Some day Chris Powell is not going to win a game as manager. A 100% record for two clubs is unlikely to prove sustainable. But until then I want to know which deity he prays to, which brand he smokes, and whether he’s available to sort out the Egypt crisis. Parkinson must just watch and wonder, as did the rest of us. Just what the Colchester manager, players and fans made of it remains to be seen and heard. We won, we’re happy, but if we thought we had the breaks against Plymouth, when their shot whistled over the bar and we get gifted a goal to break the deadlock, Sir Chris took it up a notch tonight.
A reasonable explanation for the second-half incident which saw the referee first disallow a Colchester effort, then consult at length with his linesman and give a goal, and then after further protests and discussions rule out the goal and restart play with a contested drop ball will have to come from somewhere else. To restart in that fashion can only point to the ref having blown his whistle by mistake, prompting defenders to stop, but then why on earth did he give the goal? For now I prefer the alternative, that he realised that nobody scores against Chris’ team, a point underlined by a last-second clearance off the line. I can honestly say that apart from Peter Hunt’s side-netting goal I haven’t seen anything stranger at a football match. I expect Colchester may be a little miffed.
I’ll try to keep it short tonight as I’m feeling lousy (one problem with a visit to the doc’s is that the place is full of sick people) and as I have no insight into the incident on which the game turned, one which resulted in seven minutes of stoppage time announced (and at least eight played). From where I sat it looked like a goal as their guy (was it Mooney? And just why did some Charlton fans boo him?) slipped the defender and shot home into the corner. There was no flag for offside and clearly the linesman thought it was a fair goal. It’s one that deserves some airing on the box.
The team saw both Bessone and Wright-Phillips included, with Fry (who presumably is wanted back by West Ham) dropping to the bench, McCormack and Semedo getting the central midfield berths over Racon, Wagstaff and Jackson operating wide, and Anyinsah paired with Wright-Phillips up front. It did mean a solid set-up, albeit one with some limitations creatively. And some indication of our current resources came from the fact that on the bench were Racon, Reid, Benson and Eccleston as well as Fry and Worner.
It was a lively start, with the front two injecting pace and movement and we carved out an early opportunity with some good play. But Colchester replied with an effort of their own and after the early exchanges the game settled down to something of a war of attrition, with both sides cancelling each other out. Some of the early quality went missing and the abiding memory of the first half was that both sides were looking to play football but that both lacked the precision to pull it off. Perhaps that was encapsulated by an incident late on when they stretched us and the ball broke to their guy running in on the right side of the box. We were in trouble and any decent delivery could have produced a goal. Instead he put it behind. As against Plymouth, no complaints about a clean sheet at the break but some concern that we weren’t creating much going forward, especially with Wagstaff struggling to get into the game.
The second half also started brightly before both midfields again took a grip. It looked as though the first goal would prove crucial and for all the world it seemed as though Colchester had it. No they hadn’t, yes they had, then oh no they hadn’t again. It was the break we needed, now to complete the job. Benson came on for Anyinsah but the deadlock was broken by the one piece of quality wing play all night. Francis had shown Wagstaff how to do it minutes earlier, with a good run and cross, but finally Scotty received the ball in a decent position, ran forward with it and picked out his man. Wright-Phillips had moved away from the defender and with the ball delivered just behind him still had a lot to do. But he hit it sweetly on the turn to give their keeper no chance.
That was all we wanted, but the final whistle was still some way off. Fry came on for Bessone and towards the end Eccleston replaced Wright-Phillips. For the most part we coped with the closing stages well, with Semedo and McCormack providing good protection for the defence and with Dailly and Doherty outstanding. But there was still that last-gasp corner and a header that looked like a goal before being kicked off the line. Enough we cried, only for the ball to break to Eccleston, who might have added another substitute’s goal had the ref not blown for the end of the game.
Overall reflections included delight at a second consecutive clean sheet at home, albeit with the realisation than in both games we could easily have had to come from behind. Bessone looked good, especially moving forward with the ball, while Dailly and Doherty excelled, with Mooney a threat all night but not someone likely to expose them for pace. Semedo and McCormack together worked hard and did the basics very well. Up front it was unrealistic to expect Anyinsah and Wright-Phillips to click immediately, but there was enough threat from each of them to suggest promise. I’m sad that it didn’t work out here for Sodje (I really thought he was going to be a key player for us this season), but with Benson and Eccleston (and Abbott) at least we have options. Getting the best combination and improving the understanding is for the training ground tomorrow. For now, if they could bottle Sir Chris’ good fortune I’d swap it for a crate of my best red.
Elliot: 8/10. Good saves in the first half and dealt with everything that needed to be dealt with effectively, including a couple of dodgy early back passes.
Francis: 7/10. Iffy start when it came to distribution, but defensively sound and got forward more in the second half to good effect.
Bessone: 7/10. Decent start having just arrived yesterday. Looks comfortable in possession.
Dailly: 8/10. Excellent.
Doherty: 8/10. No mistakes, plenty of headed clearances. Aside from the ‘goal’ Colchester were limited to half-chances.
Jackson: 6/10. Had no great impact on the game; did find himself in a good position inside the box late in the first half but rather surprisingly put the shot wide of the post.
McCormack: 7/10. Did an effective job. He’s not going to set the world alight, but when placed in his natural position did what we can expect of him. Time for some to get off his back as we will need him.
Semedo: 8/10. Decent shout for man-of-the-match. Combative and involved, helped ensure that we matched up to a decent Colchester midfield.
Wagstaff: 7/10. What can you say? Overall disappointing in terms of his contribution as a winger; but made the chance that won the game after scoring to break the deadlock against Plymouth.
Anyinsah: 6/10. Lively start but did fade through the game as it closed down.
Wright-Phillips: 7/10. Gets the extra mark for his excellent strike for the goal.
Subs: Benson (6/10 – poor early touches but got more into it after that); Fry (7/10 – did well in the time on the pitch, especially moving their guy out wide from a dangerous position); Eccleston (not enough time for a mark, but if the game had gone on another 30 seconds he might have added another).