Punchless Colchester United have simply not scored enough goals
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Once again, Colchester United’s whole season could be summed up by the goings-on at Lincoln City on a sun-kissed Saturday afternoon.
The U’s played well, against their high-flying hosts, suggesting that they too have the capability of being a promotion outfit.
But, like has happened so often this season – far too many times, in fact – the U’s lacked punch up front and were certainly lacking a killer instinct.
The same cannot be said of upwardly-mobile Lincoln, who took their chances with deadly precision to snatch victory at the death.
Substitute Luke Waterfall climbed high to head into the roof of the net, in the last minute of injury-time, to secure a vital three points for Danny Cowley’s men.
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It was rough justice on Colchester, but then they are getting used to that following the previous back-to-back home defeats at the hands of Accrington Stanley and Notts County.
The U’s should have taken a batch of points from these three fixtures, perhaps four, five or six points, which would have kept them in the play-off hunt going into the last three weekends of the season.
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But instead, they collected nothing from these three games, to sit marooned in mid-table, 10 points adrift of the top-seven.
This season, to all intents and purposes, is over.
THE LINCOLN WAY
The Imps do things quite differently to the U’s, but they are very effective.
It seems that the Cowley brothers, manager Danny and assistant Nicky, have got the whole club singing off the same hymn sheet, on and off the pitch.
On the pitch, they have followed up last season’s promotion-winning campaign, when they lifted the National League title, by pushing for a second successive promotion. Along the way, they have scooped some silverware from a big day out at Wembley, beating Shrewsbury in the Checkatrade Trophy final.
No wonder Sincil Bank is buzzing. It rocked on Saturday!
The atmosphere is electric, with bumper crowds for every home game. This really is a club going places.
The style of play might not be to everybody’s taste, with a tendency towards the long ball, or at least a very direct, physical approach.
But it is effective, and it is neither short of entertainment or incident.
For most of the afternoon, the U’s played the slicker football, aided by some early darting runs from Olamide Shodipo, and some accurate passing from Ben Stevenson and Sean Murray.
Crosses found their way into the penalty area, but predictably there were no Colchester attackers on hand to apply the finishing touch.
Lincoln, by contrast, took their chances, which is why they are sixth in the table and looking good bets for a play-off place.
Elliott Whitehouse converted a 55th minute penalty, after Ryan Jackson had needlessly pushed substitute Ollie Palmer inside the box, before fellow sub Waterfall nodded home an injury-time header, even though by then Lincoln were down to 10 men due to defender Michael Bostwick’s 83rd minute red card for a professional foul on Mandron.
LACK OF GOALS
This has been the major problem, the U’s Achilles heel during 2017-18.
John McGreal’s men have quite simply not scored enough goals, to win them enough points.
The defence has been sound, but although Sammie Szmodics (13 goals) and Mikael Mandron (10) have both reached double figures, the strike-rate at the other end of the pitch has been disappointing.
Just 53 goals from 44 league matches tells the story.
All the 10 clubs above them in the table have scored more goals. In fact, the U’s are down in joint 16th place, with Forest Green Rovers, in terms of goals scored.
This U’s team is not free-scoring, they are not natural goalscorers. Even leading marksman Szmodics, a No. 10 by trade, has not found the back of the net in his last 14 appearances. He has only mustered one goal since Boxing Day.
Furthermore, Courtney Senior, the U’s goalscorer at Lincoln with his precise finish on the hour mark (he had only been on the pitch for three minutes as a substitute), admitted during press interviews last week that he does not consider himself to be a prolific goalscorer.
Senior has netted four goals in 16 league appearances, a useful ratio, and that is enough to put him third in the U’s highest goalscorers for this season.
Goals from other areas of the pitch have been sadly lacking.