Ten-man Stevenage fell to a first league defeat of the season as a second half Sanchez Watt strike condemned them in a tough encounter at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
A dire first half of football saw the sides go in without a goal between them. The closest Stevenage came was a with a long range effort from Filipe Morais, but it was well-equalled by the goalkeeper.
The second half was even until the sending off of Anthony Grant handed the momentum to the home side. A second booking for the midfielder saw his afternoon end early and just a minute passed before Colchester had the lead. Watt was the man that netted what proved to be the winner with a pile driver across goal found the far corner very well.
Stevenage rallied and Bondz N’Gala came closest with an overhead kick that struck the bar but an equaliser couldn’t be found and Boro were defeated.
Boro were left with only six substitutes after defender Miguel Comminges was forced to pull out less than an hour before kick-off. Luckily the depth of the squad could cover, as N’Gala came into the centre of defence and Darius Charles moved to his more favoured left hand side. Steve Arnold retained his place between the sticks and Greg Tansey also stayed in the side after his masterful free kick won all three points in the home fixture with Scunthorpe United. The home side lined up in an identical 4-2-3-1 shape, and perhaps this paved the way for the stalemate in the first 45 minutes.
The first chance of the game went the way of the home side after an exquisite through ball from Sanchez Watt cut between Mark Roberts and Charles allowing Gavin Massey an opportunity to move into open ground. He advanced into the area and struck a goal bound shot but Arnold made a decent low save.
Early bookings proved to be something that Boro would look back on with a shaken head; inside 16 minutes both central defensive midfielders - Grant and Dunne – had seen a yellow card above their heads and Morais completed that trio after going in hard on Brian Wilson. As the away side began to settle into the game chances were coming along more frequently, Morais came closest after bringing down a brilliant cross field ball from Tansey and sending his shot across goal but ‘keeper Mark Cousins made an equally good save.
The resulting corner was curled into the perfect position in the box and Haber met it with a bullet header; Cousins spilled it and Charles pounced to try and poke it over the line but couldn’t quite make the desired connection.
Ibehre made space in the box but saw his low drive saved by the feet of Arnold, whilst Rose saw a shot from range swerve high and wide; it was clear that United were in the ascendancy. The scores remained goalless by the time the break was upon us, and that was probably a good thing for Boro after spending much of the first period on the back foot.
The inevitable happened 8 minutes into the second half; Colchester broke from the back and sent Ibehre onto a through ball before going to ground under a tackle from Grant. Referee Graham Salisbury stormed over and pulled out a second booking for the former Southend United man, who protested as he trudged off the field.
It took just a minute for the home side to make their numerical advantage count and Watt scored with a powerful low effort. The on-loan Arsenal man picked the ball up on the left hand side of the box before drilling it across goal beyond the fingers of Arnold.
Boro’s ten men were finding it difficult; Tansey was taken off and Oliver Risser came on but Colchester were asking the questions – Anthony Wordsworth very nearly put it beyond doubt with a long range free kick that curled over the wall and hit the top of the cross bar.
Smith introduced Freeman and Shroot, Akins and Morais made way. It came a minute after Ibehre had gone into the book for a nasty foul on Morais however, despite needing treatment, the winger didn’t appear to be injured. Charles’ claims for a penalty minutes later were waved away, the ball definitely struck Michael Okuonghae on the arms but they were tucked in and it would have been harsh had the ref pointed to the spot.
Boro were throwing everything forward but it left them open at the back and a five-man break ended with a guilt-edge chance for Ibehre. He picked the ball up in the box and drilled it at goal but Arnold stayed on his feet and made another blinding stop.
Four minutes were added on as Stevenage won a corner, Haber met it at the back post and headed it into the middle where N’Gala met it with an overhead kick which hit the bar at the far post and Roberts couldn’t get on the rebound as Cousins dived onto the ball so secure the three points for his side.
Stevenage (4-2-3-1) Arnold; Gray, N’Gala, Roberts, Charles; Dunne, Grant (Sent Off 54); Akins (Shroot 77), Tansey (Risser 55), Morais (Freeman 77); Haber
Unused Subs: Day, Rogers, Lopez
Colchester (4-2-3-1) Cousins; Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Rose; Eastmond, Wordsworth; Massey (Henderson 79), Bean, Watt (Sears 79); Ibehre
Unused Subs: Heath, Duguid, White, Gilbey, Pentney
Att: 4045 (716 away)