U's slip to seventh defeat of the season
COLCHESTER United's slipped to their seventh league defeat of the season against a spirited Bristol Rovers side.Dominic Blizzard put the Pirates in front after 16 minutes with a fine curling effort from the edge of the box, but the U's drew level five minutes later when John-Joe OToole diverted in Phil Ifiul's mishit shot.
COLCHESTER United's slipped to their seventh league defeat of the season against a spirited Bristol Rovers side.
Dominic Blizzard put the Pirates in front after 16 minutes with a fine curling effort from the edge of the box, but the U's drew level five minutes later when John-Joe OToole diverted in Phil Ifiul's mishit shot.
The hosts gradually got on top as the second half developed and they took the lead again after 67 minutes through Jo Kuffour's scrambled finish.
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Chris Lines smashed home with 11 minutes to go to seal the win, before Colchester almost staged a dramatic comenback.
Substitute Kayode Odejayi fired home in the 89th minute and, late in stoppage time, O'Toole almost hooked home following about of pressure.
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Despite having Magnus Okuonghae, Kayode Odejayi and Kevin Lisbie fit again, U's boss Aidy Boothroyd resisted the temptation to make sweeping changes to the side which beat Oldham 1-0 last weekend.
There was just one enforced change to the Colchester line-up, with the absent Kemi Izzet replaced by John White.
Bristol Rovers boss Paul Trollope said during the week that a number of his players were a major doubt for this game; however Mikkel Andersen, Byron Anthony, Danny Coles, Chris Lines and Jo Kuffour were all passed fit.
In a stop-start opening to the match, Steven Gillespie missed two decent chances after twice being picked out unmarked in the box. The first chance saw the striker's header turned around the post by the keeper, while the second - a glorious opportunity at the far post - saw him volley into the side-netting.
Those misses were punished in the 16th minute when Dominic Blizzard was given far too much time and space to curl a fine shot into the bottom right corner from the edge of the box.
Colchester drew level five minutes later with the flukiest of equalisers. Ifil got his volleyed shot from the edge of the area all wrong, but, with the ball heading well wide, John-Joe O'Toole was in the right place to divert it in with his head.
The game somewhat died out after the goals as defences dominated, but there were two incidents to keep the crowd entertained in the early stages of the second half.
First, defender Matt Heath - of all people - produced a silky step-over and turned in the home side's box to almost create something out of nothing.
And with genuine goal chances at a premium, the most excitement provided was when home boss Paul Trollope raced five yards onto the pitch to angrily remonstrate with the referee after Steve Elliott was booked for a tackle on Gillespie right in front of the dugouts.
Bristol Rovers gradually began to get on top as the second half developed and they eventually took the lead after 67 minutes. Stuart Campbell lifted the ball into box and after Paul Heffernan's headed knock-down, Kuffour scrambled home from close range.
U's boss Boothroyd responded by making a double substitution, taking off Gillespie and Ifil, and replacing them with Kayode Odejayi and Ashley Vincent. It was the latter's first game back after almost five months out with an ankle injury.
Odejayi then immediately spurned a good chance to draw Colchester level for the second time in the game when he swung and completely missed the ball as it fell to him in a dangerous area in the box.
The Pirates victory sealed their victory in the 79th minute as Kuffour went from goal-scorer to provider. The striker ran powerfully to the by-line and his cut-back took a slight deflection into the path of Chris Lines, who gleefully smashed home from close range.
Odejayi somehow hit the post from less than six yards out after the keeper had tipped the ball into his path as the clock ticked down, but the Nigerian striker did pull one back with a minute to go after Clive Platt chested a long ball into his path.
And the U's came agonisingly close to finding a dramatic equaliser in stoppage time when, following a long bought of head tennis the Rovers box, O'Toole hooked the ball just wide.