GALLERY: Colchester United slump to fourth straight defeat to leave them in relegation trouble
- Credit: Lucy Taylor
Colchester United 1 Tranmere Rovers 2
Colchester United slumped to their fourth successive defeat, at the hands of relegation rivals Tranmere Rovers this afternoon, to leave themselves in deep trouble.
Joe Dunne’s men have now taken just one point from their last five games, a miserable run that is seriously threatening their League One status.
The U’s squandered a host of good scoring chances, before Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro slotted home the opener for Tranmere in the 36th minute.
Akpa Akpro latched onto Max Power’s through ball and beat the onrushing Sam Walker with a super cool finish.
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The U’s were level in the last minute of normal time at the end of the first period, thanks to Sears’ eighth goal of the season.
Ryan Dickson’s low delivery was steered beyond keeper Owain fon Williams by the alert Sears, from 10 yards out. It was an instinctive finish from the U’s attacker.
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But that goal failed to fire the U’s into life at the start of the second half, and Rovers duly regained their lead just after the hour mark.
Akpa Akpro skipped past Massey far too easily – Massey played as a rookie right-back for the first 23 minutes of the second half – and although Walker kept out Akpo Akpro’s angled low drive, Lowe was on hand to prod home the rebound.
It was Lowe’s 20th goal of the season.
There was no way back for Colchester, who now have to pick themselves up for a visit to another relegation rival, Stevenage, next Saturday.
U’s boss Dunne made two changes to the side that had lost for the third time running, at Peterborough on Wednesday night.
Massey came in for the suspended Craig Eastmond, while Jabo Ibehre was preferred up front to Clinton Morrison, who was named amongst the substitutes.
Tranmere were wearing the U’s gold-shirted away strip, due to a clash of kits.
It was a bright start from the U’s, and Ibehre had two chances to break the deadlock inside the first five minutes.
Dominic Vose, operating on the left flank, squared for Ibehre on three minutes, but the U’s centre forward lifted his shot over the bar.
Ibehre had a much better opportunity soon afterwards. He powered through on goal, with just Owain fon Williams to beat, only to aim his shot straight at the Rovers keeper, who smothered with ease.
Rovers threatened first in the 13th minute. Leading scorer Ryan Lowe had a clear sight of goal, but his snap shot was charged down by Tom Eastman.
The U’s broke quickly, from the ensuing Rovers corner. Tosin Olufemi released Massey down the right flank, but Vose failed to control Massey’s cross to the far post. He did recover possession, but the angle was acute and his final shot was squeezed out.
Only a terrific save by fon Williams denied the U’s an opening goal in the 17th minute. Magnus Okunoghae headed down Vose’s corner into the path of Alex Gilbey, who let fly with a rasping right-footed half-volley which fon Williams parried with a fine reflex save.
The U’s continued to dictate and it was Freddie Sears’ turn to be denied by fon Williams on 21 minutes. The ex-West Ham front-runner tried to steer his shot over the visiting keeper, but he arched back to fingertip the ball over the bar.
Gilbey sent a free header drifting wide from the ensuing corner.
But Tranmere had their chances as well, in what was a very open first period. Lowe sneaked behind the home defence in the 24th minute, yet could not sneak his shot beyond Walker, who clutched the ball to his chest.
Walker also did well to cling onto a 25-yarder from centre-half Ash Taylor.
At the other end, a 34th minute free-kick by Ryan Dickson nearly led to a goal. Sears’ initial shot was blocked by a defender, and the follow-up by Ibehre was stopped at point blank range by fon Williams.
However, it was Tranmere who showed them how to finish, with Akpa Akpro bursting through to tuck home the opening goal in the 36th minute.
This was a big setback for the U’s, but their heads did not drop and Sears duly steered home the equaliser on the stroke of half-time, from Dickson’s low delivery.
Dunne made an attacking substitution for the start of the second period, with winger Sanchez Watt replacing right-back Olufemi. Massey dropped back into the defence.
On 50 minutes, Vose stepped up to strike a 25-yard free-kick with venom, the ball flying only a foot over the bar.
But otherwise the hosts struggled to rediscover the momentum they had enjoyed in the first half, and it was no real surprise when Lowe regained the lead for Rovers on 61 minutes, planting home a rebound after Walker had kept out Akpa Akpro’s initial effort.
The U’s were visibly rocked by conceding that goal, and they did not threaten again until the 75th minute, when Ibehre headed over the top from Dickson’s teasing cross.
Crystal Palace loanee Alex Wynter, who was making his U’s debut as a substitute, kept the hosts in with a shout by blocking Jake Cassidy’s shot from close range, on 79 minutes, with Walker out of position.
Two minutes later and Sears’ shot, from a tight angle, was deflected wide as the U’s searched in vain for a late equaliser, although Drey Wright came agonisingly close in the 90th minute with a shot that was cleared off the goal-line by defender Matthew Ponnington.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Olufemi (sub Watt, 46), Okuonghae, Eastman, Dickson, David Wright (sub Drey Wright, 83), Gilbey, Vose (sub Wynter, 68), Sears, Massey, Ibehre. Unused subs: Cousins, Morrison, Bean, Szmodics.
TRANMERE: fon Williams, Ponnington, Taylor, Arthurworrey (sub Holmes, 53), Ridehalgh, Cassidy, Power, Jennings, Koumas (sub Kirby, 58), Lowe (sub Stockton, 86), Akpa-Akpro. Unused subs: Mooney, Brown, Ariyibi, Boland.
Referee: A Davies (Hants)