REPORT: Colchester United 1 Stevenage 0
Boro come unstuck at Colchester as on-loan Arsenal man shoots down previously unbeaten Stevenage
Colchester United 1 Stevenage 0
npower League 1
Stevenage’s unbeaten run came to an end at the home of a resurgent Colchester.
Gary Smith’s men were reduced to 10 men early in the second half when Anthony Grant was sent off for a second yellow card and a minute later the U’s got the only goal of the game when Sanchez Watt, on loan from Arsenal, drilled a low effort past Steve Arnold for their third win in four league games.
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Grant’s sending off cost Stevenage as until that point they had matched their opponents.
Yet the former Southend United man should have been taken off at the break as an early booking - Grant, alongside James Dunne and Filipe Morais, picked up yellow cards - affected his game to the extent that on more than one occasion he pulled out of a challenge which gave the home side more time on the ball than Boro would have liked.
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Boro’s afternoon started badly when Miguel Comminges, picked at left-back, told Smith an hour before the game that he was injured, forcing Boro to bring in Bondz N’Gala at the last minute at centre-half and moving Darius Charles out to left-back.
Colchester started on the front foot with both Marcus Bean, over the bar, and Gavin Massey, saved by Arnold, having early efforts on goal, but the best chance of the first-half fell to Morais, chosen ahead of Luke Freeman.
The Portuguese winger picked the ball up some 25 yards from goal and fired a superb shot towards goal only for Colchester goalkeeper Mark Cousins to tip it over the bar and then save Marcus Haber’s header from the resulting corner.
Those early yellow cards affected Boro in the centre of midfield and as a consequence the likes of Watt and, more prominently, Jabo Ibehre took control of the game by running at players and creating space for team-mates.
Ibehre was next to try his luck, shooting low at Arnold who saved with his legs, before the on-loan MK Dons striker headed Michael Rose’s cross wide of goal.
The second half was only five minutes old when Grant received his marching orders after Watt flicked a ball past him on 50 minutes only for the midfielder to catch him on his way past.
Watt was then to punish Stevenage further when, a minute after Grant stepped off the pitch, he fired a low shot into the far corner for 1-0 to the home side.
Boro brought on Oliver Risser for Grant Tansey but Boro had been dealt a double blow and in the next five minutes had to contend with shots from Massey, whose effort was saved by Arnold, and a volley just wide from another Arsenal loanee, Craig Eastmond.
The home side continued to have the better of the play and when Anthony Wordsworth stepped up for a free-kick 20 yards from goal he was a couple of inches away from bending it in the top corner, hitting the bar instead.
With about 10 minutes to go Arnold was forced to get between ball and goal again, and although it looked like a fantastic save his opponent, Ibehre, really should have done better than to aim the ball straight at the goalkeeper.
Mark Roberts had one of Boro’s few chances in the second-half, but although he rose highest from substitute Freeman’s free-kick he could only head wide from 12 yards.
Boro pressed and when Freeman sent in a corner a minute into injury time and Haber headed it across goal, N’Gala fired an overhead kick at goal only for it to loop over Cousins and onto the bar before being cleared as Colchester held on for a deserved three points.
Colchester United: Cousins 6, Rose 7, Okuonghae 6, Wilson 6, Eastman 6, Massey 6 (Henderson 77), Wordsworth 7, Eastmond 6, Bean 6, Watt 8 (Sears 77), Ibehre 8. Subs: Heath, Duguid, White, Gilbey, Pentney.
Stevenage: Arnold 8, Gray 6, Charles 6, N’Gala 5, Roberts 6, Grant 4, Dunne 5, Tansey 5 (Risser 56, 5), Akins 6 (Shroot 75), Morais 5 (Freeman 75), Haber 7. Subs: Day, Rodgers, Lopez.