Colchester United had to settle for a draw on the road at the Poundland Bescot Stadium, after Walsall pegged the U’s back in the second half.
Wayne Brown’s side raced into an early advantage with Frank Nouble bagging his second in successive games after just ninety seconds.
But a second half fight back from the Saddlers saw Tom Knowles punish the U’s on the counter attack, levelling the scores.
A late scare from the hosts was the only final chance for either side, as they both pushed for the winner, Nouble’s first half strike was enough to secure a first point on the road for United.
Wayne Brown named a starting eleven with six changes to the last league outing for his side. Skuse, Chilvers, Newby and Tchamadeu dropped to the bench, with Al-Amin Kazeem and Marley Marshall Miranda missing from the matchday eighteen.
Switching to a three-man defence, the U’s brought in Tom Eastman at centre half, flanked by the wing backs of Cameron Coxe and Ryan Clampin. Beryly Lubala was deemed to have done enough with two substitute appearances to warrant a start, with Frank Nouble also rewarded after his goal against Brighton U21 in the Papa Johns Trophy.
Finally, Alan Judge was welcomed back to the centre of midfield. The Irishman came through seventy minutes of action against Brighton unscathed, and was named as a starter against Walsall in League Two.
Colchester United wasted no time in getting off the mark in the game, and it was Frank Nouble netting in consecutive games. The big striker repaid the Head Coach, who handed him another start after his performance against Brighton a week ago, latching on to a long ball from Beryly Lubala, neatly tucking his finish beyond Williams inside the post to give the U’s the lead inside two minutes.
A flurry of bookings followed from referee Carl Boyeson, brandishing three in quick succession, two to the hosts and one to the U’s. Both sides were clearly eager to prevent the counter attack, as Brandon Comley ran his boot down the calf of Cameron Coxe for the first.
And Coxe was the man fouled for the second too, hauled to the ground in the centre circle by Isaac Hutchinson, while bursting forward from a Walsall attack. It was a similar story for Tom Dallison’s yellow, shown after tripping Danny Johnson on the break.
On the attack, the U’s looked to double their advantage, and nearly found a second mid-way through the first period. Cameron Coxe spotted Tom Dallison at the back post, delivering a deep cross for the centre half. It was there to be attacked, but Dallison couldn’t keep the effort down, nodding over the crossbar.
Another booking followed, this time for Tom Eastman who put in a late challenge on the edge of the penalty area after being beaten to the ball. Rightfully shown a yellow card, it meant the back line had to use their experience, with two of the three centre backs on a booking with thirty minutes played.
What was left of the first half remained quiet for both goalkeepers, with little action to report on other than another booking for the U’s. Shown to Cameron Coxe after a wayward shot after the whistle had gone, Colchester United remained comfortable until the half time whistle.
The hosts made a couple of changes at the break, aiming to get back in the game with Comley and White withdrawn for Maddox and Williams. And Michael Flynn’s changes brought his side an early effort on goal.
Williams spotted the run of top scorer Danny Johnson, who fired a shot that stung the palms of Kieran O’Hara before Alan Judge was able to get a foot on the ball and clear.
The U’s had two good chances of their own not long after though, with Kwesi Appiah and Tom Dallison going close. A high press from the home side meant Luke Chambers was rushed into a clearance, thumping the ball upfield in what turned into a great through ball for Appiah.
The on-loan striker drove towards goal, but was hassled and closed down as he pulled the trigger, resulting in a corner for his team. Alan Judge picked Tom Dallison out well from the set piece, with the defender’s header having to be cleared almost on the line with the follow up nodded comfortably wide of the mark.
It proved a valuable clearance for the hosts, who got themselves back on level terms with an hour played. Tom Knowles collected the ball from Johnson on the break, striding towards goal and shooting low beyond O’Hara to level the scores.
The Saddlers kept the pressure on and looked as though they would be the side to find take the lead next, but calm heads prevailed after ten worrisome minutes for Wayne Brown’s side, who settled back into the game.
And very little happened to threaten the balance in the final twenty minutes of the game, with the only real chance falling to the hosts in stoppage time.
Five minutes was indicated buy the fourth official, and Michael Flynn’s side flooded bodies forward, as Donervan Daniels forced a fine save out of Kieran O’Hara three minutes into stoppage time. A corner was floated in from the far side, but it caused no issues for the U’s defence who were able to clear to the sound of the referee’s full time whistle.
Collecting their first point on their travels, the U’s drop a place to twenty-first in the table with six, ahead of Gillingham, but behind Crawley Town on goal difference.
Up next for Wayne Brown’s side is a home game on Saturday afternoon. Colchester United welcome ninth-placed Grimsby Town to the JobServe Community Stadium, after the Mariners’ 1-1 draw with Gillingham at Blundell Park.
Walsall starting XI: Evans, White (Williams 46’), Daniels, Monthe, Kinsella, Knowles, Comley (Maddox 46’), Allen, Hutchinson (Cashman 87’), Bennett, Johnson.
Subs: Williams, Maddox, Earing, Cashman, Maher, Clarke, Abraham.
Colchester United starting XI: O’Hara, Clampin (Tchamadeu 87’), Chambers, Dallison (Chilvers 80’), Appiah (Chesters 86’), Judge (Skuse 86’), Lubala (Sears 80’), Eastman, Longstaff, Coxe, Nouble.
Subs: Hornby, Skuse, Sears, Chilvers, Newby, Tchamadeu, Chesters.