ALMOST a year to the day since Colchester United were humbled by Exeter City, the U’s pulled off arguably their best result under Hayden Mullins against the same opponents.

Twelve months have passed since the U’s were thrashed 6-1 on that sorry Tuesday night at St James Park, a result that set alarm bells ringing for Steve Ball and his side after an encouraging start to the season.

While Exeter went onto reach – and ultimately fall short – in the play-offs, Colchester found themselves embroiled in a League Two survival battle, one that went down to the wire.

Despite a plethora of summer signings and the addition of a number of experienced players, the U’s 1-0 defeat at Stevenage last weekend had some commentators wondering if they might be facing the unwelcome prospect of a relegation battle for the second successive season.

But Colchester’s excellent 3-1 triumph over a high-flying Exeter side who had gone into last night’s game on the back of a 20-match unbeaten run in all competitions has surely provided reassurance to those doubters.

And much like Exeter were against the U’s down in Devon 12 months ago, the U’s were clinical throughout, a quality that has largely been absent from their performances so far this season and one of the main reasons as to why they currently find themselves in 19th position and not higher in the League Two table.


It was interesting that Colchester head coach Hayden Mullins felt that his side had played better in their 1-0 defeat at Stevenage than they did against Exeter.

At the Lamex Stadium, the U’s enjoyed just as much possession as the Grecians did last night – yet possession counted for nothing on both occasions, as far as the results are concerned, at least.

Indeed, Colchester had just as many shots on target against Exeter as they did against Stevenage.

The difference – the big difference - was that they scored with all of them, against the Grecians.


Mullins came in for some stick from some, after the Stevenage game.

But the U’s boss deserves credit for the part he played in the U’s notable win.

"I asked the boys not to be cagey; we've got to be brave,” said Mullins afterwards, and that was clear in his side’s performance.

Yet Mullins too was brave in his approach, starting with attacking trio Luke Hannant, Armando Dobra and Sylvester Jasper along with leading scorer Freddie Sears against the league’s most in-form team.

And that was without the steel of Brendan Wiredu adding defensive protection in midfield.

The inclusion of Jasper and Dobra was unsurprising; over recent weeks, the loanees have established themselves as two of the first names on the teamlist for Colchester, thanks to their eye-catching performances.

But Hannant had made only seven league starts prior to last night following a Covid-interrupted pre-season and had not been named in the U’s starting line-up for nearly a month, prior to last night so to include the former Cambridge United attacker was a bolder decision.


So too was recalling skipper Tommy Smith; not that the experienced defender has ever let anyone down or is anything other than a reliable option. It’s just that the U’s club captain, like Hannant, had not started a league game for Colchester since October 26.

Smith and Luke Chambers were outstanding at the heart of the Colchester defence against Exeter and were utterly dominant in the air against a side who are the fourth-highest scorers in the division.

The enforced change that Mullins made – bringing goalkeeper Jake Turner into the side for the injured Shamal George – also paid off. The Newcastle United loanee was outstanding throughout.

It was a night where it was difficult to select a man of the match, something that speaks volumes about the quality of Colchester’s performance.

Now the key will be for them to follow it up against Newport County on Friday night and start moving up the League Two table.