Heartbreak for U’s as Walsall grab injury-time equaliser
Colchester United 1 Walsall 1
An early goal from Freddie Sears was not enough to earn Colchester United their first win in nine league games.
It looked as though the U’s would grab that precious victory, only for Andy Taylor to equalise with a free-kick, deep into injury-time.
There were 96 minutes on the clock when Taylor curled his free-kick into the roof of the net.
Earlier, Sears had come up trumps with his fourth goal of the season in the seventh minute.
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It came against the run of play, although the U’s will have no complaints!
Sears controlled Gavin Massey’s accurate pass before beating keeper Richard O’Donnell with a rasping shot from the edge of the box.
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It was a lethal finish from the ex-West Ham front-runner.
Walsall twice struck the woodwork in the first half. A long-range shot by James Chambers rattled the bar on the half-hour mark, and midfielder Sam Mantom then saw his shot in stoppage time cannon back off the post.
The visitors bossed possession in the second period, but did not poach their equaliser until virtually the last kick of the game, thanks to Andy Taylor’s free-kick.
U’s boss Joe Dunne made two changes to the side that were beaten 3-0 by Wolves last weekend.
Massey returned after a hamstring injury, to replace Preston loanee Jeffrey Monakana, while Marcus Bean came in for the injured David Wright.
Tosin Olufemi, after his recent thigh problems, was named among the substitutes, as was defender Daniel Pappoe following his three-match suspension.
Despite the U’s eventually taking an early lead, it was actually Walsall who made the early running.
James Baxendale cracked in an angled low drive which was palmed to safety by a sprawling Sam Walker inside two minutes.
And striker Craig Westcarr got beyond Bean to home in on goal on four minutes. He managed to slide his shot beyond Walker, but also the wrong side of the far post.
Sears made Walsall pay for these early misses, by breaking the deadlock with a sweet finish in the seventh minute.
Five minutes later and Westcarr was chopped down by Craig Eastmond, in a dangerous position. Westcarr struck the free-kick cleanly, but it flew straight into the grateful arms of Walker.
At the other end, Luke Garbutt tried his luck with a long-range free-kick. The Everton loanee attempted to surprise keeper Richard O’Donnell with a shot, rather than a cross, but his effort flew into the side-netting.
Walsall were desperately unlucky not to be level before the half-hour mark.
James Chambers beat Walker all ends up with a superb first-time 20-yarder, but the ball flew off the underside of the bar and dropped to safety.
From the ensuing corner, Andy Butler’s goal-bound header was blocked by Matt Taylor. The ball appeared to strike Taylor’s arm, but Walsall’s penalty appeals went unheard.
Butler caused a nuisance of himself again, from another corner. This time his accurate header was safely caught by Walker, under his bar.
It was end-to-end entertainment. Alex Gilbey fired across the face of goal, after good work by Ibehre in the 36th minute. Unfortunately, there was no team-mate on hand to divert home.
Two minutes later and Ibehre headed wide of the near post, from Taylor’s cross.
Walsall struck the woodwork for the second time, in the second minute of injury-time. Sam Mantom’s delightful shot cannoned back off the upright, with Walker beaten.
The Saddlers were just as dangerous at the start of the second half. Adam Chambers rose high to meet Westcarr’s 50th minute cross with a header that Walker caught above his head.
Sixty seconds later and the U’s threatened from Garbutt’s low free-kick. Gilbey nipped in at the near post to steer the ball goalwards, only for O’Donnell to smother.
In the 63rd minute, the hosts had half-hearted appeals for a penalty turned down when Magnus Okuonghae’s downward header looked to brush Butler’s arm.
Walsall stepped up a gear late on and Brian Wilson did well to charge down a shot by substitute Romaine Sawyers in the 80th minute.
Just when it looked as though the U’s would hold out, Andy Taylor fired home a 96th minute free-kick after Okuonghae had conceded a foul.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Taylor, Garbutt, Bean, Eastmond (sub Pappoe, 86), Gilbey, Massey (sub Monakana, 65), Ibehre, Sears (sub Szmodics, 82). Unused subs: Phillips, Morrison, Ladapo, Olufemi.
WALSALL: O’Donnell, Taylor, Butler, Downing, J Chambers, Featherstone (sub Sawyers, 71), Mantom, Hemmings (sub Hewitt, 82), A Chambers, Westcarr, Baxendale (sub Gray, 71). Unused subs: Lewis, Purkiss, Benning, McQuilken.
Referee: Mr J Simpson (Lancashire)