The Hatters made the long trip down to eastern Essex, and made a welcome return to winning ways at Colchester that saw them further consolidate their position within the play-off places.
County’s leading League Two scorer Kyle Wootton’s late first-half header proved the difference between the two sides, as well as ending a goal-drought which had extended beyond five and a half hours, completing an inaugural ‘double’ of the season for the Hatters, and their very first double over the ‘U’s’ whom they had not beaten in Britain’s first Roman city since 1990.
County took to the field under a sky full of white clouds, and showing three changes from the starting line-up at Edgeley Park against Gillingham four days earlier. Ryan Croasdale, Myles Hippolyte and captain Paddy Madden made up the recalled trio, respectively replacing Jacob Davenport, Tanto Olaofe and Ryan Rydel.
The hosts, who themselves had not scored in four matches, began proceedings with a declaration of intent, as Junior Tchamadeu, within half a minute of kick-off, advanced to, and went to ground in, the County area – but Referee Bourne promptly waved away any penalty appeals.
County’s first chance arrived after seven minutes, when Colchester failed to clear a Chris Hussey free-kick and Will Collar got a touch on the loose ball before home goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara – who had played once for the Hatters, whilst on loan, in 2015 – gathered it up.
Shortly after the first half’s mid-point, County lost the services of Fraser Horsfall – who limped off the pitch following two spells of treatment on it, to be replaced by Ryan Johnson.
Half a dozen or so minutes later, the hosts went close when a corner from Noah Chilvers on the right fell to Ossama Ashley – whose shot was deflected off Antoni Sarcevic and on to the roof of the net. Either side of that, and up the other end, Hippolyte and Hussey fired respective shots wide of the left and right posts.
Nine minutes before the break, Collar fed Wootton from the right – only for the striker’s touch to take a deflection and bobble just shy of the right post. But from the resulting corner, delivered by Hussey, Johnson, beyond the far upright, headed across the six-yard box for Wootton to nod home his 12th goal of the campaign – as well as a first one ever for County in three attempts since 2009 at Colchester’s Community Stadium.
Wootton had an opportunity to double his and County’s tallies in added time, after being played through by Madden, but O’Hara narrowed the angle to parry around the right post.
HALF-TIME: Colchester 0, County 1 (Wootton, 37).
Having ended the first half by going close to doubling their advantage, the Hatters did likewise early in the second, as, within three minutes of the re-start, a free-kick from Sarcevic – awarded for a foul on Hippolyte by Fiacre Kelleher – struck the inside of the left post.
Shortly after the hour-mark, the hosts enjoyed a bright spell, as, first, a header from skipper Luke Chambers was turned around the right post by Croasdale – and, a minute or two later, Tchamadeu’s cross from the right found Connor Wood, who fired beyond the far upright.
With just under 10 minutes left on the clock, Kyle Knoyle burst into the away area before blasting high into the end housing the vociferous County Faithful. And a brave Kelleher block denied substitute Callum Camps following a break by the Hatters.
Six minutes were added on – during which County stood firm in the face of some flurries home pressure to make sure of the points and inch up another place to fifth.
FULL-TIME: Colchester 0, County 1 (Wootton, 37).
Team (3-5-2): Hinchliffe; Byrne, Horsfall (R. Johnson, 26), Hussey; Knoyle, Collar (Camps, 84), Croasdale, Sarcevic (Wright, 67), Hippolyte; Madden (Capt.) (Olaofe, 67), Wootton.
Unused Subs: Jaros, Stretton, Rydel.
Booked: Olaofe, R. Johnson.
Attendance: 3,530 (473 away).
Reporter: Gareth Evans.
Photographer: Mike Petch.