Cambridge United produced a superb second half turnaround to secure a 1-2 win over Colchester United and put their first three points of the Sky Bet League Two season on the board.
Marc Richards cancelled out Luke Norris’ first half goal shortly after half time, before Harry Darling registered his first professional goal late in the game to send another strong following by the Amber Army back to Cambridge in high spirits.
United lined up with four changes to their previous League outing, as Harrison Dunk, Leon Davies, Richards and Andrew Dallas moved into the starting eleven.
The U’s conceded their first League goal of the campaign nine minutes into the clash when Luke Norris dispatched a penalty kick beyond the reach of Dimitar Mitov, after referee Antony Coggins had penalised Paul Lewis for a sliding challenge.
Norris had Mitov scrambling across his goal line ten minutes later too with a low shot towards the keeper’s near post that fizzed fractionally wide, as Calderwood’s men struggled to get a grip of the hosts.
Luke Prosser struck United’s cross bar with a header from a Jevani Brown corner shortly after the half an hour mark, which bounced off the turf and looped up to beat Mitov before the U’s scrambled the loose ball away from danger.
Cambridge United’s only clear cut opportunity of an ugly first half display was crafted out by Andrew Dallas on 36 minutes, who drove forward into the Colchester area before shimmying on the ball to get the better of Prosser and line up a shot which Dean Gerken palmed away with both hands.
Calderwood’s men returned after the break with far more positive intent to their play and found themselves level ten minutes into the half. Richards rose with precise timing to head beyond Gerken on the end of an excellent delivery by Leon Davies, as the veteran striker scored his second goal in as many games for the U’s.
Colchester hit United on the break soon after but Mitov was equal to Frank Nouble’s pile driver at the near post. Meanwhile, the U’s continued to carry more of a threat offensively, and Reggie Lambe went close to a second when the Bermudan flashed an in-swinging shot across the face of goal from 20 yards out.
United were almost caught out by a long throw from Ryan Jackson on 67 minutes which looped over substitute Harvey Knibbs and into the path of Jevani Brown, but the former U’s man blazed a volley over the top of Mitov’s cross bar.
Harvey Knibbs, Sam Smith and Harry Darling were introduced by Colin Calderwood as the game approached the final quarter to provide fresh legs.
And the key moment of the match came four minutes from the end of regular time, as Darling went forward for a U’s set piece and found himself in the perfect position to meet Paul Lewis’ header back across the six yard box and pulled out an acrobatic bicycle kick to power the ball through the grasp of Gerken.
Dimitar Mitov showed great alertness to deny Ryan Jackson’s drill attempt in what proved to be Colchester’s only effort at levelling the scores, with Calderwood’s men holding out for the win.
Colchester United: Gerken, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Clampin (James, 78 mins); Stevenson, Comley, Senior (Gambin, 72 mins), Brown, Nouble; Norris
Cambridge United: Mitov, Davies, Taylor, Taft, Dunk, Lambe, Lewis, Maris (Knibbs, 63 mins), Hannant, Richards (Darling, 73 mins), Dallas (Smith, 64 mins)
Attendance: 4,148 (766)