Carl Marston’s Talking Points from U’s fine win over Lincoln
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United inflicted a third defeat of the season on league leaders Lincoln City, to cement their position in the top seven, and confirm their billing as promotion candidates.
The Imps had only failed to score in just two of their first 15 league games, at the hands of Crawley and Tranmere, but they drew a blank against the impressive U’s in front of a crowd just short of 5,000.
Frankie Kent conjured up the only goal of the game, poking home from a Courtney Senior corner in the 27th minute, after which the U’s kept their shape and discipline to frustrate Danny Cowley’s high-flying Imps.
The U’s are now joint top scorers with Lincoln (30 goals), and are well placed in fifth spot, just one point adrift of the automatic promotion zone.
In fact, Saturday proved what had already been known from the first three months of this season – that the U’s have the defensive skills, and the firepower, to make a strong bid for League One football.
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Although there was only one goal, this was an intriguing game of football between two of the best teams in the fourth tier.
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Lincoln, as usual backed by some fine away support, which numbered 1,111 at the Jobserve Community Stadium, were strong and powerful both in and out of possession.
Cowley’s team is packed with six-footers, and it is easy to see how they can bully opponents into submission at this level – they had slammed six goals past Port Vale in their previous away fixture, at Vale Park, and won 3-0 away at fellow top-three outfit Exeter City.
But they were short-changed by stubborn Colchester, who matched them tackle for tackle, push for push, header for header.
Goalscoring opportunities were at a premium at both ends of the pitch, with keepers Rene Gilmartin and Josh Vickers enjoying quiet afternoons, but it was blood-and-thunder action unfolding in front of them.
Lincoln pressed more and more in the second period, and there was the added drama of six minutes of injury-time, which turned into nine minutes, culminating in Gilmartin pushing Michael O’Connor’s free-kick around his post with the last save, and in fact last kick, of the afternoon.
The U’s celebrated in style at the final whistle.
This was indeed a big win, not in terms of the margin of victory or their overall dominance, but the fact that they had just outmanoeuvred the top team in League Two.
The U’s goal arrived in the 27th minute, created by man-of-the-match Courtney Senior, and scored by centre-back Frankie Kent, who had a terrific game.
Frank Nouble ran in at the near post, and although he failed to make contact with Senior’s inswinging delivery, his big presence acted as a distraction with Kent’s initial back-heel being blocked on the goal-line by keeper Vickers.
However, there was nothing Vickers could do about Kent’s second effort from the rebound, as the 22-year-old lifted the ball into the net from point blank range.
Gilmartin, starting his fourth game on the trot after replacing Dillon Barnes in goal, gathered one long-range shot by Bruno Andrade on five minutes, and smothered another power-puff shot from defender Jason Shackell in the 77th minute.
Otherwise, though, the U’s goalkeeping coach was well protected by his back-four, plus Harry Pell and Tom Lapslie.
The ex-Watford custodian punched away crosses with authority, but his best moment arrived with 99 minutes on the clock, when diving to his right to palm away O’Connor’s free-kick.
For their part, the U’s had a couple of long-range shots, from Sammie Szmodics (blocked) and Ryan Jackson (saved), while Kane Vincent-Young nearly struck early on with a mesmerising run into the box, past two defenders.
But Kent’s effort was more than enough to win the day.
This was the U’s sixth win from eight home starts, an eye-catching record that is actually the best in League Two.
John McGreal’s men have collected 18 points from a possible 24, a haul only matched by MK Dons, who have won five of their eight at home, and drawn three.
The U’s have scored more goals than anyone else in front of their home fans (20 goals), and have the best goal difference (plus 14).
It makes for rich entertainment – U’s fans can certainly not grumble about receiving poor value for money.