Stevenage suffered a disappointing 4-0 defeat at Colchester United this afternoon.
Despite the scoreline and a flurry of first half goals for the U's, the game was anything but one-sided as Boro worked hard to create numerous chances throughout the game. However whilst the visitors failed to hit the back of the net during the game, the U's extended their lead with a late fourth to kill the game.
Graham Westley made three changes to his starting XI from the side which picked up a point against Sheffield United on Saturday. Michael Doughty, Bruno Andrade and Luke Jones came into the team with Jordan Burrow and Greg Tansey dropping to the bench. Roarie Deacon returned from suspension to take his place as sub whilst Dean Parrett, James Dunne and Marcus Haber dropped out of the 16 for this one.
Stevenage were arguably the quickest team out of the blocks and forced a couple of early corners thanks to good work down the flanks by both Freeman and Andrade.
However two goals in four minutes put the hosts in the driving seat, with Chris Day unfortunately playing a part in both.
Firstly after 10 minutes Brian Wilson swung in a cross which Boro’s keeper seemed to claim but then lose as he landed under pressure. Referee Gavin Ward waved play on and Boro's defence stood still, allowing Blair Turgot to tap home into an empty net.
After scoring once from a high ball into the box Colchester opted to try it again from a short free-kick. This time Day punched clear but Ibehre was the quickest to react and his overhead kick flew into the back of the net for 2-0.
Boro regrouped and created a couple of opportunities down the right flank through Andrade, the second of which followed another good piece of play by Zoko after he’d robbed a defender of possession.
The hosts had their heads up though and took firm control of the game on 24 minutes when they got a third. This time it was Dominic Vose twisting and turning his way past Jones on the left and whipping in a low cross. The initial Colchester shot was blocked but it fell kindly for Craig Eastmond to gleefully fire home.
Jones and Zoko went close with headers as Boro looked to get one back before the break, but instead it was the hosts who went close to extending their lead just past the half hour – Day getting a strong left hand to prevent Luke Garbutt’s free-kick sneaking inside his near post.
Five minutes before the break Zoko had a golden chance to reduce the deficit when he met a near post cross with a free header but it sailed wide. It was the kind of chance the striker would usually bury and summed up the afternoon Boro were having.
With a three goal lead Colchester were happy to sit back in the second half and subsequently Stevenage were the brighter of the two teams after the break, with Heslop and Freeman both putting dangerous balls in without any clear cut chances being created.
But right on the hour Zoko led a breakaway which so nearly gave Boro a route back into the game. The Ivorian fed Morais on the right whose diagonal cross found Doughty in the box – he laid the ball off to Freeman who took a touch and fired at goal but Walker was equal to it and made a superb save.
Lucas Akins and Roarie Deacon came on for Andrade and Heslop as GW sent on some midfield reinforcements and it was Stevenage who created the next great opportunity from a corner.
From that set play Ben Chorley saw his back post header crash against the woodwork and although Zoko reacted quickest and hooked the ball back towards goal, it bounced just wide. It was proving one of those afternoons.
The visitors continued to push forward with Morais seeing a dangerous cross claimed by Walker and then Zoko seeing a low effort cleared off the line as he was put through on goal by Akins.
But after Boro created chance after chance without scoring, it was Colchester who sealed the win with a fourth with 13 minutes remaining. Boro lost possession in midfield and sub Sanchez Watt burst through before squaring for Eastmond to tap home his second.
Stevenage continued to plug away but – apart from a Tansey effort from distance which Walker claimed at the second attempt – they failed to really trouble United.
The festive period brings with it many games in quick succession so Graham Westley will be hoping his men learn their lessons from today and improve quickly when they visit Bristol City on Sunday.
Stevenage: Day, Chorley, Ashton, Jones, Smith, Doughty (Tansey 78), Heslop (Deacon 68), Freeman, Andrade (Akins 64), Morais, Zoko
Subs not used: Arnold, Wedgbury, Burrow, Tounkara
Colchester: Walker, Wilson (Olufemi 79), Okuonghae, Eastman, Garbutt, Wright, Bean, Eastmond, Turgott (Watt 72), Ibehre (Morrison 78), Vose
Subs not used: Cousins, Dickson, Gilbey, Sanderson
Referee: Gavin Ward (Surrey)
Attendance: 3,919 (423 away)