Colchester United 3-1 Tranmere Rovers
Weston Homes Community Stadium
Tranmere were defeated away from home at Colchester following three first half goals.
All three goals came within half an hour as Rovers found themselves out of the game at half-time for the second away match in a row.
Peter Gulacsi saved a penalty late on, and Enoch Showunmi`s fifth goal in seven games gave the visitors a glimmer of hope, but the U`s held on for a comfortable win.
There was only one change made to the side that drew to Charlton at home, with 17 year old Dale Jennings making his debut in place of the injured Sam Morrow. There was a welcome back for Ian Thomas-Moore, Adam McGurk and Paul McLaren, who all made the bench for the game.
Colchester were unbeaten in the league going into the fixture, but their goal wasn`t a product of their slick counter attacking or free flowing football that have become a custom at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. Failing to clear lines and letting markers slip away however has become a custom for Tranmere away from home, and it was these failings that bought Colchester their opener.
Showunmi and Max Blanchard both failed to clear an Anthony Wordsworth corner, before the ball sat up for David Perkins whose strike was turned in by an unmarked David Mooney.
The goal just six minutes in wasn`t exactly music to the ears of Rovers boss Les Parry, but they looked to regroup quickly. Aaron Cresswell had an opportunity with a free-kick just outside the box, but his effort hit the wall. Young winger Jennings then looked to cause problems for the defence with a mazy run that beat two tackles on his way to a blocked shot, however, another setback was just around the corner following the short spell of pressure by the away side.
Parry had touched on the dangers that Colchester possessed through free-kicks around the area, and it was that very route that the U`s took to get their second. Joss Labidie gave away a sloppy foul just outside of the area, allowing danger man Wordsworth to curl in on 16 minutes.
Tranmere had a few sniffs after the goal, but were restricted to just a couple of long-range efforts and offsides as the Colchester defence pushed up for a third. They were to be rewarded just 15 minutes later.
Another mistake, this time by captain John Welsh, to gift the home side a free-kick shut Rovers out of the game completely. Wordsworth drifted in a superb delivery that was duly met by Andy Bond who flicked the ball onto Magnus Okuonghae to head in.
Showunmi was left to feed off scraps up front as Tranmere`s midfield were pushed back by a ruthless Colchester attack. The former Leeds man had a run-in on goal which was thwarted by keeper Mark Cousins rushing out, and was left frustrated as Rovers went into the dressing room at half-time three goals down.
The first 10 minutes of the second period was more of the same, forcing Parry to introduce a half-fit Thomas-Moore to the game in place of Lucas Akins to try and give his three up front more of an edge.
Ian Goodison then blocked a short on 60 minutes as Colchester looked to increase their lead further. The short spell of pressure then forced Parry to bring on a more attacking minded midfielder in Ryan Fraughan for Arnaud Mendy, with McGurk replacing Jennings on 67 minutes for Tranmere`s last sub in a game that was slowly slipping away.
McGurk tried to boost the confidence by charging upfield, and played in a nice pass into Fraughan who blazed his effort way over the bar as Rovers looked to claw their way back in. But Colchester`s passing game was becoming increasingly hard to deal with, and the home side were comfortably in control before the penalty decision.
Careless fouling has now become a recurring theme for Parry`s side, and another was given away on the 80 minute mark after Jamaican international Goodison was adjudged to have brought down Bond in the area. But Gulacsi- on loan from Liverpool- pulled off a great save to keep the deficit to three.
Soon after, Showunmi, who had spent much of his afternoon running himself into the ground, gave Tranmere a consolation when he raced through to beat cousins on 86 minutes.
The goal was to be Tranmere`s final attack however, as Parry`s side slumped to their second away defeat in a row.
Tranmere: Gulacsi, Blanchard, Grandison, Goodison, Cresswell, Labidie, Welsh, Mendy (Fraughan 62), Akins (Thomas Moore 53), Showunmi, Jennings (McGurk 70). Subs not used: Collister, Cathalina, Bakayogo, McLaren