Darren Ambrose crowns Colchester United debut with equaliser

Alex Gilbey, who slammed home a superb first-half equaliser for the U's against Blackpool today

Alex Gilbey, who slammed home a superb first-half equaliser for the U's against Blackpool today - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United 2 Blackpool 2

Darren Ambrose rescued a point for Colchester United, on his U’s debut against Blackpool in today’s League One opener at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

The U’s twice battled back from a goal down, and it was ex-Ipswich Town front-runner Ambrose who netted the all-important goal in the 57th minute.

Earlier, Blackpool had richly deserved their lead, handed to them by Mark Cullen in the 18th minute.

Winger Bright Osayi-Samuel got the better of right-back Richard Brindley and squared for an unmarked Cullen to sweep into an empty net.

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However, it took the U’s just four minutes to fashion an equaliser, thanks to a sensational strike from Alex Gilbey.

Midfielder Gilbey connected with a long-range volley which flew like a bullet into the top corner of the net.

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It was certainly an early candidate for goal of the season, and it will take some beating!

Blackpool regained their lead, on the stroke of half-time, with Cullen firing home an angled drive from the edge of the box, for his second goal. It was virtually the last kick of the half.

But back came Colchester, with Ambrose crowning his U’s debut with a quality equaliser from Gavin Massey’s driven cross, just before the hour mark.

That completed the scoring.

There were three debutants in the U’s starting line-up. Keeper Elliot Parish, midfielder Joe Edwards and left-sided attacker Ambrose were all starting their first competitive games in a Colchester shirt.

George Moncur, the U’s top scorer last season, registered the first goal attempt of this campaign. He benefited from Chris Porter’s excellent lay-off, but fired straight at keeper Colin Doyle from 20 yards out.

But it was Blackpool who should really have been celebrating an early lead, on eight minutes.

Jack Redshaw exchanged a one-two with Henry Cameron and scampered into the penalty area. The diminutive Redshaw had just Parish to beat, but he dragged his shot wide from just 12 yards out.

At the other end, centre-half Alex Wynter was unlucky to see his goal-bound header deflected off target, from a corner routine.

Redshaw missed a real sitter in the 14th minute. Winger Cameron pounced on a mis-placed pass by Matt Briggs and quickly centred for an unmarked Redshaw, who looked certain on to score.

He had an unguarded net ahead of him, but failed to tuck home from inside the six-yard box, the ball seeming to get stuck between his feet. That was a huge let-off for the U’s.

However, Redshaw’s blushes were saved by his team-mate Cullen, who side-footed the visitors into the lead, just four minutes later.

The U’s tried to get back on level terms straight away, but Gavin Massey could not squeeze his shot beyond the reach of keeper Doyle.

And it was nearly 2-0 to the Seasiders, when Cullen aimed to shot from inside the box. His effort would have found the back of the net, but Tom Eastman intervened with a last gasp challenge and the ball dropped over the bar instead.

Against the run of play, the U’s grabbed the equaliser in the 22nd minute, courtesy of a real rocket from Gilbey. That was a stupendous goal.

It had been a breathless first half-hour, and club captain Porter was agonisingly close to putting the U’s 2-1 up in the 28th minute. His teasing header swerved just the wrong side of the near upright, with keeper Doyle clutching at thin air.

The chances continued apace and it was right-back Brindley’s turn to pepper the target with an angled shot that flew inches wide of the near post on 29 minutes.

A minute before half-time, Massey raced through on goal, but was denied by the legs of keeper Doyle.

And that was a costly miss, because Cullen drilled home his second of the match, in first-half injury time, to give the Seasiders a 2-1 lead at half-time.

The U’s went on the attack at the start of the second half, and debutant Edwards screwed a shot wide from a promising position in the 53rd minute.

Four minutes later and the hosts were indeed level, thanks to Ambrose’s close-range finish from Massey’s driven cross.

And Massey nearly put the U’s ahead, just 60 seconds later. He again nipped past left-back David Ferguson, only for his cross-cum-shot to graze the top of the bar.

In the 68th minute, Gilbey sparked a quickfire U’s break, which ended with Moncur failing to guide his shot beyond Doyle, who saved low to his right.

Massey then squandered his second one-on-one situation with Doyle, in the 73rd minute. The Seasiders keeper injured himself in the process, and so was replaced by substitute keeper Kyle Letheren.


COLCHESTER: Parish, Brindley, Wynter, Eastman, Briggs (sub Vincent-Young, 78), Edwards, Gilbey, Moncur, Massey, Porter (sub Bonne, 78), Ambrose (sub Sembie-Ferris, 82). Unused subs: Walker, Wright, Kent, Szmodics.

BLACKPOOL: Doyle (sub Letheren, 73), Boyce, Robertson, Jones, Ferguson, McAlister, Potts, Cameron (sub Cubero, 56), Osayi-Samuel (sub Thomas, 63), Cullen, Redshaw. Unused subs: Rivers, Oliver, Aldred, Dunne.

Referee: James Linington

Attendance: 4,438 (599 away fans)

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