Colchester United 1 Grimsby Town 1: Carl Marston’s Talking Points
PUBLISHED: 12:23 21 January 2018 | UPDATED: 12:23 21 January 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
‘A game of two halves,’ one of the most popular phrases in the footballing vocabulary, certainly applied to Saturday’s League Two clash at a wet and cold Weston Homes Community Stadium.
Grimsby were superb in the first half, while Colchester United were simply awful; but after the break, the U’s suddenly clicked into gear and it was Mariners hanging on at times.
Mariners boss, Russell Slade, felt that his side should have been awarded a late penalty, for a foul on striker Charles Vernam, and that they had done enough to win the match.
U’s boss John McGreal, frustrated by his team’s lack-lustre first-half showing, believed that they should have scored more than the one – Sean Murray’s 47th minute equaliser – to end their winless streak.
In truth, though, a point apiece was the fair outcome.
The U’s simply never got going in the first period. It was certainly one of their poorest 45 minutes of the whole season.
In fact, they were very lucky not to be three or four goals down by half-time, only for Grimsby to let them off the hook.
It was one-way traffic, the Mariners surging forward, closing down opponents and creating a hat-ful of chances.
By contrast, the U’s could not retain possession, were swamped in the middle of the park and failed to test keeper Jake Kean, the ex-U’s loanee.
The tone was set early on, a busy Sam Walker forced into the first save of the game as early as the fifth minute. He launched himself to his right to claw away a goal-bound drive by danger-man Vernam.
Walker also pushed away a fierce angled shot by midfielder James Berrett, and was relieved to see defender Karleigh Osborne’s volley clip the top of his bar on 24 minutes, before blocking Luke Summerfield’s effort from point blank range following Ben Davies’ cross.
The U’s could have no complaints when Vernam finally broke the deadlock with a clinical finish in the 37th minute. It was the Derby County loanee’s first goal in English football, and surely the first of many.
Substitute Scott Vernon, the ex-U’s striker, set the move in motion with a flick-on for wing-back Paul Dixon, who teed up Vernam, and the 20-year-old crashed a 20-yarder past Walker and in at far post.
Walker performed heroics to keep out another of Vernam’s goal-bound drives, just two minutes later, as the U’s were left holding out until half-time.
You always felt that the U’s could not be as bad in the second half, and Grimsby not be as dominant.
And so it proved.
The introduction of Courtney Senior as a half-time substitute was an inspired one.
Now clear of injuries, after missing the whole of last season with a knee problem, livewire Senior turned the whole complexion of the game within seconds of the restart with a terrific mazy run which left several defenders trailing in his wake.
Suddenly, the hosts had impetus. In Senior, they had a player with pace, tricks and an attacking flair, and it was no surprise that the ex-Brentford apprentice should have a hand in the equaliser.
Senior caused a stir inside the Mariners box with a tricky run, and Drey Wright then found Murray on the edge of the box. The midfielder’s shot flew like a bullet into the net.
It was Murray’s third goal of the campaign.
Although the U’s could not fashion a winner, during the rest of the second period, Senior did enough to suggest that he deserves a first-ever League start.
That could even come at Port Vale this coming weekend.
You have to give credit for the way that Grimsby played during that first half, but it should not be forgotten that this was a struggling team who had lost their last four games on the bounce, and taken just two points from their last seven fixtures.
The U’s have got to improve on their all-round performance if they are to reignite their promotion push, because they let two points slip through their grasp due to that woeful first 45 minutes.
McGreal’s men, on the back of a five-game winless run, are now a distant five points clear of the top seven, in 11th spot. They have also played at least one game more than all the teams above them.