Life after Freddie Sears starts with another home defeat for Colchester United

Colchester United 0 Walsall 2

Colchester United began life after Freddie Sears with another depressing home defeat, this time at the hands of mid-table Walsall this afternoon.

Just 24 hours after leading scorer Sears had been sold to Ipswich Town, on a two-and-a-half-contract for an undisclosed fee, so the U’s suffered a second blow with this home reverse.

The U’s wasted several chances in front of goal, and were eventually undone by a first-half header from Anthony Forde, and a close-range finish by Michael Cain with 14 minutes remaining.

It was a tale of what-might-have-been for Tony Humes’ men. Sammie Szmodics was guilty of squandering a couple of good chances, while Alex Wynter hit the bar with a second-half header when the score was still only 1-0 to the Saddlers.

The U’s have only won two of their 12 home league games this season, taking just eight points from a possible 36.

Forde struck in the 32nd minute, capitalising on acres of space to head home Jordan Cook’s cross from point blank range. The Walsall marksman was completely unmarked.

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And Walsall made the game safe with a second goal on 74 minutes. Cain had the simple task of slotting into an empty net, following a swift break and pinpoint cross by Bradshaw.

The U’s threatened inside the very first minute, with both Sanchez Watt and Healey peppering the target.

David Fox swung over a free-kick into the danger area, and Watt juggled with the ball before seeing his shot blocked. Healey’s angled effort from the follow-up was sliced well wide of goal.

Szmodics had an even better chance to break the deadlock in the fifth minute. Szmodics burst clear of the Walsall back-line, but could not squeeze his shot beyond the onrushing Richard O’Donnell, who saved.

Healey continued to look bright, leading the front-line. The Cardiff City loanee managed to intercept a weak back pass, ahead of keeper O’Donnell in the 21st minute, but the angle was too acute for him to sweep home the loose ball into an unguarded net.

Walsall did not seriously threaten Walker’s goal inside the first half-hour, but they did come close to taking the lead in the 51st minute.

Cook capped a strong run down the left flank by cutting inside and smashing in a rising shot that cannoned back off the top of the near upright.

But just a minute later and Walsall were indeed celebrating an opening goal, thanks to Forde’s clinical header from Cook’s cross.

The U’s tried to respond quickly and Moncur screwed a 20-yarder wide of the far post on 34 minutes. Otherwise, though, they rarely looked like equalising before half-time.

Kaspars Gorkss conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position, for a foul on Forde in the 47th minute. Forde himself took the free-kick, but Walker dived to his left to catch at his near post.

At the other end, Elliott Hewitt raced onto Sean Clohessy’s lofted ball over the top, but aimed his first-time shot straight at O’Donnell, who saved with ease.

The U’s were appealing for a penalty in the 58th minute, when Hewitt took a tumble in the box under a challenge from Taylor. But referee Brendan Malone waved play on.

A minute later and Szmodics should really have equalised, only to volley over the top from a great position.

The home side were pouring on the pressure, and they were denied by the woodwork in the 61st minute. Alex Wynter’s header, from Gorkss’ teasing cross, cannoned back off the underside of the bar, but did not cross the line.

Hewitt completely missed his kick from the rebound, just outside the six-yard box, and the chance was gone.

Szmodics was homing in on goal again, just moments later. Again, keeper O’Donnell refused to budge, saving the U’s midfielder’s 20-yarder low to his right.

But the U’s were made to rue these missed chances, as Cain comfortably slotted home from Tom Bradshaw’s cross to double the lead in the 74th minute.

There was no way back for Colchester.

COLCHESTER: Walker, Clohessy, Gorkss, Eastman, Wynter, Fox, Moncur, Szmodics, Hewitt (sub Sembie-Ferris, 79), Healey (sub Bonne, 69), Watt (sub Massey, 73. Unused subs: Lewington, Gordon, Gilbey, Lapslie.

WALSALL: O’Donnell, Purkiss, J Chambers, O’Connnor (sub Downing, 4), Taylor (sub Henry, 82), Cain, A Chambers, Cook (sub Baxendale, 78), Forde, Swayers, Bradshaw. Unused subs: MacGillivray, Flanagan, Grimes, Manset.

Referee: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire)

Attendance: 2,980