It was a chilly but clear night in Northampton as the U’s went in seek of cup progress in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy.
But they conceded two quick goals at the start of the second period, which left the new manager frustrated as his side were unable to heed his half time warnings.
The U's were well in control at the interval, having moved the ball around nicely throughout the first forty-five minutes in an encouraging 45 minutes for Joe Dunne's side.
Five minutes at the start of the second half cost Colchester United dear, as they bowed out of the Johnstone's Paints Trophy against Northampton Town.
In the opening minutes, you could see the contrasting styles with The Cobblers opting for the long ball looking for Akinfenwa and the U’s trying to play the ball out from the back on every occasion.
The U’s enjoyed the majority of pressure in the opening five minutes but neither side could muster up any shots on goal, when the first did come it was on 8 minutes, the header from Northampton’s Nicholls was comfortably saved by Cousins even though the home striker was in an offside position.
After 11 minutes came the home side’s first real chance, after White conceded the corner, it was whipped in but captain Langmead didn’t connect with the header and Cousins was able to prevent the danger by pouncing on the ball at the far post.
After a period of sustained pressure from the U’s, Freddie Sears used his pace and trickery to find some space to dig out a cross which found Duguid free inside the 6 yard box but he could only bundle the ball over the bar with it seeming easier to score.
Less than 30 seconds later Henderson was found on the left hand side of the box with an excellent fizzed ball from Sears but he saw his drive tipped over by the goal keeper.
The U’s were having a good period of possession once again, and Anthony Wordsworth was unlucky when the ball was cleared from a cross and his low shot was deflected just wide by an outstretched leg when it looked destined for the bottom corner,
Northampton were always a threat with the U’s playing out from the back, and when Duguid lost the ball 30 yards from Cousins’ goal, Kemar Roofe found a bit of space but his shot was solidly saved by the U’s Number 1.
The U’s were next to attack in this entertaining game, with Sears playing a through ball to Morrision who squares the ball into the box begging a touch, but no U’s player anticipated this and it was cleared by the Northampton defence.
The best chance of the half came on 27 minutes when a cross from Northampton’s Demontagnac unsurprisingly found Akinfenwa who didn’t connect with the header fully but still saw it bounce off the top of the crossbar and behind for a goal kick.
Colchester United were finding a lot of space down the right hand side and this time it was Henderson’s turn to play in Bean who drove the ball at goal but the keeper made a great block and the danger was cleared.
This was just a warning as once again Bean was in on the left, this time he crossed the ball into the box Duguid missed the initial shot but it founds its way to sears at the back post who volleyed back across goal expertly to make it 1-0 to the U’s.
Northampton didn’t dwell on this and with a couple of attacking free kicks were back on the offensive, one of these lead to a cross into the U’s penalty area which Matt Heath slid in to clear beating the attackers to it.
Again it was Northampton’s turn to attack and a lengthy kick from the keeper set in Akinfenwa who slid the ball past Cousins but also just inches past the left hand upright.
From the goal kick the U’s were straight up the other end, with an almost carbon copy of the opening goal. Henderson's cross was this time left by Duguid for Sears who hit the shot first time but some brave defending saw the shot blocked and Northampton escaped again.
The first substitution of the game was forced on Aidy Boothroyd's team as goalkeeper Shane Higgs needed to be replaced after an earlier collision.
During the 3 minutes of injury time both teams had the chance to put the ball in the net, another cross into the U’s box is headed into the ground by Northampton defender Artell but Cousins plucked the ball out of the air before it loops into the corner.
The final chance of the half fell to Henderson who was running at the defensive with pace but his shot was blocked and sailed just past the top corner.
Half time 1-0 with the U’s enjoying the majority of possession and also the best chances overall, but whilst it remained at just 1-0 Northampton were always a threat.
At half time Joe Dunne made two changes with Tom Eastman coming on for Magnus Okuonghae and Alex Gilbey coming on for the impressive Marcus Bean.
The U’s started brightly, some persistent work from Coker down the left led to Morrison picking up the ball and shooting from inside the box, his effort was excellently saved and then some great strength from Widdowson stopped Sears from having a simple tap in.
Northampton found their way back into the game shortly after from the penalty spot, a short corner to Roofe left him one on one with Gilbey who brought down the tricky winger and left the referee with no choice, Akinfenwa stepped up and placed the ball to Cousins right, 1-1.
Northampton were in the ascendency and 2 minutes later they found themselves ahead, the U’s were slow to close the ball on the left hand side and when it was crossed in it found the head of Makendi who headed in off the post to score Northampton’s second goal in as many minutes.
The U’s were rattled by this and the play become a little less fluent whilst Northampton were on a high, 15 minutes into the second half the U’s had no more clear cut chances and were restricted to long range efforts from Gilbey and Wordsworth which didn’t trouble the substitute Northampton keeper.
The next chance of note was again from Northampton after 65 minutes, a breakaway down the right hand and a low cross from Hornby which slipped past Cousins, before Matt Heath managed to scoop the ball over his own crossbar from less than 6 yards to prevent Akinfenwa getting on the end of it and increasing the lead.
The U’s final substitution was 17 year old Drey Wright replacing Anthony Wordsworth, Colchester were trying to get back into their passing game which saw them through the first half so well.
After 75 minutes Colchester almost found a way back into the game, with Wright picking up the ball on the left hand sand, throwing a dummy and firing into the side netting, the U’s were getting the ball a bit more now and some good hold up play from Morrison before releasing Henderson, his cross was deflected towards goal with the goal keeper scrambling, unfortunately for U’s it only hit the roof of the net.
As we entered the final ten minutes, the U’s were still in search of the equaliser, Northampton were using the powerful Akinfenwa as the out ball.
The Cobblers nearly extended the lead with just over 5 minutes left as a low whipped free kick evaded everyone but it could easily have been turned in by the onrushing attackers.
The U’s kept getting the ball down and playing out from the back but they could not carve an opening throughout the latter stages and it became increasingly difficult as Northampton attempted to run down the clock.
The last action of the tie was a red card for Clinton Morrison, as the ball was pumped forward from the U’s Morrison was judged to have flung out an elbow and caught defender Artell in the face, the referee reached straight to his back pocket and sent Morrison down the tunnel.
Seconds later the whistle was blown for full time and Northampton ran out 2-1 winners. A game of two halves with the U’s not recreating their first half dominance in the second and being made to pay by Northampton who were excellently lead by Akinfenwa.
Back to league action this weekend with Stevenage at home on Saturday.