View from Travelling Support
Lofty from the Colchester United Official Message Board gives us his insight on Colchester's first game this season.
First game of the season so maybe a bit too early to be pushing the panic button, but very disappointing and demoralising to see the same errors recurring.
The team that lined up was, in the most part, the one most fans would have selected themselves. Maybe some would have gone for Heath over Reid or Elito over Wordsworth, some may even have gone for Platt over Vernon (but not many!) - but I really don't think it would have affected the outcome.
We had a warning of what was to come when Hartlepool broke through in the first couple of minutes but Gerken saved well. They are a decent side who coped with the conditions much better than us and moved the ball around nicely, mostly keeping it on the ground. However I'm afraid Captain Coyne must take large chunks of responsibility for both their opening goals. Brown was his man and for the first made a run across the penalty area between the penalty spot and the 6 yard box. Coyne shadowed him but a change of pace worked Brown a yard and he put the ball in the top corner.
The second was a quickly taken free kick from just inside our half which caught the whole team cold, but Coyne was two to three yards away from Brown who ran past him and put it under the advancing Gerken.
Two goals in a minute or so and we really didn't look like threatening. White was having a reasonable game on the right, Reid was the better of the two centre halves and Lockwood looked a bit shaky on the left. In midfield, playing with two wide men, Jackson and Hammond were being pushed further and further back as Hartlepool outnumbered them. Wordsworth did his best to help out but for all his looking good in pre-season - and I was one who said I thought he had earned his chance - this is a step up in a position that's not really his own. Yeates really didn't look interested until he had a chance at a free kick, and he wanders here, there and everywhere leaving us woefully short of cover at times.
The problem with the centre midfield pairing being pushed almost on top of the centre halves is that there is then a huge gap to the forwards and this inevitably leads to a big hoof out. In the conditions this meant the ball could go anywhere giving Vernon and Gillespie no real chance to get on the end of anything.
Second half and Hartlepool continued to have the better of the play and the pattern from the first half continued. We had very little meaningful possession, managed very few passing moves whereas they were able to play the ball around. Continuing to drop back invites their midfield on and gives them the opportunity to shoot from long range - which they did twice to great effect and to be fair they were very good goals which Deano had very little chance with. Vernon had one shot from the edge of the box which their keeper did well to push onto the bar but up until this point that was the most we had troubled him.
Then we had Sunday, Kem and Platt on for Hammond, Vernon and Wordsworth. Sunday went wide right and grafted. Beat his man a couple of times and managed a cross or two to no great result. Kem battled and gave us more in midfield than Hammond had and Platt managed to control some of the long balls forward and played some football with Gillespie - some of the very few times he had the chance to play with the ball at his feet. Sadly one of the best moves ended with Gillespie playing Platt in rather than the other way around, and although he got his shot away he was too far out to really trouble the keeper.
The penalty was one some refs give and some don't. The ball appeared to be blasted at the defender. Gillespie stuck it coolly into the corner. The we won a free kick on our right near the corner flag. Yeates floated the ball over the keeper to the far post and Gillespie got there ahead of the defender for his second. 4-2 and it flattered us.
Where do we go from here - apart from the cries of 'Williams out' which isn't going to happen yet so I'm going to ignore for now. We have to compete better in the middle of the park and keep a decent distance between our defence and midfield so that when we have the ball, or win possession, we have a chance to work it forward rather than trying to hit the forwards from the 18 yard box. I wonder if we need to play narrower in midfield with Jackson, Hammond and - currently - Izzet in their leaving Yeates with the roving role to play on either wing that he seems to want himself. JW seemed to be happier going forward than I have seen him previously and Lockwood can get forward so we won't be sacrificing much in the way of width. We have to have the ability to play the ball out of defence because both Vernon and Gillespie need the ball played accurately in front of them. If you want to try and hit a front man who can hold up play then Platt has to play - and he did link well with Gillespie when he came on, but the game was over by then.
I hope Coyne just had a mare, will put it behind him and the defence can stay as it is. Confidence comes from clean sheets and we need some desperately.
Finally there were some altercations amongst the travelling fans - of which there were more than a couple of hundred - but it was just the frustration of travelling a long way and being disappointed by the abject performance.