COLCHESTER and East Essex Cricket Club lost ground in the race for promotion after being held to a frustrating draw at Woodford Wells.

The Castle Park side came agonisingly close to claiming a precious victory in their race to return to the Shepherd Neame Essex League top flight, at the first time of asking.

Joe MacGregor’s superb century and Julian Russell’s 73 produced a 164-run second-wicket partnership that helped Colchester declare on 262 for nine, off 42.5 overs.

It looked like they would get the win they needed but Woodford Wells produced a stubborn batting display to hold on for a draw on 241 for nine, off 52 overs.

Colchester gained 12 bonus points for the draw but they now lie in fourth spot in the First XI Division One table with just three games to go, 15 points adrift of the promotion places.

Having won the toss, the visitors elected to bat and it proved to be a wise decision.

Opener MacGregor led the way with a superb 109 which included 14 fours and four sixes while Russell was also in fine form.

Josh Rymell (24), Denson Narayan (17) and Simon Fernandes (18) all chipped in, as Colchester declared in an attempt to gain a vital victory.

Ollie Bocking made an early breakthrough to dismiss Joe Johnson but a second-wicket partnership of 101 between Nabel Shaikh (62) and Knut Wilmott (49) left Colchester with it all to do.

Even when Wilmott departed, Tanveer Shah (44) maintained the momentum for Woodford Wells as did Jonathan Gaffney (49 not out) after that.

And although wickets fell with regularity late on, a last-wicket stand of 13 between Gaffney and George Ellis (nine no) put paid to Colchester’s chances of winning.

Colchester will be looking to secure a big win in the promotion race when they host third-placed Belhus at Castle Park, this weekend.

In the Second XI Premier Division, Colchester II also had to settle for a draw at Upminster II.

After electing to bat first, the hosts made 246 for five declared.

In reply, opener Caspar Everett made 70 and Tashaq Husain was unbeaten on 43 but Colchester fell just short of their target, finishing up on 230 for nine in their 45 overs.