COHEN Bramall’s hard work has been praised after his goal gave Colchester United the advantage in their League Two play-off semi-final.

Bramall scored a fine free-kick in the latter stages of the U’s 1-0 first-leg victory over Exeter City at the JobServe Community Stadium, on Thursday night.

The 24-year-old left-back has shown plenty of quality from set pieces since joining Colchester from Arsenal, last August.

And U’s head coach John McGreal says Bramall’s after-hours work with assistant manager Steve Ball at their Florence Park training ground has paid dividends.

McGreal said: “We’ve seen it before throughout the season with Cohen.

“He’s got some quality in that left foot.

“I was really pleased with his defensive performance.

“You know he’s a threat going forward and on set pieces and you have to give Cohen and Steve Ball credit, because they do stay behind and put the work in with his technique with those free-kicks and luckily enough it’s worked out for us again.

“It’s pure technique.

“We’ve said so many superlatives about Cohen throughout the season.

“He’s new to the group but we still class him as one of our own, because he’s settled in so well.”

Colchester will take a narrow advantage to Exeter on Monday for their second leg, as they bid to reach their first play-off final at Wembley since 1998.

As there was in the first leg at the Community Stadium, there will be a drinks break in each half at St James Park in keeping with new guidelines set up following football’s return to action, after it was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The timing of the mandatory one-minute water breaks is at the discretion of the referee but they are likely to happen midway through each half.

McGreal said he understands why they are necessary but felt they hindered his side, in the first leg.

“I don’t think the drinks breaks help, to be fair,” added the U’s boss.

“I think they slow the pace of the game right down.

“The boys do need drinks at times and we get that but that kills the pace as well and it takes time to get going again, especially after having such a long time off.

“I thought it hindered us twice to be honest, in the first half and the second half.”