Carl Marston's Talking Points: Colchester United are the great entertainers against Newport
PUBLISHED: 11:56 10 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:56 10 March 2019
© Copyright Stephen Waller
Colchester United produced one of their best performances of the season, inspired by some electric displays from their many attackers, to completely outplay Newport County on Saturday.
The U’s surged back into the League Two play-off zone, after the previous weekend’s disappointment at Swindon (3-0 defeat), with a statement of intent against decent opponents who had reached the last 16 of the FA Cup.
First-half goals from Sammie Szmodics and Courtney Senior put the U’s in control, and a wonder strike by Frank Nouble just after the hour mark wrapped up the points.
In fact, the score-line could have been double that, with Newport spending most of the second-half like a dazed boxer on the ropes, having run out of ideas.
John McGreal’s men are up to sixth in the table, and they have a chance to consolidate that top-seven berth when they entertain play-off rivals Forest Green Rovers tomorrow evening.
On Saturday’s form, a play-off spot looks on the cards.
Even the Newport County fans applauded Courtney Senior off the pitch, when the classy 21-year-old winger was substituted late on, during the 3-0 win.
They had just witnessed their defence be completely terrorised by Senior, with his pace and trickery proving too hot to handle.
Senior oozed confidence as he rifled home the U’s second, in first-half stoppage time, with his sixth goal of the campaign.
In fact, he was virtually unplayable for most of the afternoon, skipping past Newport centre-halves and full-backs like they weren’t even there – the only way they could stop him was by means of foul play.
On Saturday’s performance, Senior looks destined for a very good career. Certainly, he has been one of the U’s most improved players during this season, and he will surely be attracting more and more scouts to the JobServe Community Stadium over the coming months.
U’s boss John McGreal raised a few eyebrows with his team selection, but it worked a treat.
Club captain Luke Prosser was dropped to the bench, and his replacement Tom Eastman played a blinder alongside the equally impressive Frankie Kent to ensure a clean-sheet.
Eastman has been unlucky to spend much of this season sitting on the bench, whenever the U’s have opted for a flat back-four, but he had been performing well as a substitute and deserved his chance on Saturday. In addition to his solid defending, Eastman was also a threat in the opposing box, peppering the target with a couple of headers.
Meanwhile, the lack of central midfielders, and Newport’s renowned height and overall physicality, persuaded McGreal to tinker with his midfield.
With Tom Lapslie, Harry Pell and Brandon Comley all sidelined through injury, McGreal chose to keep young midfielder Diaz Wright on the bench and instead give striker Mikael Mandron a more withdrawn role in the middle of the park.
Ben Stevenson, the one specialist midfielder, sat in front of the back four and passed with crispness and accuracy, while Mandron was alongside him when Newport were on the offensive, but was otherwise given the freedom to roam forward.
The result was that Mandron won most balls in the air, to stifle the Welsh side’s aerial threat, and overall had a very good game.
And with Mandron, Szmodics, Senior, Nouble and Luke Norris all in the starting line-up, this was one of most-attack orientated teams put out by McGreal.
Sammie Szmodics struck in the 20th minute with his 12th goal of the season, from which point the U’s were always in control. Ryan Jackson launched himself at a lofted pass, delivered by Nouble, and there was a suspicion of handball as Jackson lost his footing under Robbie Wilmott’s challenge. However, play was allowed to continue and the alert Szmodics squeezed the loose ball into the net, past keeper Joe Day.
Man of the match Senior doubled the lead in first-half stoppage-time with a wonderful 25-yard strike which was arrowed into the bottom corner of the net.
Day was again left clutching at thin air as Nouble crashed home a stunning third, on 63 minutes.
Nouble received Mandron’s pass on the right flank and made room for himself, on the edge of the box. The ex-Newport attacker deceived Dan Butler before blasting a rising a shot, from a narrow angle, into the far top corner of the net.
Newport were out for the count.