One of the worst things about this latest lockdown (for football fans, at least) has been the decision to stop away commentators travelling to games, meaning those of us who’ve forked out a hard-earned tenner on iFollow don’t get the commentating masterclass from Doug & Johnno that we’re used to.
Sometimes this isn’t too bad, Grimsby’s commentary team were alright, sometimes it’s laughably inept (BBC 3 Counties Radio switching to a Genesis song instead of hearing the U’s fall to defeat against Stevenage), but sometimes it’s so dreadfully poor you begin to wonder how they got the job in the first place. BBC Essex’s dynamic duo in charge of the Colchester game were just this.
Every Colchester attack was treated to the same level of excitement as Brian Moore watching Michael Owen bear down against Argentina in 1998, even if it quickly amounted to nothing. A professed familiarity with ‘Luke’ O’Neil, who we were reminded on a number of occasions used to play for Southend, which took them ten minutes to realise wasn’t Liam O’Neil. Confusing Robbie Cundy for Jubril Okedina. But worst of all, was the inane chatter and terribly biased nonsense these two bleated out for ninety minutes. “Only one set of real U’s“? Colchester have only been about since 1992. Shut up mate.
Anyway. To the game. Bonner started the same team who’d beaten Grimsby and Harrogate which meant Harvey Knibbs got to continue his beef with Colchester fans – or rather he would have if any of them had been there. It was Knibbs who put the U’s ahead after twelve minutes, a Paul Mullin shot parried by elderly goalkeeper Dean Gerken into the path of Knibbs for a cool finish. He celebrated as only he knows how, in front of where the Colchester fans should have been. It’s been a difficult season for Knibbs, dropping down the pecking order due to the form of Mullin and Ironside but this goal has been a just reward for this performances in the last few games.
The pitch was dreadful, with snow piled up by the touchlines, and patches of boggy standing water which made the U’s (the REAL U’s) usual passing game almost impossible. Both teams had chances in the difficult conditions, and on 39 minutes a shot by Callum Harriott hit the legs of Greg Taylor and deflected through the legs of Dimitar Mitov to level things up.
Both teams had chances in the second half, and the game took on a bit of an edge with a number of rough challenges coming in from both sides. Luke Hannant suffered a nasty looking injury just after the hour mark, so Joe Ironside came on to replace him. With three strikers on the pitch United pushed for the win, but it was Colchester who came closest with Dimitar Mitov saving well from ex-U Harry Pell. Just when it was looking like a draw would have been a fair result for the U’s, that man Paul Mullin shaped to shoot in the area, his shot going agonisingly wide and leaving U’s fans feeling like they could have stolen all three points. So close, and on any other day that would have gone in.
Did we deserve to win? Yes, the team worked hard and defended well. Hoolahan was instrumental in our attacking play again, whilst Paul Digby protected the back line. Harry Darling did well against Jevani Brown despite being on a yellow card for most of the match. But equally, Colchester will be unhappy not to have won themselves. Did they deserve it? Perhaps not as much as we did, but they didn’t play like a team on a poor run of form. A point was a just reward for both sides.
Man of the Match: Dimitar Mitov made a game saving save at the end of the game, but probably should have done better with their goal. As mentioned Hoolahan had another impressive game, but we’ve come to expect no less from him really. Paul Digby looks to have recovered his early season form and controlled the game nicely so gets the coveted UTAS award for this game.
Soundtrack of the Match: Rosie Gaines – Closer Than Close
United: Mitov, Knoyle, Darling (Cundy), Taylor, Dunk, Hannant (Ironside) May (O’Neil), Digby, Hoolahan, Mullin, Knibbs