Strikes from Cooper and Sandah secured a well-deserved draw at Millwall and ended the U's run of eleven consecutive league defeats.
Colchester United U21s were taking on Millwall at the Lion’s training ground on a sunny Monday afternoon in a Professional Development League clash.
Liam Bailey named a young squad but could still rely on the likes of Chay Cooper, Tom Smith, and Marley Marshall Miranda who all started the match.
There wasn’t much to separate the two sides in the first ten minutes with the U’s attempting to assert dominance over an unbothered Millwall side who dealt with the pressure.
Despite Colchester’s assertiveness, it was the hosts who had the best chance to go ahead on the eleventh-minute mark. A miskick in the middle of the pitch led to a quick counter-attack but Tom Smith was alert in goal and rushed out to grab the ball in a one-on-one situation.
The U’s keeper, however, had no chance of saving the opener after twenty-two minutes with a drilled-in effort from the edge of the box flying past him.
Millwall ramped up the pressure following the goal and with the U’s struggling for possession, Hakeem Sandah became the first player of the match to be booked with less than half an hour gone.
Soon after Sandah’s challenge, Smith was forced into another save, this time from close range well inside the box.
And, with thirty-two minutes gone, the U’s goalkeeper had a hat-trick of phenomenal parades in goal as he confidently rushed out before getting low quickly to deny the hosts’ second.
The trend continued for the rest of the half with Millwall creating chance after chance but each time they were no match for Smith’s unbelievable stops. The U’s were lucky to go in at the break only trailing by one goal to nil.
The second half began much as the first half ended with Smith having to make a flying save to deny Millwall from the edge of the box after less than sixty seconds.
And with the hosts continuing to press, Bailey opted for two substitutions – firstly with Bayan Aman replacing Jet Dyer and then Kenny Mupomba coming on for Oscar Thorn.
With Mupomba upfront the U’s began to look livelier but failed to create any meaningful chances until the sixty-eighth minute when a fantastic through ball from the substitute was hit first time by Chay Cooper with the pinpointed effort finding the bottom corner of the net.
Tempers flared up slightly following the equaliser and Marshall Miranda was carded for a brief scuffle with the opposition.
With less than eight minutes left on the clock, the clash became very open. Millwall were the first ones to benefit, managing to find the back of the net despite Smith and Aman's goal-line heroics as they attempted to keep the ball out of the net.
Nonetheless, the hosts didn’t enjoy the lead for very long with the U’s equalising again less than two minutes later. Cooper’s original effort was spilled by the hosts’ ‘keeper with Sandah alert in the box converting confidently on the follow-up.
There wasn’t much time left for anything else with the U’s securing a well-deserved point following a much-improved second half performance.
Following thee full-time whistle Chay Cooper was shown a red card for saying something to the referee.
Colchester Starting XI: 1. Smith, 2. Akor, 3. Dyer, 4. Miranda, 5. Edwards, 6. Lamb, 7. Cooper, 8. Jolliffe, 9. Trialist, 10. Thorn, 11. Sandah
Subs: 12. Oliver, 14. Aman, 15. Trialist, 17. Mupomba, 29. Chamberlain