Gary Roberts’ late brace sinks Colchester United on south coast
Portsmouth 2 Colchester United 0
Colchester United’s unbeaten league start to the season was ended by a late double blast from Gary Roberts at Portsmouth this afternoon.
The U’s were on course for a battling point, on the south coast, until substitute Drey Wright upended Roberts in the box to gift Pompey an 80th minute penalty.
And Roberts smashed the spot kick straight down the middle, with Sam Walker diving out of the way.
Roberts doubled the home side’s lead just three minutes later, racing onto a long ball forward and arriving just before Walker, who had committed himself on the edge of the penalty area.
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There was a touch of good fortune as Roberts somehow managed to scoop the ball into an empty net, from 18 yards out, to seal the U’s fate.
Earlier, Portsmouth had dominated the first half, and Walker made a terrific double save to thwart Curtis Main and Danny Rose in the 40th minute.
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The U’s posed more of an attacking threat in the second period, and Craig Slater was denied a first goal for the Essex club by a fine save from home keeper David Forde, who was at full stretch.
But the visitors were downed by two late goals, from man-of-the-man Roberts.
The U’s made three changes to the starting line-up that had won each of the recent two home games, against Cambridge (2-0) and Grimsby (3-2).
In came midfielders Slater and Doug Loft, plus striker Denny Johnstone, with the trio of Drey Wright, Sammie Szmodics and Chris Porter dropping to the bench.
It was Pompey who created the first chance, with striker Main volleying wide of Sam Walker’s near post on six minutes.
The U’s had scored within the first 10 minutes of their first three league matches of the season, but there was no early goal today, although Denny Johnstone nearly got his head to a 10th minute cross from Brennan Dickenson.
Kurtis Guthrie, operating on the right flank in a 4-2-3-1 formation, was booked for a rash challenge on Enda Stevens in the 16th minute, as the hosts continued to dictate.
The U’s were defending in numbers from a couple of quickfire corners around the 25-minute mark. One cross from Gary Roberts caused problems in the penalty area, but centre-half Adam Barton’s downward header was deflected wide.
Winger Kyle Bennett also dragged a rather optimistic 30 yarder well wide of target, meaning that for all Pompey’s pressure, they had not forced Walker into a serious save inside the first half-hour.
However, Lewis Kinsella found his name in referee Charles Breakspear’s book, for a robust challenge in the 27th minute, so putting the young left-back under pressure for the rest of the afternoon.
It was largely one-way traffic, and Walker was relieved to see Roberts’ dangerous low cross take a deflection and drop into his arms, inside his six-yard box
Walker was called upon to make a terrific double save in the 40th minute, to keep Portsmouth at bay.
The U’s keeper dived to his right to palm away Main’s goal-bound shot, and recovered in time to block Rose’s follow-up effort with his legs. Still the danger was not over, but Main blazed the rebound over the bar with an unguarded net beckoning.
It really was a wonderful piece of goalkeeping from the impressive Walker.
Into the second half and Walker got his body behind Carl Baker’s 48th minute snap shot. The ball spun loose, but the U’s keeper was able to smother at the second attempt.
The U’s had not mustered a goal attempt during the whole of the first period, and Johnstone pulled a low 25-yarder well wide of target in the 49th minute as the visitors struggled to pose an attacking threat.
It was not until the 69th minute that the U’s succeeded in registering a shot on goal, but it was a good one. Johnstone teed up Slater, and his well-struck shot from the edge of the box was superbly palmed away by keeper David Forde.
However, Roberts then struck with two late goals, on 80 and 83 minutes, the first of them a penalty.
Forde prevented a late Colchester rally by making an excellent double save to deny Chris Porter and Doug Loft on 88 minutes.
PORTSMOUTH: Forde, Talbot, Burgess, Barton, Stevens, Rose (sub Linganzi, 86), Doyle, Baker, Roberts, Bennett (sub Hunt, 62), Main (ub Chaplin, 62). Unused subs: O’Brien, Davies, Lalkovic, Evans.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Brindley, Prosser, Eastman, Kinsella, Lapslie, Slater (sub Bonne, 82), Loft, Dickenson, Guthrie (sub Wright 58), Johnstone (sub Porter, 71). Unused subs: Bransgrove, Szmodics, Vincent-Young, Wynter.
Referee: Charles Breakspear (Surrey)
Attendance: 15,967 (442 away fans)