A SPIRITED second-half display was not enough to prevent Colchester United from bowing out of this season’s Leasing.com Trophy after losing 2-1 at home to League Two rivals Stevenage.

The U’s had trailed 2-0 at the break in the second-round tie at the JobServe Community Stadium, following Jason Cowley’s first-half brace for the visitors.

Colchester were much improved after the interval but despite pulling a goal back just after the hour mark thanks to Chris Stokes’ own goal, they were unable to secure an equaliser to exit the competition.

Colchester head coach John McGreal made two changes to his starting line-up for their game against Stevenage.

Ethan Ross, who has started every game for the U’s in this season’s EFL Trophy, started between the sticks while Callum Harriott also started.

Dean Gerken dropped to the bench, while Luke Norris was suspended.

Colchester went into the game after a ten-day break between fixtures and it showed in their first-half performance, where they looked uncharacteristically rusty and disjointed.

The U’s fell behind in only the fourth minute when Cowley slotted home from the spot, after Tom Eastman had been adjudged to have tripped Elliott List in the area.

Stevenage looked the brighter of the two teams in the early stages and almost made it 2-0 in the ninth minute when Emmanuel Sonupe was released by goalkeeper Paul Farman’s long throw out and advances towards the area before drilling a low shot towards goal that Ross saved at his near post.

The U’s came close to falling further behind in the 15th minute when U’s skipper Luke Prosser was controversially adjudged to have fouled Sonupe in the area.

But Ross did well to save Cowley’s penalty, to ensure the U’s trailed by only one goal.

However, Colchester suffered a further blow in the 18th minute when experienced Ryan Jackson was forced off injured and Tom Lapslie replaced him at right-back.

The hosts tried hard to get back into the game and enjoyed plenty of joy down the left flank but more often than not, any deliveries into the box went to waste.

At the other end, Stevenage continued to look lively and just after the half hour, Ross did well to get down low and save after Cohen Bramall had inadvertently deflected Charlie Lakin’s curled free-kick towards his own goal.

And Stevenage doubled their lead in the 32nd minute through Cowley, who found some space on the edge of the U’s area and slammed in a shot that deflected in off Eastman.

Craig Mackail-Smith's shot from a tight angle was saved at his near post by Ross just before the break, as the U’s went in at half-time with it all to do.

Colchester tried hard to get back into the tie and almost reduced the deficit just before the hour mark when Harriott’s fine foot work culminated in a low left foot shot that Farman did well to hold on to at his near post.

And the U’s made the breakthrough in the 62nd minute when Stevenage defender Stokes sliced into his own net from close range, after Frank Nouble had did brilliantly down the left and delivered a low cross into the six-yard box.

Luke Gambin was immediately sent on for Pell as Colchester sought an equaliser and they almost got one with 20 minutes remaining when keeper Farman denied Courtney Senior’s close-range effort with his legs, before Bramall’s long-range follow-up whistled inches past the far post.

Farman pushed away Kwame Poku’s long-range effort soon after as the U’s pressed.

Mackail-Smith volleyed into the side netting for Stevenage but Colchester had a big penalty shout turned down with six minutes to go when substitute Luke Gambin’s attempted cross struck Stokes’ hand in the area.

Six minutes of stoppage-time were played but despite having all of the pressure in the final stages the U's could not find an equaliser and exited the competition.


Colchester United goals: Stokes (own goal, 62).

Stevenage goals: Cowley (4, 32).

Colchester United bookings: Comley (foul, 27), Pell (foul, 42).

Stevenage bookings: Timlin (foul, 15), Digby (foul, 52), Soares (unsporting behaviour, 63), Farman (unsporting behaviour, 90).

Attendance: 959 (53 Stevenage fans).

Colchester United: Ross, Jackson (sub Lapslie, 18), Eastman, Prosser, Bramall, Pell (sub Gambin, 63), Comley, Senior, Poku, Harriott (sub Robinson, 76), Nouble.

Substitutes (not used): Sowunmi, Clampin, Brown, Gerken.

Stevenage: Farman, Stokes, Digby (sub Carter, 74), Soares, Vancooten, Lakin (sub Cuthbert, 77), List (sub Fernandez, 65), Timlin, Sonupe, Cowley, Mackail-Smith.

Substitutes (not used): Husin, Bastien, Smith, Smyth.

U’s man of the match: Frank Nouble.

Referee: Neil Hair.

NEXT UP: Colchester United v Salford City, League Two, Saturday, 3pm.