Colchester United 0 Barnet 1: Carl Marston’s Talking Points
PUBLISHED: 12:00 25 February 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Colchester United in the League Two play-offs? On Saturday’s display, that’s fantasy talk.
A couple of weeks ago, the U’s had high hopes of making the top seven, with 13 fixtures remaining.
They were just three points adrift of the play-off zone, and were playing well, with the prospect of three games on the trot to come against relegation-haunted teams.
But a fortnight is a long time in football. Back-to-back 1-0 defeats, at lowly Crewe and then basement dwellers Barnet last weekend, have seen the U’s slip to seven points off the top seven.
They have been unable to overcome poor opposition, and might also struggle to see off another struggling team, Morecambe, on the road this coming weekend.
All of a sudden, those optimistic plans for promotion appear to be pie-in-the-sky.
There are still 11 games left, but another season in the fourth tier seems inevitable.
No goal threat
It is always a bad sign when I get to the end of my match report, and struggle to remember the name of the opposing goalkeeper!
That can only mean one of two things – either I have a shocking memory, or I have just not needed to refer to his name in my copy, due to his lack of participation.
Alas, that was the case at Crewe the previous weekend, when home keeper Ben Garratt never had a serious save to make all afternoon, albeit for turning a long-range shot by Drey Wright around his post inside the first few minutes.
And Bees keeper George Legg was similarly under-employed on Saturday. In fact, Legg could not have imagined a more comfortable match to make his Football League debut.
The 21-year-old former Reading apprentice, handed his first ever league start, saved from Courtney Senior in first-half stoppage time, but was otherwise largely a bystander.
Strikers Mikael Mandron and Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe spent most of their time chasing lost causes, Senior had an off-day, and attacking substitutes Brennan Dickenson and Liam Mandeville could not make an impact.
Comparison to last year
In my book, and on current form, the U’s are not as effective or as dangerous as they were last season.
In 2016-17, Dickenson was firing on all cylinders, Kurtis Guthrie was scoring goals for fun, and Chris Porter was leading the front-line with expert cunning.
Twelve months on and Dickenson is only just returning from a long-term knee injury, Guthrie is sidelined by an ankle problem, and Porter left for Crewe last summer.
MGreal still has options – he has strength in depth in his squad – but the absence of Guthrie and Sammie Szmodics (ongoing back issue) are big misses.
Barnet’s deserved three points
The U’s can have no complaints – Barnet deserved to claim what was only their third away win of the season.
Alex Nicholls grabbed the only goal of the game in the 66th minute, as Graham Westley’s men won the battle in the second half.
Nicholls controlled John Akinde’s lay-off and kept his composure to sweep home a low shot beyond keeper Sam Walker and in at the far post.
Obviously the swirling wind was a big factor all afternoon, disrupting any rhythm to the game, but the U’s never adapted.
They had no joy up top.
Mandron pulled a shot wide from Tom Eastman’s knock-down on 16 minutes, while during first-half injury-time Brandon Comley crashed a 25-yarder narrowly wide, and an indecisive Senior was denied by keeper Legg.
The second-half was a non-event for the U’s, with the exception of Dickenson and Frankie Kent ballooning shots over the bar.
John McGreal has consistently said that any team is capable of beating any opposition in League Two, and last weekend proved him right.
While his own side’s play-off hopes were being hit-for-six by bottom club Barnet, the other four clubs who started the day in the bottom five also tasted victories.
Chesterfield beat top-seven side Swindon 2-1, Crewe surprised high-flying Lincoln City with a 4-1 success at Sincil Bank, Forest Green Rovers saw off Crawley 2-0 and Morcambe, the U’s hosts this weekend, claimed a shock 4-2 win at top-three side Wycombe.
Perhaps it’s just as well, then, that after this weekend’s trip to the Globe Arena, the U’s start playing some teams outside the bottom six.