Charlie the Magnificent

Cod Almighty | Match Report

by Paul Ketchley

12 February 2020

Colchester United 2 Grimsby Town 3

Casual Diary’s reflections on previous trips to the soulless concrete box by the A12 known as the Jobsworth Stadium might have been enough to put many off a long away trip to deepest Essex. If that didn't suffice the bitterly cold wind that whips around the corner of the stand in which the away fans are corralled could have put the lid on it. But no. You might not have realised how many Town fans live in this part of East Anglia. Saturday’s performance motivated people to shell out for train tickets from Norwich, which involved a long walk from the station; or those in Ipswich getting out their thermals to see their favourites face a side unbeaten at home in the league since October.

Colchester United have ditched their blue and white stripes and now play in a Chelsea lookalike kit. That meant Town could play in black and white. Changes were made from Saturday’s trip to Bradford; we lined up with McKeown; Hewitt, WaterfallÖhman and Garmston; Glennon, Whitehouse and Benson; Tilley, Green and Vernam. Oh dear, that looks like some strange, non-4-4-2 formation, and we know what happens when we try that. Never mind Hendrie, Hanson, Clarke, Pollock, Grandin, Wright and Russell are on the bench so we have options to change if need be.

Whoever won the toss decided to change ends and so Colchester kicked off defending the unopened stand next to the Town supporters.

First half: set piece struggle

At first it looked like a re-run of previous trips with Town being put under pressure from corners, giving away free kicks and McKeown being forced into early saves. Then an error from the home side put Vernam clear and his shot was blocked by a defender. Then Tilley, presented with an open goal, blazed it over the bar, but there was some relief when a foul was awarded. But hey – we're in this game.

It was pretty obvious that Colchester would present problems from set pieces and long throw-ins; after 16 minutes they went ahead when a corner wasn’t properly cleared and Prosser was able to slot the loose ball into the far corner.

But Town came back at them. After Tilley had missed another good chance, some interplay on the edge of the box involving Glennon saw Matt Green tap the ball to Vernam who promptly buried it in the bottom of the Colchester net. Cue celebrations in the Town end. Vernam was mobbed in front of the travelling support.

It became a struggle of set pieces with Colchester’s long throws posing a real threat. Town responded with a Vernam attempt turned around the post, and a Whitehouse shot going just wide.

Eventually the set piece routine worked again for the hosts. A series of shanked clearances led to another corner being conceded that was not cleared. A shot from outside the box was blocked and Robinson, who looked to be offside, was able to convert from close range.

This time Colchester were more determined to hold on. First Green was bundled over, and then Vernam was dragged down, the officials seemingly blind to some obvious offences.

At half time, everyone ran for some shelter from the wind and cold.

Second half: the stage is set

Town started the second half and set nerves jangling with some intricate and risky looking inter-passing at the back. All too often they over-did the intricacy and gave away possession, forcing some desperate clearances from McKeown.

After five minutes Garmston played a neat ball to Vernam who tried to beat the keeper at the near post but saw it saved. Shortly after Green and Garmston were replaced by James Hanson and Billy Clarke.

Mid-way through the half, Hanson won an aerial challenge which the Col U support were incensed to see go unpunished. Whitehouse fed Hewitt down the right hand side. His cross went across the goal with nobody getting near it until it reached Vernam at the back post. He hit a left-footed shot across the goalkeeper and into the far corner.

Four minutes later it got even better. Whitehouse gave the ball to Vernam, right in front of the Town fans on the edge of the penalty area. Charles went on a dazzling run down the left, beating one man and cutting inside, while defenders backed away. Finally, he took the ball across the final man and slotted the ball back into the left-hand corner of the goal. It was the best goal by a Town player from open play in years. Pandemonium broke out among the Town support. McKeown joined in and bounced up and down in front of us punching the air.

The stuffing was knocked out of both the Colchester support and the players from this point on. With their fans streaming to the exits, McKeown made one final save at the feet of Robinson to see the game out.

There were long celebrations at the final whistle between players and supporters. Ian Holloway came over thumping the badge on his jackets and taking a bow before the end.