David Edgar scored a 91st minute winner for Sheffield United at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this afternoon.
Colchester appeared to to have secured a point when Tom Eastman cancelled-out Billy Sharp’s opener but Edgar stabbed home Martyn Woolford’s corner in stoppage time to propel Nigel Adkins’s side to a priceless League One victory.
Sharp scored his 13th goal of the season midway through the first-half. An error by Matt Briggs allowed United to push forward with the striker twice beating Alex Wynter before unleashing a low shot. Colchester, now managed by former West Ham player Kevin Keen, recovered well but, despite enjoying plenty of possession, struggled to break down United’s back four with several shots flying wide before the interval. The hosts, however, were a much more dangerous proposition after the break with Chris Porter, the former United marksman, close to turning home from close-range after George Long had made an excellent save to deny Alex Gilbey. But he was powerless the prevent Eastman heading home the equaliser from a Marvin Sordell cross. Colchester continued to dominate before losing their way as the final whistle approached and Edgar made them pay when he scorwed at the near post.
United made a positive start with Sharp and Matt Done, both on the the scoresheet during the 3-3 draw with Wigan Athletic four days earlier, nearly combining to prod the ball beyond Jake Kean. But a lapse by Edgar, touching the ball to a Colchester rather than visiting player after intercepting a pass, provided Gavin Massey with an opportunity to fire other at the other end of the pitch. Nevertheless, clear-cut chances were at a premium until United took a 19th minute lead although Done tested Kean’s handling with a low drive after ghosting into space on the edge of the penalty area. Midway through the opening period, the visitors broke the deadlock. Predictably, given that he had travelled south searching for his sixth goal in seven outings, Sharp was responsible for edging Adkins’ team in front. The centre-forward demnonstrated exceptional strength and persistence to hold off his marker, turn, then turn again, before swivelling and sweeping the ball into the bottom corner of the net. Jay McEveley and Neill Collins both made vital interceptions, the latter denying Sordell, as Colchester searched for an equaliser.
United, making two changes to the starting 11 from Tuesday’s trip to the DW Stadium, broke down Colchester’s rearguard again during the closing stages of the first-half when Dean Hammond, whose loan from Leicester City has been extended until the end of the season, stripped Alex Gilbey of possession in midfield and slipped a pass through towards Martyn Woolford. Kean, though, was alert to the danger and smothered the ball having already edged well of his line. Long excelled himself in the 53rd minute when Colchester’s Gilbey attempted the guide the ball between his outstretched palm and right hand post. It was no surprise, given the flow of the game at this stage, when Eastman levelled on the hour mark. Adkins made two changes, introducing both Jose Baxter and Ryan Flynn, to try and restore United’s impetus. It required a superb tackle from Richard Brindley to prevent Sharp, released by Baxter’s lofted pass, from doing exactly that with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining. Long blocked a George Moncur effort with his legs following another Sordell centre while, in the 87th minute, Baxter lost his balance as he attempted to turn home. But Edgar ensured the points would be returning to South Yorkshire.
Colchester United: Kean, Garvan, Briggs, Wynter, Gilbey, Porter, Moncur, Massey (Ambrose 84), Eastman, Brindley (Bonne 90), Sordell. Not used: Parish, Edwards, Wright, Kent, Bonne, Vincent-Young.
Sheffield United: Long, Sharp (Sammopn 90), McEveley, Coutts (Flynn 71), Done (Baxter 63), Basham, Hammond, Collins, Brayford, Woolford, Edgar. Not used: Howard, Reed, Campbell-Ryce.
Referee: Brendan Malone (Wiltshire)