When you are rooted to the bottom of the league table, with eight defeats in your last nine games and just five wins all season, survival becomes a relative concept. A deserved win over local rivals Ipswich thanks to two Scott Vernon goals meant that Colchester rejoiced in a victory which staves off the inevitable relegation by one week at least.
If any indication was needed as to how Colchester had found themselves in a situation where defeat on Saturday would have confirmed their participation in League One next season, one needed only to look at the statistics. This was just their second clean sheet of a season which has seen them score more goals than Bristol City, who sit on top of the division. Their other clean sheet came back in August, 39 games ago, so goalkeeper Dean Gerken could be forgiven for being elated. "I'm happy for the goalkeeper as he's had to put up with some sloppiness in front of him this season," manager Geraint Williams said. "He's doing cartwheels in the dressing-room."
Despite the victory, relegation looms large. "We can only win our games," Williams said. "If you look at the points total it's going to be very, very difficult. We can only get a maximum of 48 points so what we'll do is try and get 48 points. Whatever happens, it's important we try to keep the nucleus of this squad together."
Ipswich are currently one point outside the play-off positions and appear to be in a battle with six other teams for the last remaining slot. "I think we have to win all five remaining games," was Ipswich manager Jim Magilton's assessment of his side's hopes.
Vernon scored in each half to secure Colchester's victory. The first had a touch of class you would not necessarily expect from the Championship's bottom side. Vernon took Kevin Lisbie's pass in his stride, took two Ipswich defenders out of the game with a feint before finishing comfortably with the outside of his foot. The second was less subtle but equally emphatic, with Vernon shooting powerfully with his left foot from the edge of the box.
As the jubilant crowd departed, determined to leave reality to one side and simply savour a derby victory, a Colchester steward best summed up the euphoria. "Now we can be relegated happy," he said.
Goals: Vernon (29) 1-0; Vernon (73) 2-0.
Colchester (4-4-2): Gerken; Ifil, Coyne, Heath, White; Duguid, Hammond, Jackson, Elito; Lisbie, Vernon. Substitutes not used: Cousins (gk), Izzet, McLeod, Guy, Balogh.
Ipswich (4-4-2): Bywater; Simpson, Bruce, De Vos, Sito; Williams (Miller, 85), Garvan, Sumulikoski (Rhodes, 62), Quinn (Roberts, 58); Haynes, Lee. Substitutes not used: Colgan (gk), Wright.
Referee: A D'Urso (Essex).
Booked: Ipswich Sito.
Man of the match: Heath
Attendance: 6,264.Reuse content