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Colchester United 2 v 3 Sheffield United
SkyBet League Two
Tuesday, 16th September 2014 Kick-off 19:45
U's 2 Sheffield United 3 - Noah's View
Thursday, 18th Sep 2014 12:51

After Magnus’ dismissal at Brisbane Road and the enforced change of tactics that provoked, I reported that we had discovered the value of having three forwards with searing pace (or should it be ‘Sears-n-pace’) and so it proved again against the Blades, but now with eleven men, with the competent and confident sure footed Frankie Kent making his full home debut enjoying a superb game including some accurate and decisive passing out of defence. Proving that we don't need to hoof the ball to be 'more direct'.

Sorry Magnus, but most fans are possibly thinking your time is probably up. There was one error by Kent that was remedied by the lad himself, who chased back and put in an amazing tackle deep in our box to save the day. I reckon that had this been Magnus either the attacker would never have been caught or a penalty would ensue. Frankie, I hope you keep the “number 4” shirt for longer that the four weeks ban of our (former) skipper as I reckon you are destined to be the fans firm favourite after the past calamities of Thompson and Magnus.

Tony Humes men played awesome passing football for 80 minutes. But rather than the previous ponderous build up style that typically saw the ball stuck in a corner and the U’s then struggling to “pass” the ball into the net we again saw the value of the fast through ball on the deck for Sears, Watt and Massey to run onto. Within minutes of kick off Alex Gilbey had had hit the upright and Moncur eventually gave the dominant U’s a deserved lead by half time. We look destined to take the three points and until the 80' I never once felt us to be vulnerable. What a change from the nail-biting last two seasons where we always looked under-dogs.

Sears might have had a hat-trick (but once again didn’t), but his determination to chase and compete did produce another goal on 77’ almost identical to that against Orient, albeit that this time he robbed the keeper of the ball in a similar wide forward position and he again scored from a difficult angle. Moments earlier Freddie had been 1:1 with the keeper (as he was against the O’s) and again fluffed his lines with a tame shot easily saved when it seemed easier to score. Frankly, we should have been out of sight at 3-0 with ten minutes to go. However, this was a far more assured, encouraging and confident performance by the former West Ham striker and his combination with (any two of) Watt, Massey or Vose suggests to me that the injured Jabo Ibrehe may struggle to regain his place. The laugh though is when we do hoof the ball towards Freddie’s head there is no chance of him ruffling his hair parting, but on the deck with a ball to run onto he is proving a real handful and the Blades ended up putting two defenders on him, which helped blunt their attacking prowess for much of the game. So keep it on the deck, fast to feet please, Tony!

But on 83’, and with a 2-0 home advantage, with the U’s cruising comfortably, and the Blades fans silenced, the wheels came off in an astonishing last seven minutes whereby Sheffield United stole three goals. I can only attribute this to an ill-judged tactical home substitution and an injection of more appropriate fresh legs by the visitors.

Tony Humes withdrew the injury prone Watt on 67', presumably to protect him given that we do have three games in seven days, and replaced him with the equally attack minded Vose. That was good move, as Sears soon made it 2-0 on 77', and it should have been game over. But a minute earlier, still at a slender 1-0, Humes replaced the hard working (defending too) Szmodics with another attack minded midfielder, debutant Lawrence, and (IMHO) from here we seemed to lose some defensive shape. In response, the Blades threw on the pace and fresh legs of Flynn and Scougall.

Suddenly we seemed repeatedly exposed down the right flank and Ben Gordon, who (IMHO) had perhaps engaged in a few too many lung busting attacking forays by then, perhaps needed help from some fresh defensive legs in front of him. The solo Gordon was repeatedly overwhelmed by dual Blades attackers. Where was the cover in front of him? The first Blades goal arrived on 83’, then another on 85’ and ultimately a penalty on 88’ as the Blades threw the kitchen sink at us.

I left shaking my head. At 2-0 or 2-1 or even 2-2, why didn’t Humes shore up things by bringing on the more defensive minded David Wright (and earlier the experienced and balanced Craig Eastmond rather than Lawrence)? We started the match with NO defenders on the bench except Wright. Yes, we do have an injury crisis at the back, but it's simple basics to take measures to protect a lead with ten minutes to go, and albeit that Lawrence should not personally bear the blame, it was tactical naivety by the manager and a desire to give him a debutant run out where I attribute the blame for the U's throwing away this game. The priority was to ensure that a hard won three points stayed with us. Even at 2-1 or 2-2 we had a third substitute available. I would have withdrawn Sears or Massey for Wright. This was reminiscent of Brentford (away) a few years ago under John Ward where fresh legs (and our tired defensive legs) were our undoing. Instead we came away with zilch – but plenty of encouragement and hope. At least the football was enjoyable, positive and constructive. But only results will bring back the crowds.

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