COLCHESTER United are still coming to terms with the bitter disappointment of losing out in the League Two play-offs.

The U's are now already planning for another season in the fourth tier, following their painful defeat at Exeter City in the semi-finals.

John McGreal’s side were sixth when the season was curtailed in March, due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That was Colchester's highest finish for four years and it has without doubt been a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting campaign.

But the U's ultimately missed out on their goal of promotion - so what were the main positives and negatives to emerge from their season?

The Daily Gazette’s Colchester United reporter Jonathan Waldron, who has followed the U’s up and down the country again this season, examines some of the pluses and minuses from an undeniably eventful 2019-20 season.



THERE was no hiding the disappointment felt by Colchester United's players and staff in the aftermath of their play-off semi-final defeat at Exeter City - and understandably so.

But when the dust settles on a remarkable campaign, John McGreal and his squad will be able to reflect on their best season for a number of years.

And that represents healthy progress made by the U's.

When the season was cut short in March, the U's were on 58 points with nine games to go.

They were arguably on course to surpass the 70 points they had achieved the previous year, which had been their highest total in a league season since Aidy Boothroyd led the U’s to 72 points in League One, in the 2009-10 campaign.

Colchester were beaten only nine times in the league all season - with only four sides in the division losing fewer games.

That solidity was built on the bedrock of an impressive rearguard, which saw them concede just 37 times over the course of the league season - the second-best defensive record in League Two - and keep an outstanding 12 clean sheets.

After finishing sixth, the U's deserved their play-off place - who knows what might have happened had the season run its natural course?


HAVING been starved of success in knockout football for a number of years, Colchester United more than made up for their barren spell in the cup competitions this season.

The U's magnificent run to the Carabao Cup quarter-finals will live long in the memories of players, staff and supporters alike.

Beating Swindon Town in the first round of the competition was an achievement in itself, especially given the fact that the Robins went on to become champions.

But seeing off Premier League opponents Crystal Palace on penalties at Selhurst Park took it to another level.

And the U's surpassed that achievement with a magnificent triumph over Spurs at a raucous JobServe Community Stadium, in the third round.

That paved the way for an impressive win at League Two rivals Crawley Town and ultimately, an unforgettable trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United backed by thousands of their fans.

Even though the game ended in a 3-0 defeat, it was a fantastic experience for everyone.


IF truth be told, Kwame Poku was not a name on the lips of many Colchester United fans, prior to the 2019-20 season kicking off.

But by the end of the campaign, the talented teenager had certainly made a big impact in his breakthrough season.

The 18-year-old attacker, brought in from non-league Worthing having previously played for Millwall at academy level, forced his way into John McGreal's plans in the opening weeks of the season, making his debut in their Trophy win at Gillingham.

He did not look back.

By the end of the season, he was one of the first names on McGreal's teamsheet having clocked up 38 appearances and scored five goals.


YOU don't usually make the play-offs if you haven't recorded some big results over the course of the season - and that is just what Colchester United did.

Most impressively, John McGreal's side did the double over champions Swindon Town - and also beat the Robins in the Carabao Cup for good measure.

Another notable result were a comprehensive home victory over Plymouth Argyle and of the games against sides who went on to be automatically promoted, the U's lost only once.

Indeed, Colchester boasted an impressive record in general against the teams who finished in the top seven, losing twice against those opponents.


JOHN McGreal has often spoken in the past about the bond that exists between the U's and their supporters, during his time in charge.

And that alliance seemed to be enhanced further, over the course of the last season.

The U's cup run in particular feels like it has brought the fans and their club even closer together, which is why there was a cruel irony about those loyal supporters being unable to attend their recent play-off matches.



IT will probably take Colchester United's players, staff and fans alike some time to get over their play-off heartache.

It is hard to comprehend the disappointment they must have felt in the aftermath of their semi-final extra-time defeat against Exeter City, having come so close to reaching the Wembley final especially as it came in such unusual and testing circumstances amid the backdrop of Covid-19.

It is painful enough missing out on promotion but when you suffer that woe having come so agonisingly close, it must be extremely tough to take.


COLCHESTER United finished ten points off the automatic promotion places, when the League Two season was curtailed.

And while it is now hypothetical, it is also conceivable to think that had the U's turned more of their draws into wins they might have finished in the top three.

Having drawn their opening-day game against Port Vale at home, John McGreal's side shared the spoils on 12 further occasions in the league, with only four sides in the division drawing more matches.

McGreal might well point to games against the likes of Morecambe and Crawley where points were dropped from winning positions, or perhaps to the 0-0 draw at Crewe where a last-gasp missed penalty deprived them of three points.


ONE of the biggest disappointments in what was largely a very good campaign for the U's was the announcement in April that four of their senior players would be leaving the club, this summer.

When Robbie Cowling revealed that skipper Luke Prosser, Frank Nouble, Ryan Jackson and Brandon Comley would not have their contracts extended due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it was met with sadness.

The fact that three of those players produced such committed performances in both legs of the U's play-off semi-final against Exeter - despite knowing that they would not be at the club next season - says much about the professionalism and character they have shown for the U's over the years.


COLCHESTER United's season finished in dramatic fashion - which was in stark contrast to the beginning of their campaign.

The U's made an average start, with the high number of summer arrivals and departures at the club a key factor in their somewhat sluggish beginning to the season.

Prior to their opener against Port Vale, which ended in a 1-1 draw, boss McGreal had outlined what he wanted from his side.

“For me, it’s about implementing all the good things we’ve done in pre-season, to try and find a level of consistency so we can hopefully make a strong start," said McGreal.

“That’s what every club at every level will be striving for and we’re no different.”

But Colchester managed only two points from their opening four league games before eventually getting off the mark with a 1-0 win over fellow play-off side Northampton Town.

They did not really look back after that and buoyed by their cup runs, the U's gained increased momentum, as the campaign progressed.


NEW signings usually bring with them high expectations, which is why the restricted game time of some of the U's summer additions was something of a disappointment.

While the likes of Dean Gerken and Cohen Bramall came in and hit the ground running, others have taken a little longer to find their feet.

Jevani Brown was lauded following his arrival from League Two arrivals Cambridge United.

But he managed only five league starts for the U's before leaving to join Forest Green Rovers on loan, in January.

And Paris Cowan-Hall will be hoping he can build on his two substitute appearances in the play-offs next season, following an injury-hit first campaign at the JobServe Community Stadium.