JUST when they needed it most, Colchester United pulled a result out of the bag that could go a long way to securing their Football League status.

And after winning 3-2 at Crawley Town on Grand National Day to climb out of the League Two relegation zone, the U’s will now feel they are on the home straight in their battle to stay up.

Not that the job is done yet; far from it.

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Colchester still need points on the board from their remaining four matches and it is still a precarious situation.

But their fine victory at Broadfield Stadium, their first at the venue since goals from Mikael Mandron and Sammie Szmodics secured a 2-0 win there on Boxing Day, 2017, will give Danny Cowley’s side huge confidence as they head into the final days of what has been another challenging season.

Colchester’s win at Crawley was a collective effort, from the players on the pitch, to Danny Cowley serving a touchline ban in the stands, to Nicky Cowley and his coaching colleagues on the touchline, to the 950-plus U’s fans who had made the trip to West Sussex to cheer their team on.

Everyone stood up to the challenge from their play-off chasing hosts but there was one man in particular who stood out.


Tom Hopper’s work ethic and commitment to the cause has never been in doubt since he joined the U’s from Lincoln City; he just has not scored the goals to go with it.

But against Crawley, he produced the complete performance, scoring twice and being cruelly denied what would have been a hugely-deserved first-ever professional hat-trick following a controversial intervention by the assistant referee, leading to his second-half header being ruled out.

No-one would have deserved a hat-trick more than Hopper, who admitted afterwards he was devastated to not take home the match ball.

Nevertheless, he can be proud of his performance, where he spearheaded the U’s display and helped them claim a valuable win.

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Sam Hornby also played his part, having been handed his first league start for Colchester since November, 2022.

It was a big call for Danny Cowley to drop Owen Goodman, who has been a near-ever present for the U's this season and bring in a player who has hardly played.

But Hornby is a reliable professional and it proved to be the right call, given his competent performance.


The victory leaves Colchester a point above the relegation zone with four games remaining, after Sutton United struck late to claim a point at Harrogate Town.

The U’s, who have two games in hand on Sutton, host Grimsby Town on Tuesday night knowing that a win would hugely boost their chances of staying up.

The going hasn’t been good for the U’s this season but another all-round performance like the one at Crawley from both players and fans can help ensure that they can be odds on to be first past the post, in the battle for League Two survival.