So on a beautifully sunny, and windy, afternoon at the Park, City stormed to a fine 2-0 win over promotion chasing Colchester United in front of a stand-bursting 6297 supporters. City lined up: Jones; Edwards, Taylor, Duffy; Friend, Harley, Sercombe, Dunne, Tully; Stewart, Corr.
Despite some pretty heavy overnight rain that continued into the morning, sunshine and a stiff breeze from mid morning onwards - plus the sterling efforts of the ground staff - ensured the game would go ahead. And it was City who took full advantage. In the fifth minute the ball was played to Corr on the edge of the box, but poor control when trying to turn meant the ball was easily lost. However Corr showed great determination in winning the ball back before successfully turning at the second attempt and firing low towards the far corner, unfortunately just flashing the ball the wrong side of the post.
Colchester had a glorious chance to take the lead in the 15th minute though. The ball was crossed from the right and from about eight yards out David Prutton butted a powerful header goalwards. Jones instinctively stretched out a strong left hand to deflect the ball away with a truly world class save, then Duffy was on hand to clear the deflection as Ian Henderson looked to pounce from close range.
Midway through the half a Sercombe foul right on the edge of the box gave Colchester a second chance to open the scoring, but Prutton's gloriously dipping, swinging free kick crashed back off the cross bar before wastefully being smashed over the fence and somewhere down Oxford Road behind Jones' goal.
But City were giving as good as they got with Sercombe drilling a ball out wide to Tully scampering down the right. His good looking cross to the far post saw a defender just beat Corr to the ball and it was blasted over the bar and high into the massed ranks of City fans on the Big Bank. Then good work from Corr released Dunne to run into the box, but as he raced across the six yard box his shot was blocked at source.
In the 28th minute a hamstring injury to Rob Edwards - 'it's nothing serious' opined the big man after the game - meant the introduction of Fleetwood in his stead as City reverted to a 4-3-3 formation with Friend and Tully reverting to more conventional roles and Fleetwood joining Stewart and Corr up front.
The effect was almost immediate as within three minutes City were in the lead. Taylor's headed clearance found Stewart up towards the half way line where he hoisted it on for Fleetwood to chase down the left. Winning the race with two defenders, Fleets controlled the ball in the box, cut back inside onto his favoured right before steering the ball around the keeper from about eight yards out where it bobbled into the far corner of the net to make it 1-0 to City.
In the 40th minute it was City's turn to rue a missed opportunity as Corr was fouled 25 yards out. Up stepped Harley to take the free kick in line with the keeper's left hand post, where he bent it over the wall and towards the top right corner of the goal. Unfortunately with the keeper well beaten he saw his shot skim off the top of the bar and into the crowd behind.
The final action of an entertaining first half came in the final minute, and again saw City spurn a good chance. Harley's free kick from the left just inside the Colchester half saw the ball lifted to the edge of the box on the right hand side. With Corr and Taylor getting in each other's way, Corr could only plant a weak header straight to the keeper and the chance was gone.
In the second half, with Colchester enjoying the lion's share of the opening exchanges, it was Sercombe who bought City back into it with a rasping drive into the keeper's midriff from distance. The two teams cancelled each other out for the next fifteen minutes as defenders got the better of forwards, but after a fantastic passage of play where City played the ball around with the nonchalance and swagger of a team at the top of the table rather than one fighting relegation, City had another great chance for a second goal.
Harley's clever dink into the area was read perfectly by the scurrying Fleetwood where he delivered a perfectly measured cross to Stewart at the far post. Unfortunately a defender was equally alert and cut out the cross just as Stewart looked to convert.
Midway through the half the hard working - and exhausted - Corr was replaced by Logan in a like for like substitution as City continued to push forward in search of a second goal. On the half hour Harley set off down the left. Seeing Stewart jogging back from an offside position he cleverly lifted the ball in his direction as defenders looked to appeal. Stewart showed equal nous by ignoring the ball completely giving Harley a free run onto his own ball in acres of space. With both room and time, Harley measured his cross towards Logan racing into the box but once again a defender was alert to the danger and cleared the ball before Logan had chance to shoot.
In the 40th minute it was Jones to the rescue with his second world class save of the game, this time, if it were at all possible, in more spectacular fashion than the first. A long throw from the right was flicked on to the far post where a Colchester striker burst through the crowd to butt an unstoppable towards the left hand side of the goal at about head height from six yards out. Somehow Jones launched himself across goal to palm the ball away to safety with an unbelievable save from a certain goal.
A minute later the ball was back up the other end where Logan nodded back into the path of Sercombe. He in turn played the ball out to Stewart on the left who struck a ferocious shot from the corner of the box that just steered wide of the far post. With full time looming, and Colchester pushing, Fleetwood burst free down the right with defenders in frantic pursuit. With Logan piling down the middle, Fleets played him in for a one on one with Williams in the Colchester goal. Williams stayed big to smother Logan's shot, but the rebound fell kindly to Fleetwood who looked to make the game safe with a 15 yard effort. It hit the arm of defender Steven Gillespie instead and the referee immediately pointed to the spot.
Up stepped Harley and in confident fashion gleefully smashed the ball low to the keeper's right in the ball sized space between fingertip and post to send three sides of the ground into delirium and seal City's third consecutive home win.
With an unbelievable five minutes of stoppage time signaled, it looked more like a third for City rather than one back from Colchester as their fans streamed en masse from the away end, and this was almost the case as Fleetwood scurried across the box in the 49th minute before seeing his low shot smothered at source by the keeper.
And so it was that City made it six games unbeaten with back to back to back home wins, and in fine fashion too. At times, especially in the second half, the ball retention and passing was as good as has been seen at any time during the season, which is all the more remarkable given the pudding nature of the pitch.
In goal Jones pulled off two what can only be described as miraculous saves. As important as goals are at the other end, keeping them out is equally as vital. Put it this way, if it weren't for him it would have been 2-2, and we'd only be three points from the drop zone and not five.
In front of him Taylor and Duffy worked furiously in the heart of the defence with Duffy earning the sponsors' man of the match award. Outside them Friend and Tully were equally combative at full back, with Tully in particular showing a fair turn of speed down the right.
In the middle Dunne continued his good run of form, and top scorer Harley was back at his very best with effortless movement and infinite time and space to play his passes. The third of the trio came into his own today I though, with Sercombe playing with the sort of strength, aggression and passion that we always knew was there, but at last is coming to the fore.
And then there's wise old head Stewart up front, with intelligent probing and passing providing the ammunition for firstly Corr then latterly Logan and Fleetwood. A word for Fleets too, who's been something of an enigma of late. Today he had a solid game, scored one and set up the other. You can't ask for more than that.
So it's with great confidence that we move on to Brentford on Monday. Last season we came within seconds of securing a famous win in search of the title, this season we're looking for a win for a whole different set of reasons. But we'll have to continue to play as we have done today and in recent weeks. We might be up to the heady heights of 16th and in danger of mid table obscurity, but with the table as close as it is it only takes one or two bad results to plunge us right back into the middle of the scrap.
So do your best boys and keep the momentum going. I'm sure the fans will turn up in numbers just like last year too, and if we can get anything then there's sure to be a bumper crowd back here at the Park next weekend when Leyton Orient are the visitors.
If all goes to plan we could be a whopping 11 points clear of the bottom four with a mere five games remaining, so let's continue our noisy backing of the lads and try and ensure our safety as quickly as possible. The boys have been doing it on the pitch, and we've been doing it in the stands too - one for all and all four one a bunch of French guys used to say, so let's see you all back here next week as we continue this rip roaring roller coaster of a season back in League One. I just can't wait.Share