Colchester were hugely unfortunate to fall out of the FA Cup First Round after an excellent comeback was overturned from the penalty spot in a five-goal thriller.
The away side Sheffield scored two in two minutes early on before finishing the job late on against the run of play and progressing to the next round.
The Blades on the front foot with a good early chance from Tony McMahon who forced a save from Sam Walker at his near post. It wasn’t long before the away side had something to show for their efforts when Stephen McGinn’s free kick met the head of Harry Maguire whose header gave his side the lead after nine minutes.
After Magnus Okuonghae's backpass was blocked, Sheffield United soon had a second in as many minutes as it set up Chris Porter.
The forward’s shot deflected at the feet of Tom Eastman whose intervention sent the ball spiralling past wrong-footed Sam Walker.
The U’s soon recovered drove forward trying to get back into game and made good use of Luke Garbutt who saw a decent cross headed over by Macauley Bonne.
This was followed by an impressive power drive from Matt Hill who saw his long ranged effort ping off the crossbar, nearly putting the away side three up.
Colchester finally settled down after a poor first 20 minutes and got a hold of the game with some decent build up play but no final product. Marcus Bean, Andy Bond and Luke Garbutt all saw shots go wide of the goal with the latter effort coming close from a free kick.
Following good chances from Bonne and Craig Eastmond whose injury time shot ended up just wide of the post, Colchester ended the half still two goals down but giving a much better performance than was seen at the start of the game.
The U’s looked to change the game and quickly and made a half time substitution with Bond making way for Ryan Dickson which pushed Garbutt higher up the pitch. This move proved to be key as Garbutt’s cross two minutes into the half created a goal for Colchester.
The perfectly swung in ball was knocked on by Clinton Morrison to Macauley Bonne who headed the ball past Blades’ keeper George Long to score his second goal in as many games.
Easily the best chance of the game fell to Porter who incredibly managed to miss from two yards unchallenged when he latched onto a drilled cross. The striker had the whole goal to tap the ball into but could only hit it straight into the hands of Sam Walker.
The goal-fest continued as Colchester found their deserved equaliser after 65 minutes. A throw into the Sheffield box was headed out and taken down by Garbutt just outside of the box who took one touch to control the ball and a second to power the ball into the far corner.
U’s keeper Walker played his part in the comeback just three minutes later when he impressively saved Maguire’s free header as the six foot four defender looked for his second goal of the game.
Sheffield looked to repair the damage from the bench with Jose Baxter and Ryan Flynn coming on for McGinn and Shaun Miller but struggled to get a hold of the game with U’s coming close to a third through Bean and Garbutt.
Completely against the run of play referee Gibbs awarded the away side a penalty, penalizing Okounghae for a handball inside the area. Porter stepped up and placed the penalty down the centre to restore the Sheffield lead with ten minutes remaining.
U’s looked to bounce back again with Dominic Vose and Sammie Szmodics coming on for Craig Eastmond and Macauley Boone but were left frustrated by decisions going against them and Sheffield who looked to run down the clock.
The five-goal game finished with much of the five minute injury time spent in the corners as the Blades defended their lead to record a first away win of the season in normal time.
Luke Garbutt was deservedly awarded Man of the Match for Colchester and provided some positives from a disappointing end result.