time shot which flew into the bottom far corner of the net. It was an inch-perfect finish from Dickenson.
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And Szmodics doubled the U’s lead, six minutes later, by powering to the edge of the six-yard box to meet Ryan Jackson’s teasing cross with a thunderous header which flew like a bullet past keeper Josh Vickers.
It was Szmodics 14th goal of the season, and his 13th in the league, and he was soon celebrating his 15th goal of the campaign when charging down keeper Vickers’ attempted clearance in the 43rd minute.
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The ball struck Szmodics and then rolled towards an empty net, with the U’s No. 10 having the easy task of helping it over the line.
The U’s were on course for the play-offs, therefore, right up to the point where Newport got their equaliser.
The U’s showed just one change to the side which beat MK Dons 2-0 in their final home match of the season. Mikael Mandron came in up front, to give more physical presence to the U’s line-up, with winger Abo Eisa relegated to the bench.
Lincoln had not won in their previous four matches, but had already clinched both promotion and the League Two title, and U’s players gave them a guard of honour as they onto the pitch.
The U’s were pumped up, given the importance of the game, but Jackson was over-zealous with his first challenge, which resulted in a booking inside the first 30 seconds.
And Jackson must have been fearing the worst when he committed another foul, on Bruno Andrade, just three minutes later. Referee Trevor Kettle called him over for a stern lecture, but there was no second yellow or ensuing red card.
Mandron squandered a gilt-edged chance to put the U’s 1-0 up in the ninth minute. He met Jackson’s cross with a shot that keeper Josh Vickers blocked, and then ballooned the rebound over the bar from point blank range.
Mandron had another chance, following a swift break engineered by Courtney Senior. However, Mandron’s angled drive was easily gathered by keeper Vickers.
But the U’s did take the lead, in the 21st minute, thanks to Dickenson’s instinctive finish from Saunders’ corner.
Lincoln fancied their chances of levelling, from a 26th minute free-kick, but Neal Eardley’s shot from the set piece flew harmlessly over Ethan Ross’ bar.
At the other end, the U’s went in search of a second goal, with Szmodics having a goalbound shot blocked by defender Michael Bostwick, on the edge of the six-yard box.
But Szmodics was not to be denied, and just seconds later he steamed in to head home Jackson’s pinpoint cross, delivered from the right flank.
It was so nearly 3-0 to the visitors in the 37th minute. Szmodics was teed up by a terrific run from Senior, and his shot beat Vickers but cannoned back off the far post and rolled to safety.
Ross had not been required to make a serious save in the first half, although he was relieved to see Matt Rhead’s towering header soar over his bar on 39 minutes.
The U’s made it 3-0 in the 43rd minute, Szmodics charging down Vickers’ attempted clearance and then running through to plant the loose ball into an unguarded net.
Into the second half and Frank Nouble rattled the post with a close-range shot, from an acute angle, in the 50th minute.
Ross inexplicably picked up a Jackson back pass in the 55th minute, gifting a free-kick to Lincoln on the edge of the six-yard box, but the U’s managed to block that set piece by all charging off the line.
Mandron and Nouble sliced shots wide, but the U’s were content to sit back as the second half wore on, Frankie Kent clearing Andrade’s shot off the goal-line in the 80th minute.
LINCOLN: Vickers, Eardley, Bolger, Bostwick, Toffolo, Anderson, O’Hara (sub O’Connor, 59), Pett, Andrade, Rhead (sub McCartan, 53), Akinde (sub Roberts, 69). Unused subs: Gilks, Angol, Chapman, Wilson.
COLCHESTER: Ross, Jackson, Eastman, Kent, Dickenson, Lapslie (sub Chilvers, 90+1), Saunders (sub Stevenson, 86), Senior (sub Eisa, 89), Szmodics, Nouble, Mandron. Unused subs: Vose, Wright, Kensdale, Clampin.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland)