Slow starters Colchester United tumble to another defeat as relegation worries deepen

Notts County 2 Colchester United 0

Colchester United’s relegation worries deepened with this defeat at fellow strugglers Notts County this afternoon.

The U’s were caught cold by Ronan Murray’s strike after just five minutes.

The ex-Ipswich Town front-runner made the most of some slack defending to run through and beat Sam Walker with a super-cool finish.

It was Murray’s ninth goal of the season, and the fifth in his last four appearances.

Joe Dunne’s men peppered the target for the rest of the half, with Freddie Sears striking the post on 19 minutes, but they shipped a second goal on the stroke of half-time.

Centre-half Haydn Hollis rose unmarked to head home skipper Alan Sheehan’s free-kick, in the second minute of first-half stoppage time.

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That was a killer goal for the U’s to concede, and they rarely looked like staging a comeback during the second period.

Just like at Wolves on Tuesday night, the U’s suffered the worst possible start by conceding inside the first few minutes.

It had taken just 53 seconds for Wolves to break the deadlock in midweek, and although it took the Magpies a little longer, they were still 1-0 up inside five minutes.

Murray benefited from hesitancy in the U’s defence to scamper through and then wrong-foot keeper Walker with a smart finish, inside the near post.

The U’s were under the cosh, and Walker was relieved to catch Jack Grealish’s header from Alan Sheehan’s sixth minute corner.

Three minutes later and Jabo Ibehre had a sight of goal, although his shot on the turn ballooned several yards wide of target.

Freddie Sears, back in the starting line-up after a niggling hamstring injury, so nearly got on the end of Brian Wilson’s measured through ball on 14 minutes.

However, keeper Bartosz Mialkowski arrived in the nick of time to hack the ball away, just inside his penalty area, before Sears could pounce.

The U’s were responding well to the disappointment of falling behind so early in the game.

In the 15th minute, Ibehre guided Ryan Dickson’s cross into the path of Alex Gilbey, and there was a suspicion of handball as defender Hayden Mullins blocked Gilbey’s snap shot. Referee Lee Collins thought otherwise.

Three minutes later and Gilbey had a far better chance. The teenager again benefited from Ibehre’s knock-down, only to fire his shot over the bar from close range.

Only the woodwork denied the U’s an equaliser in the 19th minute. Sears latched onto Dominic Vose’s pass and cracked in a low shot that cannoned back off the post. Magpies skipper Sheehan’s instinctive clearance flew over the bar, although it could so easily have ended up in the net.

At the other end, the Magpies nearly doubled their lead in the 36th minute. Murray swung over an inch-perfect cross for defender Haydn Hollis, who headed over the bar from point blank range with just Walker to beat. That was a lucky let-off for the U’s.

Gilbey was presented another chance on 38 minutes. He raced onto Sears’ lay-off and curled in a shot that was clawed around his far post by Bialkowski, just out of Ibehre’s reach.

But it was Notts County who scored again, in first-half stoppage time, to leave the U’s licking their wounds at the interval, courtesy of Hollis’ header from Sheehan’s free-kick.

Just 30 seconds into the second half and the U’s were close to conceding a third. Murray let fly with a rasping shot which Walker did well to fingertip over his bar.

United were clinging on a little, and striker Jimmy Spencer should really have scored when stabbing wide from just six yards out in the 49th minute.

The U’s struggled to create anything of note in the second half, until the 72nd minute, when Sears poked a shot wide under pressure from keeper Bialkowski.

The Magpies No. 1 also diverted a Dickson free-kick over his bar, and did the same with a Craig Eastmond firecracker with three minutes remaining.

Squads

NOTTS COUNTY: Bialkowski, Dumbuya, Hollis, Mullins, Sheehan, Campbell-Ryce, Liddle, Vela, Grealish (sub Tyson, 78), Murray, Spencer. Unused subs: Spiess, Leacock, McGregor, Thompson, Boucaud, Dixon.

COLCHESTER: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Dickson, Bean (sub Massey, 56), Wright, Gilbey (sub Eastmond, 77), Vose (sub Morrison, 60), Sears, Ibehre. Unused subs: Cousins, Olufemi, Sesay, Szmodics.

Referee: Lee Collins (Surrey)

Attendance: 5,230 (209 away fans)

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