Colchester - 0
Town - 1 (Collins '53)
JAMES Collins stepped off the bench to hammer home the winner on a bitterly cold night at The Weston Homes Community Stadium on Tuesday night.
A Town squad depleted by injuries and illness fought valiantly all night to return home to Wiltshire with all three points.
Manager Paolo Di Canio made three changes to the side that drew at Crawley Town on Saturday with Nathan Thompson and Alan Navarro replacing Alan McCormack and Simon Ferry – with the benched duo still suffering from illness. Adam Rooney was also recalled to the line-up after his goal at the weekend with James Collins named as just one of four substitutes.
The first ten minutes of the game were predictably scrappy on a pitch still slick from significant pre-match snowfall. The opening chance fell to Town thanks to an 11th minute cross from Andy Williams found
Darren Ward, still up from a corner, but the defender headed wide from the penalty spot.
Sustained Swindon pressure followed with Andy Williams and Gary Roberts both finding space without really challenging Sam Walker in the U’s goal. Colchester’s first test of Wes Foderingham saw the stopper get down low to his right to keep out an effort from John White with 20 minutes on the clock.
Adam Rooney was denied by Brian Wilson on the line before Ward went agonisingly close with a header. Irishman Rooney was at it again moments later but saw his driving run blocked for a corner.
Foderingham had to be at his acrobatic best to deny Billy Clifford on the half hour, tipping the ball over for a corner which Town cleared at the second attempt.
On the stroke of half-time Town had a trio of chances in quick succession with Tommy Miller seeing his effort run loose to Rooney who was denied by Walker, with Roberts unable to take aim with the loose ball.
With the score at 0-0 going into the second half, Di Canio replaced Italian wideman De Vita with James Collins in a move that saw Rooney switch to the left flank.
It was a change that took just eight minutes to pay dividends. A driving run from Roberts down the right saw the winger slide the ball into Collins who smashed home past Walker from the angle inside the box. It was an emphatic finish from the frontman and he celebrated in front of the 337 Town fans there to see it.
The second Town change followed just before the hour with Navarro replaced by Simon Ferry. It had been a return to action for Navarro following a serious knee injury sustained against Coventry City in October.
It could have been 2-0 to the visitors on 65 minutes with a superb Town move seeing Collins and Williams involved before a pass across the face of the box from Thompson found Miller. The stand-in captain set his sights but saw his left-footed effort saved by Walker.
There was another opening for the Reds with 20 minutes remaining as Walker flung himself to his right to palm away an effort from Williams who had broken free. Roberts then tried his luck from the edge of the box after being played in by Ferry but saw his effort blocked with 15 minutes left.
With time running out, Williams could not pick out Collins while substitute Alan McCormack found Gary Roberts with an inch-perfect cross but the winger saw his header brilliantly kept out by Walker. In injury time Flint was also denied by the firm hand of Walker as Town ground out the victory.
Swindon Town: Wes Foderingham, Nathan Thompson, Darren Ward, Aden Flint, Jay McEveley, Gary Roberts, Alan Navarro (Ferry), Tommy Miller (Capt), Raffaele De Vita (Collins), Adam Rooney (McCormack), Andy Williams
Substitutes: Leigh Bedwell, Simon Ferry, James Collins, Alan McCormack
Colchester United: Sam Walker, David Wright, Magnus Okuonghae, Freddie Sears, Jabo Ibehre, Brian Wilson, Gavin Massey, John White, George Porter, Josh Thompson, Billy Clifford
Substitutes: Mark Cousins, Clinton Morrison, Andy Boyd, Marcus Bean, Tom Eastman, Drey Wright, Jack Compton