Vernam hat-trick sinks U's
The visitors came from behind twice before taking the lead with twenty minutes to go to snatch all three points from the U’s at the JobServe Community Stadium.
Luke Prosser set the U’s off with a fine volley after seventeen minutes before Vernam pegged the home side back.
Colchester United lead at half time thanks to Theo Robinson tapping in from two yards out, but two more Charles Vernam goals sealed the win for the Mariners, with the striker also taking away the match ball.
The U’s named an unchanged starting eleven and bench from the side that comprehensively beat Plymouth at the weekend, with Robinson, Nouble and Harriott leading the line for the home side once again.
Just six minutes had passed before the U’s had their first shot on target, with Frank Nouble testing James McKeown early on. Ben Stevenson was forced to turn away from goal and cleverly laid the ball into Nouble’s path but his effort was weak and straight at the ‘keeper.
A minute before taking the lead, U’s players and fans had some questions for the referee when Luke Waterfall blocked a shot with his arm, deflecting the ball out for a corner.
Luke Prosser volleyed home his third of the season when the ball found its way out to him on the edge of the box. A sweet strike left McKeown rooted to his goal line with the U’s celebrating in front of the South Stand.
The lead would only last four minutes, as the in-form Charles Vernam got his first of the night. He shot from just outside the area to Gerken’s left, tucking the ball right in the corner and giving the U’s ‘keeper no chance.
The home side were perhaps a little lucky not to be behind with thirty minutes on the clock when Vernam struck again, this time Gerken got the crucial touch to push around the post.
Three minutes before half time, the U’s were in front for a second time. Theo Robinson scored his third goal in two matches when Eastman’s initial shot was saved into his path by McKeown. All he had to do was tap in from two yards out to give the home side a 2-1 lead at half time.
Former Colchester United full back Bradley Garmston was looking dangerous when he ran over half the pitch to cross to Vernam. The Grimsby forward was poor with his finishing this time and shot straight at Gerken.
Visiting manager Ian Holloway then made two decisive changes that would win the game for his side.
He brought on the experienced James Hanson and Billy Clarke, who instantly made nuisances of themselves.
Hanson was involved in a tussle where his elbow seemed to catch skipper Luke Prosser before the second goal. Prosser missed the header, which allowed the ball to be crossed to the unmarked Vernam at the back post to half volley back across Gerken and into the corner of the net.
It took just three minutes before the Grimsby forward would complete his hat-trick.
A weaving run that spanned over half the pitch including beating four U’s players in the process was finished calmly by slotting the ball just out of reach of Gerken and into the corner, sending the away fans wild with celebration.
John McGreal tried everything to get the U’s back in the game bringing on Norris instantly, shortly followed by Senior and Poku, but the stubborn and organised away defence seemed to soak up every bit of pressure the U’s could throw at them in the remaining minutes.
The result doesn’t change Colchester United’s league position, remaining in fifth but falling behind the top four with all of them winning in Tuesday evening.
The race for the play-off places is now as tight as it has been all season, with just one point separating fifth from ninth, with the U’s travelling to ninth placed Port Vale in their next game on Saturday.