Colchester United (Away) – Papa Johns’ Trophy

Jun 2, 2023 | 2023 A Season in Review

The Jobserve Stadium Wednesday 23rd November 2022

Colchester United 1

Sears (84)

Bristol Rovers 2

Connolly (53), Saunders (90+5)

Referee Thomas Kirk Attendance: 669

And so, on a cold night in Colchester’s Jobserve Stadium, we gathered for another round of EFL (Papa John’s) Trophy games; it’s time the authorities had another look at the format of this seldom watched competition!

A total of 669 hardy souls were in attendance, and that included 50 Gasheads. Colchester must have lost money on the night.

I agree that the early rounds of this much maligned competition failed to see huge crowds in attendance, even before the introduction of Premier League U-21 sides, but attendances of less than 1,000 at many games, surely means that drastic surgery is required.

Money, of course, talks, but goodness knows if Papa John’s think their outlay is worth it; only at the Wembley final stage, I would suggest!

Manager Joe Barton, although making six changes his side for the previous game, still fielded a strong lineup against a home side with only two teams below them in the League Two standings.

His side fashioned a couple of early chances; the recalled John Marquis should have done better than direct his sixth minute header straight at goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara, while the shot stopper turned a shot from Antony Evans around the post ten minutes later.

Colchester’s one big chance of the half came in the 23rd minute when a corner from the left found the unmarked Samson Tovide at the back post. Thankfully, he directed his powerful header well wide of the target.

Keeper Anssi Jaakkola was injured and required treatment at one point in the half, though seemed happy to carry on after treatment and the first half petered out with no side able to make the breakthrough.

Ryan Loft, who appeared to struggle on his return to first team action after injury, was replaced at the break by Josh Coburn and, thankfully, Rovers took the lead eight minutes after the restart when a free kick taken by Evans out on the right, saw Bobby Thomas head back across goal and James Connolly apply the finishing touch.

Jaakkola’s first half injury proved to be a dead leg and he made way for James Belshaw with 68 minutes on the clock.

Rovers’ goal really should have been game over, as Colchester had looked weak in attack. However, the introduction of Matty Longstaff and Freddie Sears improved them as an attacking unit though Barton’s side looked distinctly untroubled as they seemed destined for victory.

They had a rude awakening with six minutes, remaining, though, as substitute Sears saw a shot deflect past James Belshaw. It was Colchester’s first shot on target all night!

With the prospect of a penalty shootout looming, we entered the seven minutes of added time resigned to the fact that our stay in deepest, darkest, Essex, would be prolonged by at least another 30 minutes. Deep Joy!

Thank goodness, therefore, for another substitute, Harvey Saunders, who scrambled the winning goal over the line in the fifth minute of added time after Kieran O’Hara had made a mess of saving a cross from James Gibbons and Rovers were through to the last 16 of a competition that no one loves.

Colchester United: O’Hara, Chambers, Smith, Hannant, Judge (Longstaff, 55), Ashley (Huws, 46), Newby (Chester, 82), Tchamedeu, Kazeem, Tovide (Sears, 55), Nouble (Chilvers, 74).

Substitutes: Collins, Eastman

Bristol Rovers: Jaakkola (Belshaw, 68), Gibbons, Connolly, Thomas, Clarke (Hoole, 82), Finley (Rossiter, 70), Evans, McCormick, Collins (Saunders, 70), Loft (Coburn, 46), Marquis.

Substitutes: Kilgour, Westbrooke.


There were no former Rovers players in the Colchester United side

No yellow cards

Sam Finley was skipper and when he was substituted it was Jordan Rossiter

Five substitutes used

Nine added minutes

(Photos courtesy of JMP)

Keith Brookman