DONCASTER Rovers found the U’s’ new Weston Homes Community Stadium more to their liking than their old Layer Road ground.
Rovers won only four times at Layer Road and lost on their last three visits, but they marked their first visit to Colchester’s new home with a hard-earned win following back-to-back League One defeats.
The result checked Rovers’ slide down the table and put them in the right frame of mind for tomorrow’s South Yorkshire derby against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane.
With the Blades having picked up seven points from their first three home League One fixtures, Rovers are likely to have to raise their game several notches above Saturday’s performance if they are to be in with a chance of becoming the first side to win at Bramall Lane in the league this season.
Not that John Ward’s team are a bad side - even though they have made their worst start to a season for 37 years - and they arguably deserve better than to be propping up the table following Saturday’s defeat and other results going against them.
“We gave it everything we’ve got,” he said reflecting on a third home game without a win this season.
“The subs came on and had a really good go at it so the whole squad tried extremely hard to win the game.
“From our point of view we conceded two very soft goals at the start of both halves and as a result we were always chasing the game.”
The Colchester crowd aren’t known for being particularly vocal, but they were stunned into silence in the third minute as David Cotterill, who is proving to be an excellent summer signing, put Rovers ahead from 20 yards.
Defender Paul Quinn intercepted a quick throw-out by keeper Mark Cousins and laid the ball off to the former Welsh international, who curled his shot past the Colchester shot-stopper.
“I normally like to shoot from that side of goal and I saw that the keeper had sort of drifted to one side - I don’t know whether he was expecting a cross - so I had a go,” said Cotterill.
Rovers continued to take the game to the U’s in an impressive opening spell during which they looked full of running after having had the chance to both work on their fitness and also recharge their batteries as a result of last weekend’s game against Oldham being called off.
But they weren’t able to maintain the bright form and parts of their game started to become a little sloppy at times - a point not lost on manager Dean Saunders.
“I thought that we started the game brilliantly; we played some great football in the first 15 minutes and were controlling the game,” he told The Star.
“But we aren’t quite right yet. We are not always playing the right pass at the right time and we aren’t getting on the end of enough balls into the box or the final pass.”
The U’s came more into the game as the half wore on and it took a good blocking save by keeper Gary Woods to deny striker Freddie Sears in a one-on-one.
But it served only as a stay of execution.
Sears was allowed to control a long throw-in into the box on the half-hour before laying it off to defender Magnus Okuonghae. His shot from just inside the crowded area hit the inside of both both posts before crossing the line.
If the U’s had luck on their side on that occasion it was Rovers turn to enjoy the rub of the green when Marcus Bean’s shot came back off the crossbar.
Rovers again had fortune on their side in the build-up to the goal which proved to be the match-winner.
Once again Cotterill was involved. It was from his 48th-minute free-kick that midfielder Andy Bond headed past his own keeper under pressure from David Syers.
“I think that it was very important that we managed to start well in the second half - obviously the goal was a bonus - because they were on top towards the end of the first half,” said Cotterill.
“I think the goal knocked a little bit of the stuffing out of them.
“It probably wasn’t until the last 20 minutes when they had a little go at us and started getting a lot balls into the box.
“But the skipper (Rob Jones) and Jamie (McCombe) and the other two lads at the back coped very well.”
United’s best chance of an equaliser fell to substitute Anthony Wordsworth, who shot just wide of the near post.