Colchester United 0 Yeovil Town 1: Carl Marston's Talking Points
PUBLISHED: 12:09 18 March 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
You can forget the League Two play-offs!
Colchester United’s inability to beat teams from the lower reaches of the division have cost them a chance of gate-crashing the top seven this season.
Following on from the recent defeats to relegation-threatened Crewe and Barnet, John McGreal’s men again succumbed at the hands of lowly opposition in Yeovil Town on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon.
Conditions were harsh, and so was the score-line in a way, Alex Fisher’s smart finish on 21 minutes proving to be the only goal of the game.
Certainly this was an improved display from their 1-0 losses at Gresty Road and against the Bees, but another ‘pointless’ afternoon has seen the U’s drift to a distant nine points off the play-offs, a massive deficit at this time of the campaign.
A third successive season in the fourth tier looks inevitable.
It could have been so different if Sammie Szmodics, the U’s leading scorer, had successfully converted an early penalty.
Former U’s left-back, Ryan Dickson, fouled Kane Vincent-Young just inside the right edge of the penalty area for a seventh minute spot kick, a gilt-edged opportunity to break the deadlock.
Kurtis Guthrie wanted to take the penalty himself, but Szmodics has taken on the spot-kick duties this term following Guthrie’s long lay-off due to injury.
Szmodics has had success from his penalties this term, with his efforts at Cheltenham and against Exeter, but he has tended to always aim the ball into the right-hand corner of the net, and veteran keeper Stuart Nelson had done his homework to guess right and block the shot.
The U’s really needed a goal, when they were dominant at the start of the game, to set them on course for victory.
But that never happened.
Stuart Nelson has been an inspired signing for Yeovil boss, Darren Way.
The 35-year-old only arrived at Huish Park last month, and Saturday was only his second appearance for the Glovers, following a clean-sheet in a goalless draw at Exeter last Tuesday evening.
Nelson made it two clean-sheets out of two, despite the U’s peppering the target in the second period, especially from long-range.
Liam Mandeville, handed his first start since his loan move from Doncaster (there was no shortage of effort, but he looked rusty), came close to an equaliser with a free-kick on the hour mark which Nelson tipped over the bar.
Nelson did well to palm away Frankie Kent’s goalbound header on 70 minutes, and the former Brentford, Notts County and Gillingham custodian also diverted substitute Olamide Shodipo’s free-kick over the top, before saving from Kent’s 25-yarder and Luke Prosser’s close-range shot in the dying minutes.
Nelson certainly played a key role in Yeovil’s valuable win – they are now 11 points clear of the relegation zone – while also condemning the U’s to a damaging defeat, their fifth home loss of the season.
Brennan Dickenson only started his first game for nearly 11 months the previous weekend, in the 1-1 draw at Mansfield, but he had shown enough in that game to suggest he could have a big impact during the last few weeks of the season.
But alas, Dickenson picked up a quad injury in training on Friday, which caused him to miss Saturday’s duel.
His presence down the left flank was sorely missed. He has power and pace to his game, and also a deadly finish, traits that have been sadly missing for the U’s during 2017-18. No team should rely too heavily on one player, but a fit Dickenson would surely have given the U’s more of an attacking threat. They often look short of ideas, without him in the team.
WHERE FROM HERE?
Well, the U’s still have pride to play for, and many players have contracts to try and earn, but I think we can kiss goodbye to the play-offs for yet another year.
These have been a very lean last few seasons for the U’s. Several years of struggle against relegation, from League One, eventually ended in the dreaded drop into the fourth tier in 2016.
Any hopes of a quickfire return to League One seem to have been scuppered – third time lucky next season?