Colchester Mark Championship Return With Win
COLCHESTER UNITED 2 (Schrembi 45, Kieftenbeld O.G. 49) BIRMINGHAM 0
Colchester recorded a 2-0 win on the opening day of the 2018/19 Championship season to mark their return to the second tier over Birmingham.
The club returned to the Championship for the first time since 2008 to a sellout crowd at the Weston Homes Community Stadium. The ground had underwent a slight makeover during the Summer as the club upgraded the capacity to 14,500 to match the recent changes to the minimum capacity allowed within the league.
Nick Pope, Corey Jordan, Simone Palombi, Jackson Irvine, Grant Leadbitter, Sullay Kaikai and Andre Schembri all started for the U's to make their official debuts for the club, whilst Sol Bamba came off the bench during the late exchanges of the game. Sean Kavanagh would make his first start since making his loan move from Fulham permanent, Bradley Fewster wouldn't make it off the bench.
Birmingham also lined up with a strong eleven, Ryan Shotton did feature despite widespread interest from Derby County, who appointed ex Brummie boss Gary Rowett earlier this month. Lukas Jutkiewicz led the line for Birmingham after Pietro Iemmello would miss the season opener with injury.
Birmingham boss Nigel Pearson was looking for a stronger start than that they had with Brian McDermott last season and they nearly took the lead with the first real chance of the game in the 31st minute. Karim Frei's darting inside run found Che Adams who teed up Jutkiewicz however his effort was straight at Nick Pope.
It was the visitors who were getting the chances in a rather low-quality first chance. Jutkiewicz again came close, however his header from a long ball upfield from Ryan Shotton was easily held by the Colchester keeper Pope again.
Colchester were very much kept quiet until the goal, which came right on the stroke of half-time. A lovely passing move was how the goal came about as just about everyone got involved with a pass or two until the ball found Andre Schembri on the edge of the area who placed the ball perfectly into the top right hand corner.
Their lead was doubled early on in the second half as a corner from Grant Leadbitter was bundled around the box until it fell to Sullay Kaikai, who's effort originally seemed to be flying harmlessly past the goal, wickedly deflected off Kieftenbeld knee and past Joao Virginia in the Birmingham goal.
With that goal seemed to be the end of any Birmingham attack as the Blues players looked out of ideas and highly fatigued. Admiral Muskwe did provide a little bit of pace up front as he came on for a frustrated Jutkiewicz, however lacked any finish if a rare attack did come for the visitors.
Colchester were unlucky not to go 3-0 up late on as a long-range effort from Jackson Irvine was tipped over the bar spectacularly from the Birmingham keeper, one of very few Blues players who could realistically say they had somewhat of a decent afternoon.
Paddy McLaughlin's side did hold on for a well-deserved 2-0 win however, marking a strong return to the Championship and the perfect start for the U's as they look to survive in the second tier. The Irishman claimed it was 'vital to start well,'
and this afternoon was 'the first step to doing so,'
he claimed after the game.
Colchester United: Nick Pope, Lawrie Wilson, Paul Digby, Corey Jordan (Bamba, 66), Sean Kavanagh, Yaser Kasim, Jackson Irvine, Grant Leadbitter, Simone Palombi, Sullay Kaikai (Dickenson 55), Andre Schembri.
Substitutes not used: Dean Brill, Semi Ajayi, Bradley Fewster, Sean Murray, Drey Wright.
Birmingham: Joao Virginia, Emiliano Nsue, Michael Morrison, Ryan Shotton (Jake Clarke-Salter, 60), Chieck Keita, Viv Solomon-Otobor (David Davis, 45), Robert Tesche, Karim Frei, Maikel Kieftenbeld, Che Adams, Lukas Jutkiewicz (Admiral Muskwe, 55).
Substitutes not used: Tomasz Kuszczak, Jacques Maghoma, Josh Dacres-Cogley, Diego Fabbrini.