Ten men get season up and running with fine display.
Ten men Colchester United picked up a brilliant win against Leyton Orient to kick start their season on Saturday afternoon.
The odds looked firmly stacked against them as, just before half time, Magnus Okuonghae saw red for a foul on former U's man David Mooney.
But the U's turned in a quite incredible second half performance to not only grab two goals, but also create a host of other opportunities on the counter attack.
Boss Tony Humes set his side up with two up front after the interval and that decision paid dividends as both Freddie Sears and Sanchez Watt hit the back of the net to earn the U's first three points of the season.
The U’s were unchanged for their visit to the Matchroom Stadium, with Macauley Bonne coming onto the bench for Dominic Smith the only change for the visiting side.
The U’s started brightly, with Sears and Szmodics seeing plenty of the ball as they looked for an early path to goal.
After that early pressure, though, the home side started to push forward themselves, with debutant Petrasso giving Gordon plenty to think about.
Their best chance of the first quarter of the game came as Henderson tried to convert a free kick at the near post, but his effort was well wide.
Both sides were getting into dangerous areas in the first quarter of the game, but neither had tested the keeper by that stage.
Gordon and Moncur were both booked in the first half hour for separate fouls on Petrasso, who was making a nuisance of himself.
That attention on the loanee winger was the one thing that was lifting the fans in that first half hour, as the two teams sought the first goal.
The U’s then put together a good spell of possession as they worked the Orient defence and Watt stepped up the tempo by driving in a low cross that Sears tried to turn towards goal, but it was blocked at source.
Orient then had a chance as Okuonghae slipped with the ball coming into the area, but Walker stood up strong twice to see the ball away from danger and preserve the goalless scoreline.
The O’s then went close as Cuthbert sent over a delicious cross that the onrushing Dagnall met, but his effort dipped just over the bar with Walker at full stretch.
The game got a whole lot tougher for the U’s just before half time as Okuonghae saw red. The ball was left by two players in the middle of the park, the U’s skipper stretched to reach the ball but caught Mooney, and the referee wasted no time in showing the red, much to the visiting fans’ frustration.
It meant that the U’s would face the whole second half with ten men, but they started the second half the brighter and one flowing move saw Watt, Gordon and Massey combine for the latter to sidefoot wide.
The U’s were set up well to counter and left Watt and Sears up against the back four to give them something to think about. Sears almost got a goal as he lobbed Woods, but the keeper pulled off a fine stop to tip wide.
At the other end, Kent was in the right place at the right time to block a darting Dagnall run to the near post and stop a certain goal.
And the U’s got their noses in front not long after the hour mark with the latest of their counter attacks.
They sprung forward and Sears and Watt busted a gut to get forward. The former played a fine pass into the path of the winger and he drove into the box, held off his man and slid it under Woods for 1-0.
At the other end, full back Lowry forced a fine full length save out of Walker from a corner, as the home side sought an equaliser.
The U’s could have doubled their advantage not long after that, as a mistake by Baudry presented Sears with a sight of goal, but Woods raced off his line to block the striker’s effort.
But the two players combined again – unfortunately for the O’s – with sixteen minutes to go.
The ball was played into the corner by the U’s and Sears drove towards the ball, retrieved it off Baudry’s toes and darted into the box. He worked himself into a dangerous position and drove home past Woods.
The U’s had further chances after that to extend their advantage as both Moncur and Massey drove just over, but they were thankful for the efforts of Walker, who stood strong to see away a certain goal with five to go.
Then Gordon was in the right place at the right time to deny Simpson, who looked to have a clear sight of goal, but turned back one time too many, to allow the full back to block.
The U's fans left the ground acclaiming their players in a manner similar to the Bournemouth game in the promotion season of 2005/6 and it will be a combined effort between players and fans that lifts the U's away from trouble.
It summed up the O's afternoon, but take nothing away from Colchester who put in the sort of determined and flowing performance in the second half that suggests they won't be in the bottom four for too much longer.
There were five minutes of additional time to be played, and halfway through that time, Dagnall looked like he might pull one back, but Eastman made the most of the striker’s heavy touch to clear.