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Notts County 0 U's 0 - Durham's View
Monday, 6th Aug 2018 21:10 by Durham Exile

Colchester United started their third consecutive season in the basement league at Meadow Lane Nottingham on Saturday against one of the favourites for promotion, with a record of nine defeats in the last ten matches against Kevin Nolan’s team.

The fact that I came away from the ground disappointed that we failed to secure all three points, after an extremely impressive performance, suggests that whoever finishes above the Super U’s this season will surely gain automatic promotion.

The journey to Nottingham was as normal a slow one with delays on the A1(M) and through the City, but once we reached the Cattle Market, essentially a demilitarised zone masquerading as a car park right next to the stadium the weather was very warm 26 degrees and brilliant sunshine set the scene nicely for the match.

Inside the stadium the home stewards had managed to cram the 369 faithful into the far end of the Jimmy Sirell stand, meaning that half of them were actually sitting behind the goal line and even us luckier ones were only sitting level with the penalty spot. We sat in the gods which presented a splendid view, but I could not understand why another bay or two could not have been opened up for the supporters to enjoy.

Prior to the game there were two main talking points; there was no sign of Kane Vincent-Young either in the starting XI or on the bench and the unluckiest U’s player had to be Mika Mandron who after impressing pre-season was only able to take his place on the bench.

It appears that Vincent-Young was prepared to sign a contract on Friday but was advised by his “representatives” not to. This meant that the team having prepared for him to be in the starting XI had to make formational changes within 24 hours of the start of the game. If we lose him then so be it, but the way it has been handled by his agents leaves a lot to be desired.

Regarding Mandron, it seemed that JM had decided to start Frank Nouble instead which was harsh on the Frenchman.

The team therefore was:


Eastman Prosser Kent

Jackson Pell Lapslie Dickenson

Szmodics Nouble Collins

Ross Senior Norris A Barnes Wright Comley Mandron

The faithful were in buoyant mood, I was looking forward to the game and genuinely believed that we could end the Notts County hoodoo and record a rare victory over the Magpies.

The pitch had been well watered, and the County backroom staff contrived to ensure the penalty area and third of the pitch was watered immediately before and during the period that the Colchester team were taking their positions prior to kick off.

The faithful greeted the players individually particularly Harry Pell, Sammie Szmodics, Brennan Dickenson and Tom Eastman.

A decent crowd of 7,136 were ready and Mr Stockbridge got the game under way. Now if the pre-match hype was to be believed the League were preparing to give the Championship trophy to Nolan at the completion of the game such was the expectation. Colchester however had not read the script. The U’s started the game very positively and took the game to their opponents.

There was an early scare when new signing Boldewijn hit a shot which looked to be going wide, but Barnes decided to take the safe option and palm the ball around the right-hand post.

That was as good as it got for County though because the U’s were playing confidently; Tom Lapslie had an outstanding game and had plenty of space in the middle of the park to distribute the ball, Harry Pell (certain to become a crowd favourite) offers the steel that we have been hitherto missing in midfield and looked to get forward at every opportunity.

Ryan Jackson was similarly impressive (especially after the birth of his daughter this week) and delivered some tantalising crosses, one of which could have been converted by Nouble but he headed narrowly wide. Frankie Kent had just had a header cleared off the line and the faithful wee loving it.

We all loved this new attacking and positive approach. In fact, my youngest son remarked that this was the best that he could remember the U’s playing over the past couple of years.

In fairness to County they came back into the game as the half wore on and despite gaining a number of corners, you got the impression that Barnes and the excellent defensive pairing of Prosser and Kent were more than equal to whatever they threw at them.

The football was direct from the U’s and they passed out from the back making use of Pell and Lapslie in midfield. I feel that Brennan Dickenson is ill suited to a defensive wing back and feel that his talents are better employed in a more forward running role. I suspect that has Vincent-Young played Dickenson would have been in a role more akin to a left winger.

Half time was reached and neither side had managed to score but the game was entertaining and the football from the U’s fluent and positive.

I met up briefly with Gerry and Wessex during the interval and the overall feeling was one of a good performance with all players contributing to a good team effort. Question marks remained over Dillon Barnes, but in fairness what he had to do he had done well
The second half brought no changes in personnel, but the pattern of play remained upbeat. Notts County had not been afraid to make niggling fouls and the more cynical ones were punished (rightly) with bookings.

Harry Pell was unlucky to be booked, I suspect that Nolan’s reaction from the bench contributed to the referee deciding to caution the U’s midfield enforcer. This show of histrionics designed to impose a sanction on an opposition player is unnecessary and unsavoury.

Notts County’s winger Thomas turned and clipped the ball goalwards only for Barnes who was backtracking to brilliantly tip the ball over the bar on 68 minutes.

Nolan changed up the forwards with Stead substituted on 69 minutes with new signing Kristian Dennis replacing him.

Colchester though should have taken the lead a minute later, the industrious Nouble charged down a clearance from the keeper and the ball was clipped into the box by Sammie Szmodics, only for Aaron Collins who otherwise had a very good debut to slip in the well-watered penalty area with the goal at his mercy.

On 75 minutes Tom Eastman shot impressively and Fitzsimmons was well beaten but sadly for the U’s the ball cannoned off the crossbar to safety.

A minute later and Dennis managed to miss from a few yards out with the Colchester goal gaping. It would have been harsh on the U’s however who were the better team for long periods of the game.

The faithful (me included) had been calling for a change and on 76 minutes JM brought Mika Mandron on for Collins. Mandron received a rapturous welcome. Now this is going to be a problem for JM this season. Who is going to be the best striking pairing for his team. Collins and Nouble or Nouble and Mandron or Norris and Collins or any other pairing.

In truth I don’t think that he has made his mind up on this moot point. I was impressed with Collins who looked sharp and lively but lacked some strength in the challenge. Nouble doesn’t look fully fit but he will be a handful for defences and Norris is not yet fully recovered from his long tern injury. It may be worth trying Mandron and Collins next week at home to Port Vale.

Bear in mind of course that Szmodics will support any of the above pairings.
Returning to the game, Prosser headed goal wards and both keeper and defender contrived to leave it for one another and the ball glanced off the left-hand post and behind for a goal kick.

Nolan made two further subs on 83 minutes and 90 minutes with Alessandra for Hemmings and Hawkinde for Thomas. Methinks he hasn’t decided on his striking options either!

I was surprised that JM didn’t make more than one substitute given the sapping heat and the need to press for a winner. Courtney Senior for the last ten minutes would have given their defence a headache at a time when they were visibly tiring.

Four additional minutes were added and played, and the sides couldn’t be separated. At the final whistle the players took the plaudits from the faithful. JM’s reaction was significant, he was really fired up and clearly delighted by the result and the performance.

Yesterday was a breath of fresh air. The team deservedly took a point, but it could have been more. It is a long time since I have seen a game where not one Colchester player had a poor game, and several could have been the MOTM. I think that Prosser officially took the plaudit, but I thought Tom Lapslie looked as fresh on 90 minutes as when he took to the field.

Harry Pell as stated earlier was impressive and looks the part in the number 8 role. I think this is going to be a very good season, not simply based on one game but because the signings made are all positive and with a view to securing promotion.

Now what we need is to start very well at the JobServe stadium against Port Vale next weekend.

Up the U’s

Photo: Action Images

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