Colchester United U23s 3 Charlton U23s 2

Charlton’s U23s fell to defeat to Colchester United on a disappointing night at the Jobserve Community Stadium on Monday, with a spirited late comeback not quite enough to snatch a point.

Some days the ball doesn’t stick, passes are either too short or too long and attacks break down before they even have a chance to get going. Despite suffering “one of those days” the young Addicks showed significant heart to nearly grab a point in the dying embers of second-half stoppage time.

The hosts had the first sight of goal in the fourth minute, Tariq Issa collecting the ball on the edge of the box before firing high over Nathan Harnes’ goal.

The sides then traded forays forward with Billy French making a key tackle to deny Lewis Reed before Josh Davison couldn’t quite latch onto a cross from Kasim Aidoo as the ball freely travelled from one end of the pitch to the other.

Colchester took the lead in the 14th minute with a counter-attack that was becoming characteristic of the game at hand. Diogo Freitas picked up the ball in his own half and drove at a depleted Addicks defence that had moments earlier found itself committed high up the pitch, before firing past Harness.

Following the early set-back, Charlton began to play calmer football, keeping greater control of the ball and attempting to station the match in the Colchester half, but couldn’t create anything of note with a series of set-pieces.

The Addicks were so nearly level mid-way through the first half, Davison and Johl Powell combining before the latter saw a goal-bound effort kept out by a terrific claw to safety from Callum Coulter.

The bulk of Charlton’s troubles were self-imposed as Michael Fernandes blasted wide after the ball dropped to him on the edge of the box following an Addicks corner that was swiftly countered.

On the stroke of half-time, Charlton were level at 1-1, Billy French glancing a header inside the far post after a pinpoint corner delivery from Ben Dempsey.

Key moments going against the visitors became a common theme throughout the match and needing to get to half-time on level terms, parity lasted less than one minute. Fernandes regained the lead for the hosts, blazing past the Charlton defence, rounding the ‘keeper, and tapping into the empty net to consign the Addicks to a 2-1 deficit at the break.

Jason Euell made a pair of changes at half-time, Kareem Isiaka and Charles Clayden replacing Kenneth Yao and Aidoo, but it was Colchester who came out of the changing rooms on top. Fernandes again led the hosts’ attack, dancing through the Addicks’ defence before his cut-back was cleared.

A subdued Charlton side struggled to get into top gear, but Brendan Wiredu nearly found a route back into the match. Fresh off the bench and straight into the action against the side he is on loan to in League Two, the substitute forced a save out of Coulter as he drove at the Colchester defence before toe-poking his effort towards goal.

Despite struggling to assert themselves in the second half, Charlton should have been level 66 minutes into the encounter. Isiaka drove dangerously down the left-wing before his cross was only partially cleared to the onrushing Dempsey who blazed over from 12 yards eliciting a hands-on-head moment that summed up the evening.

Colchester responded to the scare by causing a fright of their own, Charlton just managing to avoid disaster after Fernandes again caused trouble with a teasing delivery along the six-yard box that was cleared after a panicked scramble.

The floodgates in the sky opened as heavy rain started to pelt the Jobserve Community Stadium, ushering with it a period of openness on the pitch that saw a Wired shot saved from a tight angle before the home side went up the other end.

Colchester killed off the game with a 77th-minute dagger courtesy of Jake Hutchinson, a real sucker-punch for an Addicks side that was beginning to assert control for the first time in the second half. Fernandes latched onto a cutback before his heavy touch fell kindly to Hutchinson who made no mistake with a low finish into the bottom corner.

Charlton pushed for a route back into the game and nearly found it when Wiredu was first to Isiaka’s spilt effort, although the referee had blown his whistle for a foul on the ‘keeper.

It wouldn’t be Charlton if they simply made peace with defeat and Josh Davison set up an interesting finale, pouncing on a loose ball from a corner before finishing high into the roof of the net.

The Addicks searched for a late equaliser and saw penalty appeals waved away in stoppage-time before the chance of the half fell to Sam Keefe who could only hit his left-footed volley straight at the ‘keeper.

The game delved deeper into stoppage time and a stunning piece of ingenuity from Wiredu saw him flick the ball over his defender, but his fizzed cross couldn’t quite be turned in with Davison lurking at the back-post.

With the ball high in the sky from the ensuing goal-kick, the full-time whistle sounded, Charlton U23s signing off before Christmas with a 3-2 defeat.

Charlton U23s: Harness, Yao (Isiaka 45), Aidoo (Clayden 45), Fonseca (Wiredu 63), Keefe, Vennings, Dempsey, Davison, Powell, Odoh.

Subs (not used): Osagie, Ocran.

Booked: Davison 28 (foul on Collinge), Vennings 33 (foul on Fernandes)

Goals: French 45, Davison 87

Photo: Kyle Andrews