The first home friendly of two 60-minute games against EFL opposition saw Colchester better their result of last season with a pair of narrow victories.
News from the stadium before kick-off saw trialist Nathan Odokonyero sign on the dotted line as Dennis Kutrieb’s latest signing for 2023/24.
He was in the squad for the two-game contest with Colchester but it was a defender who grabbed the initial headlines after 10 minutes when Luke O’Neill drove a free-kick through the U’s wall.
Barely had the players caught breath than Colchester were back in it with their next attack. A well-worked move saw play spread wide to Samson Tovide at the far post and that was enough to present him with a gap the other side of Mark Cousins to slide home.
Ouss Cissé earned the applause of the crowd with an excellent crossfield pass on 23 minutes to Darren McQueen that he headed first-time into Shaq Coulthirst’s path but Colchester clawed that one clear.
There was a short drinks break on the half-hour but seconds before, Colchester extended their lead and Tovide grabbed his second of the afternoon after a long ball over Haydn Hollis handed the U’s striker the run on goal to fire between Cousins’ legs.
The visitors went close twice immediately after play restarted, Cousins blocking one advance and another being rolled low past the post.
Greg Cundle made it two apiece after Coulthirst left O’Neill’s delivery for the No.15 to convert with ease but Colchester led again on 48 minutes. It was a controversial one from a Fleet perspective as McQueen was brought down on the flank but the referee waved play on and Colchester broke, the ball spread wide to the in-form Tovide to complete his hat-trick.
The referee further drew the wrath of home fans when Joe Martin received two yellow cards as the first game ended narrowly in the visitors’ favour.
On to game two of the 60-minute double-header and Cousins did well to reverse his dive to collect a shot that took a wild deflection early on. The second match was a slower affair and there was little major action until Colchester’s well-worked move on 18 minutes allowed Tom Hopper to find Bradley Ihionven to fire past an exposed Cousins.
Fleet fought back and Odokonyero did well to spot Dominic Poleon, his shot blocked, before Franklin Domi went close as he picked up the seconds. Poleon won the Fleet a penalty on 26 minutes after he was tripped as he tried to shoulder aside his marker but Josh Wright’s second penalty of pre-season was well turned away at his left post by the U’s goalkeeper.
In the second half, a Hollis header from a corner should have earned the Fleet an equaliser but the defender was most unfortunate to see that cannon off the underside of the bar.
The visitors also had moments to bemoan their misfortune as on 47 minutes a cross to the far post from the right wing was hit towards the bottom corner away from Cousins and seemed destined for the net but bounced back off the inside of the woodwork.
Cousins was out quickly to block another attack via the same route with eight minutes to go before a deep cross from the left saw the post disturbed once more, rocking from a Colchester head on target. Hollis swept another attack off the line as the EFL side continued to press and although the U’s triumphed by the odd goal in both games, the Fleet never looked out of place against their higher-tier opposition.
EUFC squad from: Cousins, O’Neill, Martin, Wright, Wakely, Sterling-James, Cisse, Tanner, McQueen, Poleon, Cundle, Domi, Edser, Odokonyero, Chapman, White, Coulthirst, Hollis, Shoolbred