GALLERY & REPORT: Colchester United are effectively safe from relegation after big win over Brentford
Colchester United 4 Brentford 1 Freddie Sears bagged a brace as Colchester United took a huge stride towards achieving League One safety, by beating already-promoted Brentford this afternoon.
In fact, the U’s superior goal difference means that the Essex club are already effectively guaranteed third tier football for a seventh successive season.
In addition to Sears’ double, Marcus Bean and Alex Wynter also scored for the U’s, while the Bees replied with a great strike by Stuart Dallas.
Sam Walker also saved an Alan Judge penalty to preserve the U’s three-goal advantage, on an afternoon when he was also named U’s player-of-the-season.
Two goals inside a three-minute spell, midway through the first period, put the U’s in the driving seat.
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Bean bundled home the opener, from Brian Wilson’s 29th minute free-kick, despite the close attentions of George Saville. It was a precious goal for Bean, netted against his former club.
Centre-half Wynter doubled the U’s lead in the 32nd minute, climbing high to head home Ryan Dickson’s corner. It was a clinical finish from the Crystal Palace loanee.
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Joe Dunne’s men were in cruise control when Sears chalked up his 11th goal of the season on 41 minutes. Sanchez Watt was fouled in the box by right-back Alan McCormack, and Sears duly converted the penalty.
The Bees pulled a goal back in first-half stoppage time, thanks to a spectacular 20-yard volley from Stuart Dallas. Keeper Walker had no chance with that screamer.
But any threat of a Brentford comeback was snuffed out by Sears’ second goal of the game, in the 64th minute, and his 12th of the campaign.
Centre-half James Tarkowski made a hash of an intended header back to his keeper. Sears nipped in to control the loose ball, as Tarkowski’s header fell well short of his target, before rounding David Button to slot into an empty net.
That guaranteed a precious three points for the hosts.
The U’s had made one change to the side that drew 0-0 at Crewe on Easter Monday. Magnus Okuonghae failed a late fitness test on a tweaked hamstring, so Wynter moved into central defence, with n Dickson coming in at left back.
Ibehre missed a great chance to settle the U’s nerves early on. He ran through on a one-on-one with keeper David Button, inside four minutes, but steered his final shot a foot wide of target.
Otherwise, there were no further scoring opportunities during the first quarter of the game, which certainly didn’t concern the big and very vocal following from Brentford – their fans were just happy to celebrate their club’s already-guaranteed promotion.
The Bees supporters did nearly have a goal to celebrate on 23 minutes. Jonathan Douglas connected sweetly with a long-range free-kick, his fierce shot heading goalwards until Sam Walker parried the ball to safety.
Two minutes later and the U’s could have taken the lead themselves. Sanchez Watt teed up Freddie Sears, just inside the penalty area, but the ex-West Ham striker’s shot was superbly diverted around his near post by Button.
But the U’s did bag the opening goal, on 29 minutes. Wilson swung over a delightful free-kick to the far post, where Bean bundled the ball home under pressure from Saville.
Sixty seconds later and the U’s were a whisker away from doubling their lead. Watt’s toe-poked effort, from 10 yards out, was well smothered by a diving Button.
But it didn’t take long for the home side to net their second goal, thanks to Wynter’s commanding header from Dickson’s corner on 32 minutes.
Those two quickfire goals really quietened down the Bees fans, at least for a few minutes.
Douglas stretched out a boot to try and reduce the arrears in the 37th minute. The Brentford midfielder had a clear sight of goal, as a lofted pass soared over his head, but he could not get sufficient contact on the ball and Walker gratefully saved.
A minute later and Clayton Donaldson was not far adrift with a curling shot from the left edge of the box which flew a foot wide of the far post.
But it was the U’s who scored again, to make it 3-0, Sears dispatching a 41st minute penalty after Watt had been chopped down in the box by McCormack.
Brentford gave themselves a lifeline by pulling a goal back, in first-half stoppage time, thanks to a cracking strike by Dallas.
That goal must have put a few doubts in the minds of U’s players, but they were comfortable during the early stages of the second period.
Sears charged down an attempted clearance by keeper Button on the hour mark, which led to panic in the Bees defence. However, McCormack was able to hastily hack away before any home player could pounce.
Four minutes later and Sears restored the U’s three-goal advantage, sliding the ball into an empty net after defender Tarkowski had sold his keeper short with a poor header.
Walker then got in the act with a wonderful penalty save in the 76th minute. Wynter committed a foul inside the box, but Judge’s spot kick was turned around his post by the ex-Chelsea keeper.
There was no way back for Brentford, and defeats for Carlisle and Tranmere mean that the U’s are effectively safe from relegation.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Wilson (sub David Wright, 46), Wynter, Eastman, Dickson, Bean, Gilbey, Watt, Sears (sub Eastmond, 70), Massey (sub Vose, 78), Ibehre. Unused subs: Cousins, Morrison, Drey Wright, Szmodics.
BRENTFORD: Button, Yennaris (sub Clarke, 81), Craig, Tarkowski, McCormack (sub O’Connor, 84), Judge, Douglas, Saville, Dallas, Donaldson, Trotta (sub Adams, 59). Unused subs: Lee, Grigg, Diagouraga, Reeves.
Referee: M Brown (East Yorkshire)
Attendance: 6,400 (2,343 away fans)