George Moncur crowns Colchester United debut with sweet equaliser against Latics
Colchester United 2 Oldham Athletic 2
Colchester United kicked off the new season with a richly entertaining 2-2 home draw against Oldham Athletic this afternoon.
New club skipper Magnus Okuonghae and debutant George Moncur were both on target for the U’s, sandwiching a brace from the impressive Jonathan Forte.
Okuonghae’s seventh minute goal came from a corner routine, with the big man showing the predatory instincts of a striker.
Craig Eastmond’s cross dropped at the feet of Jabo Ibehre, and although he was unable to force the ball home, Okuonghae was on hand to crash home the rebound in positive fashion from eight yards out.
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But all the U’s good early work was undone by conceding the softest of equalisers in the 18th minute.
Hesitancy from both centre-half Tom Eastman and keeper Sam Walker enabled Forte to nip in and gratefully slide the ball into an unguarded net from close in.
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Forte was helped by an initial ricochet, but he should never really have got the chance to steal in with this equaliser.
Forte struck again on 40 minutes, to leave the U’s trailing at half-time.
Former U’s skipper Brian Wilson had so much space inside the penalty area, and he had the time to pick out Forte, who rammed home a first-time shot into the bottom corner of the net.
Moncur obliged with the equaliser in the 58th minute. Sears’ initial shot cannoned back off the inside of the post, but the West Ham loanee was in the right place to smash the rebound into the roof of the net, even though the angle was very tight.
That completed the scoring, on what an entertaining afternoon.
The U’s had started brightly, with full-backs Sean Clohessy and Ben Gordon making their debuts, and were threatening even before Okuonghae’s early goal.
Sears, last season’s leading scorer, had a shot blocked on the edge of the box by centre-half Genseric Kusunga, and the follow-up by Eastmond was deflected wide of target.
The U’s scored from the ensuing corner, thanks to Okuonghae’s deadly finish for the first goal of the new campaign.
But Forte levelled the issue just 11 minutes later, following a bad mix-up between Eastman and Walker.
Oldham had by now gained the initiative, and danger-man Jonson Clarke-Harris was not far adrift with a towering header that ballooned over the bar on 21 minutes.
United were forced to soak up the pressure, but they did threaten on the break when Drey Wright ran half the length of the pitch, following an Oldham corner.
Wright’s final cross was headed over his own bar by ex-U’s right-back Brian Wilson, who was making his Latics debut following his summer switch.
Ibehre spurned a gilt-edged chance to regain the lead for the U’s in the 35th minute. He latched onto Sears’ through ball and managed to lob over advancing keeper Paul Rachubka, only for the ball to drop the wrong wide of the near post.
Five minutes later and Forte was far more lethal, diverting home Brian Wilson’s low cross to put Oldham 2-1 up.
The U’s tried to get back on level terms before the break, and Sears struck goalwards from the edge of the box, although Rachubka made sure he got his whole body behind the ball.
In the 44th minute midfielder Moncur, who had replaced the injured Eastmond 12 minutes earlier, swung over a corner which Ibehre was only a whisker away from stabbing home.
Into the second half and the home side stepped up a gear. Sears let fly with a 20-yarder that was deflected narrowly over the bar, and an overhead kick by Alex Gilbey was then superbly clawed away by Rachubka, both in the 50th minute.
Ibehre won a free-kick in a dangerous position, on the edge of the box on 56 minutes, but Sears could not clear the defensive wall with his set piece effort.
However, the U’s were deservedly level before the hour mark, thanks to Moncur’s excellent finish on his debut.
Forte was eying up a possible hat-trick in the 66th minute, but his volley on the turn whistled a foot over the top, while at the other end the hosts had appeals for a penalty turned down when Clohessy’s cross appeared to strike a defensive hand.
On 75 minutes, Ibehre did well to control a long ball forward by Okuonghae, under pressure from centre-half James Wilson, but miscued his snap shot wide of target.
In the end, the U’s had to be content with a point.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Clohessy, Okuonghae, Eastman, Gordon, Gilbey, Eastmond (sub Moncur, 32), Massey (sub Holman, 84), Sears, Drey Wright (sub Vose, 64), Ibehre. Unused subs: Lewington, Thompson, Bean, Szmodics.
OLDHAM: Rachubka, B Wilson, J Wilson, Kusunga, Mills, Winchester (sub Philliskirk, 85), Kelly, Dayton (sub Elokobi, 80), Jones, Forte (sub Gros, 80), Clarke-Harris. Unused subs: Coleman, Brown, Dieng, Mellor.
Referee: Dean Whitestone (Northants)