Drey Wright and Denny Johnstone on target in Colchester United’s win over West Ham XI
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United 2 West Ham XI 0 Denny Johnstone netted his third goal of pre-season, to suggest that Colchester United’s need for a new striker is not that urgent.
U’s boss John McGreal would no doubt still love to find a replacement front-man for Chris Porter, who left at the end of last season to join League Two rivals Crewe.
But Johnstone, who has taken over Porter’s No. 9 shirt, recovered from the blow of missing a first-half sitter to score the U’s second in a comfortable 2-0 win over a young West Ham XI at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this evening.
Drey Wright had burst through unattended to slot past advancing keeper Rihards Matrevics to break the deadlock as early as the fifth minute.
And Johnstone doubled the lead on 62 minutes, heading home Craig Slater’s accurate free-kick from close-in.
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It was third goal of pre-season, following goals in the away wins at Needham Market and Welsh club Llandando.
West Ham – it was effectively their under-23 side – missed a second-half penalty, so the U’s have not only won all four pre-season friendlies to date, but have also kept four clean-sheets.
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The U’s enjoyed the perfect start, thanks to Wright’s opener in the fifth minute.
The early indications were that this would be a competitive evening, as exemplified by Tom Lapslie’s crunching tackle to rob Dan Kemp when the Hammers midfielder was attempting to run through the U’s rearguard.
Wright turned provider on 15 minutes, finding team-mate Lewis Kinsella with a deft back-heel inside the penalty area. Kinsella’s low cross into the danger zone was cut out by the outstretched boot of defender Ajibola Alese.
The U’s so nearly doubled their lead in the 17th minute. Sean Murray’s wonderful 35-yard lob left keeper Matrevics in no-man’s land, but the ball hit the underside of the bar and dropped to safety.
The young Hammers did not really threaten until midway through the first period, when attacker Grady Diangana mis-kicked on the edge of the six-yard box. Keeper Sam Walker scooped up the loose ball.
Johnstone should have doubled the lead in the 24th minute, but he construed to blast over the top from just six yards out, and with an empty goal beckoning, much to the delight of the visiting fans behind Matrevics’ goal.
It was an entertaining first half. Sean Murray, operating as a defensive midfielder in a 3-2-4-1 formation, was not far adrift with a 20-yarder, while at the other end Tom Eastman, who signed a new contract at the start of the summer, did well to block a goalbound shot by Kemp.
The Londoners spurned a good chance to equalise on the half-hour mark, Diangana sending a free header wide of the far post with Walker rooted to the spot.
But the game rather drifted during the first 15 minutes of the second period, with neither team creating a meaningful chance until Johnstone doubled the lead with a close-range header in the 62nd minute.
Johnstone was close to scoring his second and the U’s third on 67 minutes, but his effort was just wide from Kane Vincent-Young’s fine run and cross.
Walker conceded a penalty in the 71st minute, when fouling Jaanai Gordon inside the box.
But the ensuing spot kick, taken by Alex Pike, was high and wide, with Walker not even required to make a save.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Vincent-Young, Kent, James, Eastman (sub Wynter, 53), Kinsella, Lapslie, Murray, Salter, Drey Wright, Johnstone. Subs (all used after 72 minutes): Szmodics, O’Sullivan, Issa, Diaz Wright, Dunne, Brown, Edge.
WEST HAME XI: Matrevics, Pike, Neufville, Coventry, Akinola, Alese, Kemp, Rey, Kristofferson, Hector-Ingram, Diangana. Subs: Powell, Scully, Wells, Gordon, Henry, Belic, Hannam, Rosa, Ngakia, Longelo.
Referee: Mr T Robinson