Senegalese skill overcame Essex endeavour at Layer Road last night as Diomansy Kamara's 19th goal of the season proved the difference between these two contenders for promotion to the Premiership. West Bromwich Albion's decisive victory took them back to second place in the Championship table as Colchester suffered their first home defeat since August.
Kamara's speed and close control troubled the home defence throughout and his goal, two minutes after Paul McShane had given Albion the lead early in the second half by bundling home Robert Koren's corner at the near post, was the best of the match. Kamara's speed took him past Matthew Mills and his sweetly-struck left-foot shot flew past Dean Gerken and into the far corner of the net.
Colchester, who made a game of it by pulling a goal back within three minutes of Kamara's strike, knew that victory would have taken them to fifth, the highest in their history. Geraint Williams's side never gave up, but in truth there was a substantial gap in quality between the two teams.
Chris Iwelumo and Jamie Cureton have been the most prolific strike partnership in the division this season, but the Colchester pair made little headway against Curtis Davies and Neil Clement at the heart of the Albion defence.
Albion dominated the first 45 minutes, though they only seriously threatened once when Carter's corner from the right struck the near post and bounced to safety. Kamara made several good runs from deep and appealed unsuccessfully for a penalty when he went down under Wayne Brown's challenge.
Albion's two goals might have knocked the stuffing out of the home side, but Colchester's response was admirable. Johnnie Jackson scored his first goal for the club with a far-post header after Kevin Watson's corner from the left, Kiely pushed a Cureton curler over the bar and the Albion goalkeeper parried a ferocious 25-yard shot from Iwelumo. However it was Albion who finished on top. Davies shot straight at Gerken after a one-two with Kamara, whose pace then set up an opportunity which Koren failed to take, his shot going wide of the far post.
"We got what we deserved," Tony Mowbray, the Albion manager, said. "We like to think we brought a different quality to the proceedings tonight. I knew that as long as we matched their endeavour we would be OK. It was a big test for us and we came through it with flying colours."
Colchester United (4-4-2): Gerken; White (Garcia, 58), Mills, Brown, Barker; Duguid, Izzet (McLeod, 75), Watson, Jackson; Cureton, Iwelumo. Substitutes not used: Cousins (gk), Baldwin, Ephraim.
West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Kiely; McShane, Davies, Clement, Robinson; Gera, Chaplow, Carter, Koren; Kamara, Hartson (MacDonald, 75). Substitutes not used: Daniels (gk), Albrechtsen, Koumas, Hodgkiss.
Referee: M Atkinson (W Yorkshire).