U’s squander two-goal lead at Shrewsbury
Shrewsbury Town 2 Colchester United 2
COLCHESTER United squandered a two-goal lead, late on, to be denied another victory at Shrewsbury Town this afternoon.
It had looked as though the Arsenal loanee duo of Craig Eastmond and Sanchez Watt had inspired the U’s to yet another victory, in sunny Shropshire.
Eastmond broke the deadlock inside three minutes, and his fellow Gunner Watt, on as a substitute on the hour mark, doubled the lead with a wonderful second in the 62nd minute.
Watt’s fantastic finish seemed to have ensured a sixth league win from seven starts, under new manager Joe Dunne, but two goals in a dramatic two-minute spell rescued a point for the Shrews.
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Both goals came from a corner, the first a header by Asa Hall in the 79th minute, and the equaliser a clinical header, again from substitute Hall, on 81 minutes.
Both sides could have won it late on, in what was a pulsating encounter.
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But the U’s had to be content with a point, due to an inability to defend from set pieces.
It was a cracking early solo goal by Eastmond, who shrugged off his marker as if he was not even there, before drilling in a low drive from the edge of the box.
The ball flew into the net, via the inside of the far post, giving keeper Chris Weale no chance. It was the perfect start for the visitors.
Watt doubled the lead just after the hour mark. The winger had only been on the pitch for two minutes, as a substitute, when he latched onto Ian Henderson’s pass deep inside the U’s half of the pitch.
And Watt showed Matt Richards a clean pair of heels, sprinting half the length of New Meadow before beating Weale with a wonderful finish, high into the far corner of the net.
But Shrewsbury responded with those two late goals to grab a point.
U’s boss Dunne made just one change to the side that secured a 2-0 win at Leyton Orient on Tuesday evening.
Skipper Anthony Wordsworth was serving a one-match suspension, so in came veteran Karl Duguid to fill that role on the left side of midfield.
Winger Watt, who missed the Brisbane Road clash due to a knee injury, was fit enough to be named amongst the substitutes.
In the absence of Wordsworth, and club captain Kem Izzet (hip injury), it was Michael Rose who was proudly wearing the captain’s armband.
In fact, all the U’s players were wearing black arm-bands, as a tribute to legendary winger Peter Wright, who died earlier this week at the age of 78.
Hosts Shrewsbury handed debuts to new loan signings Jeremy Helan (Manchester City) and Jamie Proctor (from Swansea).
But there was little these new recruits could do about the U’s early goal, netted courtesy of the impressive Eastmond on three minutes.
Just two minutes later and the visitors nearly doubled their tally. Ian Henderson was in acres of space to receive Duguid’s pass, but he screwed his shot well wide of target.
The Shrews weathered this early storm and proceeded to shade the rest of the first half, inspired by some tricky wing play by Jon Taylor.
Just before the half-hour mark, Taylor blasted a long-range shot inches wide of the far post, and he then whipped over a cross which Mark Cousins managed to half-clear, before Frenchman Helan hooked the rebound well over the bar.
The U’s had one good chance to double their lead before half-time. Eastmond skipped past a flurry of challenges to reach the six-yard box, but he could not get in his shot before losing his balance. That was a frustrating moment for the Arsenal loanee.
Into the second period and Shrews left-back Joe Jacobson was close to an equaliser in the 49th minute. He exchanged a one-two with Proctor before warming Cousins’ hands with a stinging shot.
Livewire Taylor also went close for the Shrews, from 20 yards out, as United were forced onto the back foot.
Watt’s goal, just after the hour mark, put the U’s firmly in the driving seat, but two goals in a two-minute spell ruined the Essex club’s day.
SHREWSBURY TOWN: Weale, Grandison, Jacobson (sub Purdie, 70), Jones, Collins, Summerfield, Richards (sub Hall,78), Taylor, Helan, Parry, Proctor. Unused subs: Ward, Wright, Wildig, Hector, Gornell.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Rose, Bean (sub O’Toole, 74), Eastmond, Duguid, Massey (sub Watt, 60), Ibehre, Henderson (sub Sears, 84). Unused subs: Pentney, Morrison, Gilbey, Hamiltont.
Referee: Jeremy Simpson (Lancashire)