The top 20 reasons why Colchester United beat the drop
Colchester United escaped relegation, against the odds, on the final day of the season.
In fact, most bookmakers were offering odds of at least 7-1 against the U’s staying up on Sunday.
A dramatic 1-0 win over Preston, combined with final day defeats for lowly rivals Crawley, Notts County and Crewe, proved that this was no mission impossible, as Tony Humes’ men ended up finishing two points clear of the drop, in 19th spot.
Here are 20 reasons why the U’s stayed up:
1 The early goals of Freddie Sears
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Even though he was snapped up by Ipswich Town, during the January transfer window, Sears still ended up as the U’s leading scorer with 14 goals.
2 Early managerial change
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Who knows what would have happened if former boss Joe Dunne had stayed? The Dubliner had masterminded the U’s two previous relegation escape acts – but making the change early, at the end of August, gave new boss Tony Humes most of the season to grow into his new role.
3 Away form
While the U’s struggled on home turf, they played some of their best football on the road. The won seven games and picked up 27 points away from home, as opposed to gathering just 25 points at the Community Stadium.
Time and time again, the U’s bounced back from huge disappointments, or heavy defeats. They followed up the 6-0 thrashing at MK Dons with a 1-0 win over Peterborough in the FA Cup, and recovered from the blow of conceding an injury-time equaliser at Gillingham to win their next game, a lengthy 13 days later, at Port Vale.
5 Midfield gem
George Moncur came good, in spectacular fashion, during the last couple of months. The ex-West Ham man netted nine goals during the campaign, and five in the last nine games, including the precious 82nd minute winner over Preston on the final afternoon.
Tom Eastman was a pillar of strength at the back. The 23-year-old played every minute of every game, 51 fixtures in all, and never dropped below his standards, despite the handicap of having 11 different central defensive partners.
7 Familiar formation
Despite the regular calls for 4-4-2, or ‘two up front,’ from a section of U’s supporters, manager Humes stuck to his guns and remained loyal to the system that is a mainstay of the whole club, from the younger teams upwards. The 4-1-2-3 formation (or 4-3-3) played to the U’s strengths, with pacy wingers getting behind opposing defenders.
8 A class goalkeeper
Sam Walker was once again a prime reason why the U’s stayed up. He only missed two games, a 4-0 defeat at Charlton in the League Cup (rested), and a 6-0 mauling at Chesterfield (injured). Dominant in the air, and a master of his penalty area, Walker is one of the best keepers in League One.
The U’s squad, young at heart and young in years, had the advantage of playing without fear. They always believed that they would stay up, even when the chips were down, and so it proved.
10 League doubles
There were crucial six points out of six from the meetings with relegation rivals Yeovil and Leyton Orient, and also Fleetwood.
11 Surprise packages
The U’s could pack a punch, and raise a few eyebrows, with some shock results, none more so than the 3-2 home win over champions-elect Bristol City in February.
12 A fruitful autumn
New boss Humes did enjoy a honeymoon period. He took over with the U’s in 23rd spot, with just one point gained from five games. Over the next two months, in September and October, he lifted the U’s up to 14th spot.
The U’s used 14 loan players, an unusually high number. Some were hits, and some were misses, but the likes of Norwich City winger Jacob Murphy, Latvian skipper Kaspars Gorkss, Tottenham defender Bongani Khumalo and striker Rhys Healey all made key contributions.
14 The late show
The U’s were on the wrong end of some late goals, but they dished out some late punishment of their own during their last away game at Fleetwood, with goals by Gavin Massey (84 minutes) and Chris Porter (87th minute penalty) over-turning a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2.
15 Key January signing
The loss of Freddie Sears, to Ipswich, was softened by the arrival of fellow striker Chris Porter, right, in January. A totally different front-man to livewire Sears, target-man Porter bagged seven goals in 21 outings. He was a big presence up front.
16 Brave management
Humes was not afraid to make some tough decisions, including dropping some of his more experienced players, such as Sean Clohessy, Sanchez Watt, Craig Eastmond and Ben Gordon.
17 Perfect timing
The U’s did not manage back-to-back league wins, until the last month of the season. But they came good at just the right time, with two victories over the Easter period, 2-1 at Port Vale and 3-1 at home to Barnsley. That ensured they would not be cast adrift at the bottom, unlike Yeovil.
18 Strong in the second half
Too often, the U’s started games poorly, but they often finished strongly. For example, they were trailing 1-0 at home to Barnsley at half-time, before scoring three unanswered goals in the second half. They over-turned a 1-0 deficit at home to Chesterfield, to win 2-1, and scored two second-half goals to beat Yeovil 2-0 at home.
This is the name of George Moncur’s modern-day prophet, from his home church in Loughton. At the start of the season, Cheryl had told Moncur to write down the names of ‘Leyton Orient’ and ‘Notts County,’ who both ended up being relegated, and had said that something would happen after the Swindon game (the U’s penultimate fixture), even though at the time this game was set to be played at the end of March, until it was rescheduled. No wonder Moncur’s team-mates want to know more about Cheryl!
20 Great last week
The U’s finished with a flurry, taking seven points from a possible nine in their last three games. That’s called a last-ditch sprint for the line!