Brown 'goal' brings vital three points

Date published: 18 April 2014

COLCHESTER 0 ATHLETIC 1 LEAGUE officials may have a tricky job next week on deciding whether or not to award Connor Brown with his first ever Football League goal, but what is beyond doubt is that this was a vital victory in Athletic’s quest to secure League One status for another season.

The right-back hit a cross-shot which took a heavy deflection off the foot of a diving Tom Eastman on its way over prone Colchester goalkeeper Sam Walker and into the net on the strike of half-time.

A precious goal, it ultimately resulted in three points which take manager Lee Johnson’s men to within touching distance of safety – while also keeping the home team in danger of the drop.

It was a scrappy and at times testy affair featuring six yellow cards. Jonathan Grounds got involved in a late tussle which earned him a booking, but in a sixth game without defeat it served to show that a solid-looking Athletic side are no easy pushovers at present.

The early territory was in favour of the home side and there was a major let-off for Athletic after only three minutes, as Alex Gilbey flew in unmarked to head a corner wastefully over the bar.

As Athletic continued to be sloppy on and off the ball, Freddie Sears shot a long way wide from a short corner routine and Gary Harkins got a rocket from his manager Lee Johnson after losing the ball poorly before Sanchez Watt pulled an ambitious effort well wide.

Marcus Bean hit one over the top from a narrow angle and Jabo Ibehre met Gavin Massey’s cross from the U’s right flank – where most attacks came – powerfully, but could only direct his header straight at Paul Rachubka.

Athletic were hesitant and sloppy up to the midway point in the first half, when finally finding some rhythm in midfield.

And one delightful through ball threaded into the path of lone striker Jonson Clarke-Harris by Harkins nearly saw him poke past the onrushing U’s goalkeeper Sam Walker, who blocked with his feet at the edge of the penalty area.

Athletic’s scintillating Scot almost wove his way right through the home defence with a mazy run and after Brian Wilson had warmed Rachubka’s gloves with a long-range free-kick, the only goal of the first half arrived shortly before half-time.

Brown had already served a warning with one similar run in behind and from the second – after playing a neat give-and-go with David Worrall – he advanced to a prime crossing position, where his driven ball across the six-yard box spooned up and into the net.

Joe Dunne’s man started the second half on the front foot as they sought an equaliser. It nearly arrived, too, when Massey’s shot was deflected narrowly wide before Ibehre failed to connect properly from the resulting corner at the far post when well-placed.

Powerful and direct, Colchester continued to rumble forward as Athletic clung on to the advantage they had.

But despite the home team trying pot-shots from all angles, Rachubka was not overly worked.

Gilbey’s 25-yard shot was deflected well over the top and substitute Dominic Vose hit a cross-shot that momentarily looked like it may creep in at the far post.

Athletic were in retreat mode and failed to really impose themselves on the counter-attack.

Massey and Vose again went close with efforts from long range – the latter was blocked bravely over the top by the head of Grounds – but even as Colchester threw the cavalry forward, including in added time goalkeeper Walker veteran substitute striker Clinton Morrison, Athletic found themselves in little real danger in reaching the half-century mark for the season.

Colchester (4-4-2): Walker; Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Wynter (Morrison 89); Massey, Bean, Gilbey (Wright 89), Watt (Vose 72); Ibehre, Sears. Subs not used: Cousins, Dickson, Eastmond, Olufemi. Goals: None

Athletic (4-1-4-1): Rachubka; Brown, Lockwood, Wilson, Grounds; Smith; Worrall, Wesolowski, Philliskirk, Harkins; Clarke-Harris. Subs not used: Coleman, MacDonald, Dayton, Gafaiti, Byrom, Mellor, Millar. Goals: Brown (45) Referee: Carl Berry (Surrey).

Attendance: 4,252 (396 visiting fans).