• Tom Abadie


On Saturday 1st May, in the penultimate game of the League 2 season, Colchester United faced Salford City. Although 13 places in the table separated Salford, fighting for promotion, and Colchester, fighting to avoid relegation, it was the locals that got away with all three points. In this review, we will look at how the game unfolded, how the teams played and what are the consequences for both teams going into the final game of the season.

You can check out live reporting from the game here: Twitter link

Match report

For Colchester’s last game at home of the season, both teams came in with similar line ups to the usual. Colchester brought on Poku and Stevenson for Harriott and Pell compared to their loss away to Cheltenham that week. Salford made one change compared to their win against Bradford, bringing in Coutts for Hunter. Lining in a solid 4-4-2, the locals were ready to take on the pressure and play on the counter. Salford’s attacking 4-3-3 showed their objectives and their game plan was clearly to press high from the start of the game. Using their wing backs Touray and Bernard a lot to get some width on the pitch, the visitors were dangerous right from the start with some dangerous balls into the box.

As expected, Colchester were breaking on the counter. Their wing backs were being used as deep suppliers for their two strikers, with long balls being thrown into the channels. Early on, Nouble and Folivi both had good chances but squandered them with miskicks straight at the keeper. Without having much of the ball, Colchester were clearly the more dangerous team. Defensively, the locals were very solid from the start, with Salford’s top scorer, Ian Henderson, feeling very isolated next to 6ft3 defender Tom Eastman.

The first half was essentially played in midfield. Asante was picking up balls in his own half trying to attack space behind Colchester back line, but similarly to Adama Traoré with Wolves, ended up being a lot of wasteful tricks with not much end product. While tackles were becoming increasingly vicious, Stevenson was gliding through midfield, bringing the ball down to play some proper passing football. Eventually, his teammates would most likely hoof the ball up field, in the hope that a striker would pick the ball up. However, Stevenson quality of passing was rarely matched by any other player on the pitch.

Bernard was progressively losing the control of his winger, making a few late challenges. The first yellow card was no surprise but only a few minutes later, he brought down his winger on the halfway line with no apparent danger. The referee was having none of it and gave the defender his marching orders. Salford were going to play with a man down for at least an hour. While Colchester were slowly getting into the game at that point, the sending off turned things over and Salford were on the forefront, sending all their players into the opposition half. Grouping up in front of their box, Colchester United were being very solid at the back and leaving no space to go through them. With two very tall centre backs, there was no way crosses would be the solution for Salford. Half-time struck, 0-0.

After the break, Colchester came in with very different intentions. The backline had moved up significantly, playing on the ground a lot more and getting into dangerous positions far more often than previously. Salford substitutions came early on into the second half, with Clarke slotting in at right back and being a far bigger threat than anyone else in his team. His darting runs through the middle, with the winger overlapping, were a nightmare to contain for the locals.

As the hour mark approached, Colchester were having the ball more often in their half and resulting to rugby kicks in the air, hoping for someone to touch it down. Without much success. Bar a penalty shout, the first 20 minutes were mostly pretty dull with lots of misplaced passes in midfield and some late challenges. This led to the game intensifying, managers arguing and the fourth official being far more involved than he was in the first half.

Just after the hour mark, Colchester broke the deadlock. A direct ball was sent in the half space towards Folivi, who dummied it and left Boyd go to goal. The substitute was free in space and slotted it nice in the bottom left corner. A great ball from Stevenson, a brilliant dummy and a perfectly placed finish. Colchester take the lead, just as Salford were being more dangerous on the counter.

The Salford manager made more changes, bringing on Hunter for more of an attacking threat. With a very regrouped Colchester defence, it was very difficult to break them down and just annoyed the Salford players and staff. As the rain intensified, so did the game. A kick here and there and eventually, with nerves rising high, Hunter foulmouthed the linesman and was sent off. Poor attitude from the striker who had previously already shoved opposition manager a few minutes before. With two extra players, Colchester held off the result and came away with the victory. Salford were the better team on paper, but the importance of the result played with their nerves and they shot themselves in the foot with two sending offs. Playing a compact block and some interesting counter attacking moves, Colchester deserved the three points and can look forward to the final game of the season without thinking about relegation. Salford on the other hand will have to play all they have in their final game of the season.

Consequences for both teams

With these important three points, Colchester ensures they stay in League 2 next year. Even with Grimsby Town and local rivals, Southend United, winning both their games, the gap is too large for the final game. Sitting in 23rd spot, first relegation place, Southend are too far from Colchester to catch them up. Even better, Colchester leapfrogged Barrow and Scunthorpe United, sitting on 50 points in 20th spot. With only a game to go, Southend (44pts) and Grimsby (43pts) are both too far from Scunthorpe on 48 points and are therefore relegated to National League. With a win in their final game against 6th place Tranmere and a loss by Walsall at Carlisle’s ground, Colchester could even finish 19th. Securing their spot in the league in addition to the relegation of Southend, it was a good day for ColU fans.

On the other hand, Salford lost a lot in that game. Not only are two players going to be suspended next week, their defeat in addition to Forest Green’s and Exeter’s wins means that Salford dropped out of playoff sports for promotion, dropping from 7th to 9th and do not have their destiny in their hands. A home game against Leyton Orient in their final game of the season, is a must win for them. Forest Green Rovers go away to Oldham while Exeter will be receiving Barrow, two games that should be well in reach for the team’s capabilities. Salford can only do the job on their end and hope for the best in order to compete for promotion in the latter weeks of May. They will certainly be disappointed in the result against Colchester seeing the consequences on their league position. The drive home to Manchester must have been quite long.