Time to write it off as a bad day at the office and move on

Cod Almighty | Article

by Paul Ketchley

17 April 2024

He lives close by, but Town were turning off the A1 before he got home. Mr Paul Ketchley gives an alternative take on the non-events at the evocative Breeze Block Stadium. We say alternative, we just mean comprehensible and shorter and definitely without plagiarising long-forgotten comedians from the 1950s 

Colchester United 2 Grimsby Town 0
Sometimes, when things aren't going your way, you just have to write off the experience and move on. Plenty of away matches have ended this way in the past. Especially in Essex.

The Town support found they were no longer penned into the far corner of the ground at Colchester who had actually opened the stand behind the goal for us. New first-time Town supporters were bemused, surely there will only be 50 or so away supporters on a Tuesday night in April? 50? More like 500, and so it turned out. Even the Col United support had turned out and for the first time ever made some noise.

Town turned out in red and fielded Eastwood in goal and then Mullarkey, Tharme, Rogers, Vernam, Smith, Clifton, Thompson and Green. Wilson and Obikwu were up front but the formation of the rest was something of a mystery. Vernam appeared to be playing as a wing-back rather than a striker which is what you might think we brought him back to be; Clifton and Tharme were difficult to pick out in the gathering of red shirts with numbers greater than 11. It was going to be difficult to "keep us shape" when the shape wasn't very obvious in the first place.

First half
Of course everyone seemed to be looking for a point and even the players seemed to have got the idea into their head that a point would suit us fine. But Colchester had other ideas, because only a win would do for them. So Town started in a languid "let's see it through for 90 minutes" whereas Colchester were up for it from the start.

And in six minutes their approach paid dividends because we lost the ball in midfield and a quick pass forward to the central player in a line of three sprinting forwards gave Hopper a simple chance to chip the ball over Eastwood to put them in front.

Town woke up and for the rest of the half they got themselves back into the game and for a couple of decent spells you might say they were quite dominant. It came to nought of course because we could only hit corners and crosses far too long and get threatened by quick Colchester breakaways. From one of these they hit the ball just wide of the post and then Tharme made a contribution by heading the ball off the line to keep it at 1-0.

Thompson tried to marshal the midfield but the main creative outlet came down the left with Vernam. We won corners but made nothing of them and lacked the fluency that Colchester showed.

As has so often been the case, for all Town's possession and knocking the ball around they never looked convincing in the final third. Something needed to change in the second half.

Second half
Town started the second half in the way they ought to have started the first and dominated the first 15 minutes. Obikwu got booked for a blatant dive in the penalty area when he would have been far better to stay on his feet and maybe get a shot off or draw a genuine foul. Eventually the Colchester goalkeeper went down and fashioned a break in play to ease the pressure and disrupt the momentum that Town were building up. He spent a long time being treated and showed no ill-effects afterwards.

Smith started to charge forward down the right-hand side and half chances were created with a neat headed ball down in the area, which nobody got on the end of and finally Clifton got on the end of an Obikwu cross, tried to flick the ball into the far corner but saw it bobble wide of the post.

Thompson went off early to be replaced by Wood and then Smith went off for Eisa so there were fresh legs for the final period.

Then calamity happened when the ball was given away again and Akinde, who is hardly lightning fast at the best of times, ran clear of the defenders and lofted the ball into the far corner of the net. Cue celebrations at the Colchester end and the early departure of a sizeable number of Town fans.

Town kept going forward and a promising free kick was palmed over the bar after Akinde had taken an age to walk off the pitch after being substituted. Those who were at Braintree remembered all the gamesmanship that was practised there before set pieces.

Colchester's Dallison was shown a straight red for a hard challenge on Obikwu and a further substitution was made before the free kick could be taken. Vernam lined it up and his kick, bound for the top corner, was palmed away by goalkeeper Hornby.

Six minutes of added time ran out much to Colchester's delight, and a dismayed Town side came over to acknowledge the support from those who had stayed to the end. It ended much as many previous away matches have with a sense that with a bit more conviction something could have been got out of the game.

We are still not mathematically safe.