Port Vale's first home game of 2019 in Sky Bet League Two ended in defeat on Saturday afternoon, with a brace from Harry Pell and a strike from Courtney Senior enough to ensure that Colchester United left Burslem with all three points.
With just three minutes played, the deadlock was almost broken, but the crossbar came to Vale’s rescue. Frank Nouble did well to burst down the left flank before picking out Mikael Mandron with a low cross, and his effort bounced off the woodwork and away from danger.
That was a warning sign for the home side, but they were unable to prevent Colchester taking the lead on five minutes. Senior managed to find space to let fly from the edge of the area, and his strike took a deflection that sent the ball beyond Scott Brown and into the back of the net.
Neil Aspin’s men looked for an immediate response and they almost found that two minutes after conceding, but Tom Pope was unable to direct his header on target after rising highest to meet Luke Hannant’s corner. The two combined again to create Vale’s next chance on 15 minutes, but Hannant saw his powerful drive blocked.
Colchester went on to double their lead three minutes later as they made the most of a set piece routine. Ryan Jackson’s corner was flicked on towards the back post and it made its way to Pell who fired a strike across goal and past the reach of a despairing Brown.
Despite having a mountain to climb, the Valiants searched for a route back into the game and they went close to pulling a goal back on 26 minutes. Hannant carried the ball into the area before beating two men with some tidy footwork, only to curl the resulting effort just over the bar.
With just three minutes left to play in the first-half, Vale went agonisingly close to finding the net and Vale Park wondered how the ball hadn’t crossed the line. Whitfield’s initial effort struck the post it then fell to Luke Joyce who looked to have found the bottom corner, but he was denied by a miraculous Rene Gilmartin save.
Vale’s positive end to the first half continued into the start of the second as they mounted a series of attacks, but they were unable to find a way past an organised defence. Pope did manage to set up a superb chance with a cross on 53 minutes, but Antony Kay sent his header over from six yards.
The tempo of the game then fell flat as the visitors dropped deeper in order to defend their advantage, but they were still able to keep hold of possession and frustrate the Valiants. Things went from bad to worse on 69 minutes as Pell doubled his own tally by bending a screamer into the top corner from range, making it 3-0 to Colchester.
Louis Dodds did almost find a consolation in stoppage time as he poked a Whitfield cross on target, but his first effort was cleared off the line. He then reacted first to the rebound, but he couldn't squeeze the ball home as his follow-up was blocked by a defender.
Port Vale: Scott Brown, James Gibbons, Luke Joyce (Ricky Miller 68’), Leon Legge, Antony Kay, Manny Oyeleke, Tom Pope © (Louis Dodds 70’), Luke Hannant, Nathan Smith, Mitch Clark (Theo Vassell 86’), Ben Whitfield.
Unused Substitutes: Sam Hornby, Connell Rawlinson, Danny Pugh, Tom Conlon.
Colchester United: Rene Gilmartin, Ryan Jackson, Tom Lapslie, Luke Prosser, Courtney Senior (Brandon Comley 77’), Harry Pell, Sammie Szmodics (Ryan Gondoh 90’), Brennan Dickenson, Tom Eastman, Mikael Mandron, Frank Nouble (Luke Norris 81’).
Unused Substitutes: Dillon Barnes, Diaz Wright, Louis Dunne, Oliver Kensdale.
Attendance: 3,636 (122 away).