Henderson grabs late winner for Colchester

npower League One Colchester Utd 1 Rochdale 0

SUBSTITUTE Ian Henderson scored a late winner against Rochdale for the second time this season as patient Colchester kept alive their slim play-offs hopes.

Following a cagey first half, both sides traded chances after the break in what was a fascinating tactical battle between managers John Ward and Keith Hill.

And it was the U’s that were ultimately able to find the breakthrough three minutes from time when Henderson – introduced in the 75th minute – clipped the ball beyond on-rushing keeper Owain Fon Williams.

The midfielder also scored a late winner at Spotland back at the start of the season where he also lifted the ball over the keeper in the final 10 minutes to secure victory.

Colchester have now won three home games in succession and, with three of the teams immediately above them all losing today, they now find themselves six points off the top six with five games to go.

Meanwhile, today’s result puts a dent in Rochdale’s play-off ambitions. This is the Greater Manchester side’s first defeat in seven, Hill’s side having come into the game off the back of four wins from five.

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The play-off chasing visitors, fielding an unchanged side for the fifth successive game, came into the match in top form and looked well-versed in their disciplined 4-1-4-1 formation.

Lone striker Chris O’Grady saw a turn and shot kept out the bottom corner by keeper Ben Williams in a first half of few goalscoring chances.

The U’s had looked rushed in possession but, having shuffled their pack at the break, they started the second half much better and were unfortunate when Steven Gillespie’s fine headed finish from an excellent Ben Coker cross was ruled out after he’d just strayed offside.

Both sides then had strong penalty appeals for handball in quick succession, with the hosts claiming that Vincent’s shot in the box had hit Craig Dawson on the arm and the visitors convinced that Coker had stopped Will Atkinson’s cross illegally.

The latter incident was a particularly big let off for the U’s as Matt Done fired the loose ball wide from a glorious position.

With defences on top, Gillespie saw a one-on-one chance foiled when keeper Owain Fon Williams raced off his line, while Williams did well to keep O’Grady’s low angled shot out the bottom corner at the other end.

Both managers rolled the dice in search of a winner and it was two substitutes who went close at either end. First Ian Henderson saw an acrobatic effort go just wide for Colchester, while Jean Louis Akpa Akpro headed into the side-netting with his first touch.

It looked like someone would get a winner but it was too tough to call which way.

It eventually came Colchester’s way three minutes from time when Henderson latched onto a long ball over the top and clipped the ball beyond the on-rushing keeper. It looked as though defender Dawson would easily clear off the line but he somehow lost his footing as the ball trickled in.

Rochdale pushed hard for an equaliser and almost got it in the 90th minute when they were twice denied by the crossbar in quick succession. First Akpa Akpro smashed a close range shot against the woodwork, while Joe Thompson’s looping header soon afterwards was again diverted onto the bar by the imperious Nathan Clarke.

– Reaction to follow on this website.

COLCHESTER UTD (4-4-2): Williams; Wilson, Clarke, Smith, Coker; Bond, Izzet, O’Toole, Vincent (Henderson 75); Mooney (Odejayi 46), Gillespie (White 90).

Unused Subs: Cousins, Heath, Wordsworth, James.

ROCHDALE (4-1-4-1): Fon Williams; Wiseman, Dawson, Holness, Williams (Widdowson 61); Kennedy; Adams (Akpa Akpro 81), Done, Jones, Atkinson (Joe Thompson 61); O’Grady.

Unused Subs: Edwards, Barry-Murphy, Josh Thompson, Dickinson.

U’s Man-of-the-Match: Clarke

Attendance: 4,052

Referee: Mr R East