Colchester Utd 2 Barnsley 3: match analysis

On their way:  Conor Hourihane scores the opener for Barnsley at Colchester. Photo: Dean Atkins
On their way: Conor Hourihane scores the opener for Barnsley at Colchester. Photo: Dean Atkins
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Barnsley appear to have finally turned a corner and the only way is surely up now for relieved manager Lee Johnson.

They secured another precious victory at the home of fellow strugglers Colchester, though they were forced to do it the hard way before eventually lifting themselves off the Sky Bet League One basement.

Three goals up after an hour at the Weston Community Homes Stadium, the Reds were cruising.

However, more disappointing defending allowed the U’s to grab two quick goals, meaning the final 20 minutes turned into a fraught spell of backs-to-the-wall resistance.

The Reds hung on, though, and when weighing up the whole of the game, Johnson was pleased and is clearly confident that his side are capable of exiting the relegation zone sooner rather than later.

The Reds boss said: “I was disappointed with the last 25 minutes because our solidness and great shape went to pot in the second half.

“But over the full 90 minutes I feel we deserved the victory.

“Our performances are becoming more consistent, although I know we are still conceding too many goals.

“We can go on a decent little run now, though.”

Defensively the Reds may still need plenty of attention, but going forward there shouldn’t be any concerns for Johnson.

They haven’t produced a scoreless performance in the league since October, and attack-minded trio Conor Hourihane, Adam Hammill and Ivan Toney were on target at Colchester.

“Our front players in the first half were excellent,” added Johnson.

“That’s something we’ve not really seen enough of this season.

“We were dangerous, and we have to keep sending our fans home happy now.

“We’re very close as the fans saw in the first half on Saturday, but the players need to learn how to kill a game off.

“We need to cut out the mistakes, but overall it was a really positive day for us.”

Johnson opted against making changes to his starting line-up in the wake of the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy heroics at Wigan Athletic seven days earlier.

As for managerless Colchester, they had been on a miserable run of league defeats, but caretaker boss Wayne Brown made one alteration following the previous weekend’s 3-2 FA Cup win against the Reds’ conquerors, Altrincham.

Tom Lapslie was replaced in the midfield by Joe Edwards.

The first half was totally bossed by a hugely impressive Barnsley side.

They led 2-0 at the interval, and it possibly could have been more.

The Reds came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 12th minute.

An Alfie Mawson header was superbly saved by U’s ‘keeper Jamie Jones, and as the rebound fell kindly to Hammill, he curled a shot inches past the far post.

The Reds fired themselves into the lead six minutes later.

Sam Winnall appeared to have been upended in the box by Jones, but he still managed to square the ball for Hourihane, who coolly slotted home his seventh goal of the season.

The lead was doubled five minutes before the interval.

This time it was a more clinical effort, with Hammill smashing home his third goal since returning to the Reds after he met a superbly-weighted pass from Winnall.

The desperate U’s had the final word of the first period, with Marvin Sordell firing wide from 20 yards.

Caretaker boss Wayne Brown must have given his Colchester players a rocket at the interval as they roared out of the blocks at the start of the second period.

Tom Eastman headed against the crossbar as he met ex-Blade Chris Porter’s cross, while Richard Brindley drilled inches wide.

However, with that mini-storm weathered the Reds struck the ultimately clinching third goal.

And it was Toney who headed home his second goal in as many games as he rose expertly to power home Marley Watkins’ cross.

Two Colchester goals in three minutes put the game back into the balance, however, with George Moncur smashing home from a tight angle and Porter making it 3-2.

There were still 20 minutes to go and the U’s were eyeing an equaliser.

Porter scooped over from close range and Callum Harriott almost levelled in dramatic fashion, but the Reds managed to hold on and haul themselves three places up the league table.

The Us’ caretaker boss Brown said: “On another day we would have gone on to win 4-3 or 5-3, but it wasn’t to be .

“We left ourselves with too much of a mountain to climb, though credit to our lads for producing a great response in the second half.”

COLCHESTER (4-2-3-1): Jones 6; Brindley 5, Eastman 7, Elokobi 5, Briggs 4 (Vincent-Young 66, 5); Gilbey 6, Edwards 4 (Porter 46, 7); Massey 6 (Bonne 74, 5), Moncur 8, Harriott 6; Sordell 6. Subs not used: Parish, Kent, Szmodics, Lapslie.

BARNSLEY (4-4-1-1): Davies 6; Wabara 6, Nyatanga 7, Mawson 6, White 7; Watkins 7, Pearson 5, Hourihane 8, Hammill 7; Winnall 8; Toney 7. Subs not used: Townsend, Roberts, Williams, Isgrove, Bree, Jackson, M Smith.

BOOKED: Pearson (90).

REF: Stephen Martin (Staffordshire).

ATTENDANCE: 3,265.