Freddie Sears struck early in the second half to secure Colchester United a crucial 1-0 win over Preston North End this afternoon.

U's keeper Sam Walker was forced to pull off a superb save in the opening stages when he dived full stretch to deny Andy Proctor's effort.

But Preston keeper Thorsten Stuckmann denied Sears and midway through the first half, Gavin Massey's first-time thunderbolt rattled the post.

There was little to choose between the two sides for the remainder of the first half, on what was a difficult surface.

Sears' first-time effort flew just wide for Colchester early in the second half but the former West Ham striker gave Colchester the lead ten minutes after half-time with a close-range effort, after Jabo Ibehre had sprung the offside trap and lifted a shot towards goal.

Lee Holmes struck the crossbar from the edge of the area for Preston but the visitors were reduced to ten men with eight minutes to go when Bailey Wright was sent off following an off the ball altercation with U's striker Ibehre.

Colchester held out against the ten men to secure a vital win and boost their survival hopes.

For a full match report, pictures and reaction to Colchester United's game against Preston North End, see Monday's Daily Gazette.