Stevenage 0-0 Colchester United
COLCHESTER UNITED were left frustrated as struggling Stevenage – who finished the game with nine men – produced a resolute rearguard action to earn a point from what was an untidy Sky Bet League Two contest at the Lamex Stadium.
Despite draws in each of their previous two outings, Colchester arrived unbeaten in ten league matches and handily placed amongst the play-off contenders.
Stevenage – under the guidance of Graham Westley – returning for a fourth spell at the Lamex – would argue their needs were far greater. The Hertfordshire side occupied the Football League’s bottom places and had recorded only two victories from their opening 24 matches and hadn’t tasted victory since Morecambe were seen off by a single goal in late October.
Ryan Jackson swept clear following a lightning raid down the right involving Elliott List, while Luke Norris sent a free-kick dipping off-target as early exchanges suggested a closer contest than league placing suggested would prevail.
Harry Pell perhaps should have done better – nodding the wrong side of an upright after arriving unmarked to meet Callum Harriott’s pinpoint delivery. But then a flashpoint – Tom Soares was too high and too late on Luke Gambin. Referee, Ollie Yates had little hesitation in reaching to his top pocket and reducing Stevenage to ten men.
Naturally, the home crowd felt aggrieved and the mood almost darkened when a combination of stopper, Paul Farman, and an upright denied Norris, Gambin and Harriott in quick succession.
Colchester continued to ask the sterner questions. Farman expertly dealt with a curling attempt from Norris – this after the U’s frontman had exchanged passes with Harriott, while Ben Nugent was relieved after deflecting Harriott’s troublesome centre onto the top of his own crossbar as a fiesty opening period drew to its conclusion.
Colchester were clearly becoming frustrated as Stevenage – operating a man light – closed down efficiently. U’s boss, John McGreal threw Kwame Poku into the action in a bid to open the proverbial ‘baked bean tin’ of a rearguard marshalled excellently by Paul Digby. Meanwhile, Norris twice went close and Ben Stevenson fired wide as the tension continued to mount.
Substitute, Theo Robinson, was unable to direct goalwards following a raid down the right, while Poku headed wide. Farman then thwarted Pell after Harriott had teed the combative midfielder up.
Harriott’s free header wide of the mark seemed to sum up the U’s afternoon, as did another terrific save from Farman after Stevenson’s strike was wickedly deflected.
Farman’s performance had been quite inspirational – Ogedi-Uzokwe became the latest U’s player to hold his head in disbelief as the keeper clawed out his downward header which appeared to be heading into the corner of the net.
An injury to Chris Stokes – coupled with a full complement of used substitutes – meant Stevenage played out stoppage time with nine men. But the home side fully deserved their share of the spoils following a gritty performance.
Colchester United return to Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday, January 11 when they face Morecambe at the Globe Arena (3pm).
Stevenage: Paul Farman, Chris Stokes, Paul Digby, Tom Soares, Ben Kennedy, Dean Parrett (Michael Timlin 46’), Kelland Watts (Tyler Denton 57’), Ben Nugent, Charlie Lakin, Elliott List, Craig Mackail-Smith (Alex Revell 80’) Subs not used: Sacha Bastien (GK), Jason Cowley, Terence Vancooten, Paul Taylor
Booked: Dean Parrett (foul)
Sent-off: Tom Soares (foul)
Colchester United: Dean Gerkin, Ryan Jackson, Luke Prosser, Harry Pell, Luke Norris (Theo Robinson 70’), Callum Harriott (Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe 85’), Tom Eastman, Ryan Clampin, Ben Stevenson, Luke Gambin (Kwame Poku 64’), Frank Nouble Subs not used: Ethan Ross (GK), Tom Lapslie, Brandon Comley, Ollie Kensdale
Booked: Ben Stevenson (foul), Luke Prosser (foul)
Referee: Ollie Yates
Assistants: Stephen Finch and Gregory Read
Fourth Official: Dean Treleaven