Managerless Colchester United are swamped by the Brewers
Burton Albion 5 Colchester United 1
The post-Tony Humes era ended in another heavy defeat for Colchester United, at high-flying Burton Albion this afternoon.
Ironically, the U’s had taken the lead inside four minutes, via Callum Harriott’s quality finish.
But the visitors were then swamped by goals from Nasser El Khayati (25), Mark Duffy (34), Tom Naylor (51), Lucas Akins (73) and Timmy Thiele (81).
It was their fifth league defeat on the bounce, and their eighth defeat from the last 10 league games.
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And yet the U’s had enjoyed the ideal start.
Gavin Massey robbed left-back Anthony O’Connor and whipped over a cross which was only half-cleared, allowing Harriott to eye up the target with a first-time shot that flew like a bullet into the bottom corner of the net.
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Burton equalised in the 25th minute. Harriott was harshly penalised for a challenge on Phil Edwards, and Nasser El Khayati’s 20-yard free-kick flashed past the defensive wall and in at the near post, before Jamie Jones could really react.
The tide had turned in Burton’s favour, and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s men took the lead in the 34th minute.
There was a big slice of luck about this goal, as Duffy’s shot took a wicked deflection off Joe Edwards to wrong-foot Jones and balloon into the net.
A combination of poor defending and bad luck also led to Burton’s third goal, on 51 minutes. Duffy’s run and cross ended with the ball cannoning off Naylor and rolling into the net, off the inside of the far post.
Unmarked substitute Lucas volleyed home fellow substitute Damien McCrory’s cross to chalk up the fourth, and so seal the U’s fate.
There was still time for the Brewer’s third substitute, Thiele, to add a fifth from close range – it was all too easy for the home side.
They have now conceded a staggering 49 goals in just 20 league matches.
Humes had stood down as U’s boss on Thursday, after 15 months in charge, following the 3-2 home defeat to Crewe on Tuesday night.
Chairman Robbie Cowling announced the news at a press conference on Thursday lunchtime, installing Humes’ former assistant Hall and under-21 development coach McGreal as interim managers for this weekend, assisted by under-18 coach Wayne Brown.
The Hall/McGreal duo made two changes to the side. Alex Gilbey was back after a one-match suspension, while Richard Brindley was fit enough to make his first appearance since August, following bone bruising in his knee.
Gilbey replaced Tom Lapslie in central midfield, with Brindley coming in at his normal right-back position. Tosin Olufemi dropped out.
The formation was also tweaked, from the normal 4-2-1-3 to a 4-4-1-1 system.
And the U’s made the perfect start, thanks to Harriott’s wonder strike inside four minutes.
It was only the fifth home league goal conceded by the Brewers this season, and only their 15th conceded in 19 league games,
Harriott almost turned provider in the 15th minute. He robbed right-back Phil Edwards and scurried down the left flank, only to disappoint with his final cross. He had both Chris Porter and George Moncur to aim for, both unmarked in the box.
The U’s had looked solid for the first quarter of the game, with Jones not having a save to make, but they were pegged back by El Khayati’s precise free-kick from 20 yards out in the 25th minute.
The decision to award the free-kick looked harsh, with Harriott penalised for his aerial clash with Edwards. It seemed more of a 50:50 challenge, but referee Ben Toner thought otherwise and leading scorer El Khayati beat Jones from distance..
On the half-hour mark, Joe Edwards flashed an angle drive narrowly wide of the near upright as the U’s sought to regain the lead quickly.
But it was Burton who grabbed the lead themselves, via Duffy’s deflected shot on 34 minutes, which completely wrong-footed Jones to put the hosts 2-1 up..
At the other end, Harriott again did well to escape his marker and dart into the box. His final delivery caused problems in the Burton box, but Porter could not turn quickly enough to register a telling shot.
Trailing 2-1 at the break, the U’s conceded a third goal within six minutes of the restart, Naylor’s effort rolling in off the inside of the post.
Stuart Beavon dragged a shot across goal and wide, on the hour mark, as Burton looked to kill off their opponents.
Only the woodwork denied the U’s a route back into the game in the 64th minute, Harriott’s sizzling drive striking the inside of the post, rolling across the face of goal and drifting wide of the other post.
But substitute Lucas steered home a fourth for Burton, with 17 minutes remaining, to kill off any hopes of a comeback, before fellow substitute Thiele slotted home a fifth from close-in on 81 minutes.
BURTON ALBION: McLaughlin, Edwards, Mousinho, Flanagan, O’Connor, Weir, Duffy, O’Connor (sub McCrory, 46), Binnom-Williams (sub Akis, 64), El Khayati, Beavon (sub Thiele, 75). Unused subs: Matthews, Reilly, Butcher, Palmer.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Jones, Brindley (sub Sordell, 60), Kent, Eastman, Briggs, Edwards, Gilbey, Moncur, Massey (sub Szmodics, 72), Porter, Harriott. Unused subs: Parish, Elokobi, Wright, Lapslie, Ambrose.
Referee: Ben Toner