Cheltenham Town 1-3 Colchester United Player Ratings: Atangana impresses

John McGreal – eadt.co.uk

After a feisty encounter, Colchester United won 3-1 at Cheltenham Town 3-1 thanks to a Luke Norris brace and a Harry Pell penalty. Here’s six things from the game.

Cheltenham Town

Scott Flinders – the former Hartlepool stopper is arguably one of the best goalkeepers in League Two and was the stand-out performer in the first five games. Shouldn’t be blamed for Cheltenham conceding three goals; no shame in being beaten by two penalties and a fine free-kick. 5

Jordon Forster – the Scot played much of last season at centre-back prior to a long-term injury; here, the absence of new signing Sean Long has seen him deputize at right-back. While Forster was dominant in the air, he wasn’t confident enough in possession to attack the flank and, during the spell of second half pressure, that meant Cheltenham’s play went down the other side. 4
Johnny Mullins – the ex-Luton man is one of the few new signings at Cheltenham to have hit the ground running, adding much-needed experience and assurance to a back-line that looked erratic at times last year. It’s fair to say Cheltenham might concede fewer this year and their defence shouldn’t be blamed for the concession of three goals. Sometimes needed to hit Barnett more in possession. 6
Will Boyle – the former Huddersfield man’s height can make him a real threat from set pieces. While his form last season was hit and miss, his ability seems to be coming to the fore with a more experienced partner alongside him. 7
Tom Field – the left-back joined on loan from Brentford on Friday and was forced to make his first start a day later, due to Chris Hussey’s fitness problem. The 21-year-old, who is technically very accomplished, is working on getting stronger and becoming more switched on defensively; that should come with regular football at Whaddon Road. Field was sometimes caught out of position early on, as we saw in the lead-up to the opener, but he supported Broom well after the break. 5

Nigel Atangana – the aggressive ball-winner has, in this blog’s humble opinion, been one of the most underrated players in League Two for some time. Yes, he sometimes vacates his position – and was a tad rash when he gave away the early penalty – but he often made a good tackle as a result and his passing was positive. 8

Kevin Dawson – his endeavour couldn’t be questioned and his movement was decent at times, but he sometimes lacked the final piece of quality to maximize the positions he got into. Did score Cheltenham’s goal, in fairness. 5
Jacob Maddox – as one might expect from a loanee schooled in Chelsea’s youth setup, Maddox had quick feet in tight areas. His quality in possession though was limited and he was sometimes too eager to push into congested zones, rather than drop a few yards deeper and help Atangana control proceedings – needed to do that more, being the closest thing to a second central midfielder in the side. This low score is not to say that he did what he can do badly, but that what he can do wasn’t what Cheltenham needed within the system. 4
Ryan Broom – the Bristol Rovers academy graduate can play anywhere on either flank and add pace and directness. Not only did he cause constant problems for a 20-minute period at the start of the second half, he also looks a terrific athlete; was down injured for a couple of minutes in the first half then, moments later, sprinted halfway up the pitch to put a strong challenge in. 8

Manny Duku – the Dutchman has certainly earnt his shot at the EFL after three years in non-league with a combined five clubs, but it’s fair to say this wasn’t his day. Should have been sent off for a horrendous challenge on Eastman and was subbed midway through the second half. 4
Sam Jones – perhaps the brighter of the two forwards, Jones had Cheltenham’s best first half effort, rolling the ball just wide of the far post from just outside the box. Some good movement into the left channel in the second half. 7

Kelsey Mooney (on 54) – the Aston Villa loanee is known to have a reasonable frame but he didn’t influence proceedings too much here; although, that is perhaps to be expected given his inexperience in the senior game. 5
Tyrone Barnett (on 78) – the Port Vale loanee offered a real physical presence and caused problems for Kent. Had he come on when Mooney did, we could be looking at a different outcome. 7
Kalvin Kalala (on 89) – showed his quick feet in his short time on the pitch. 6

Colchester United

Dillon Barnes – the goalkeeper wasn’t tested as much as he might have expected to be relative to the pressure Colchester faced, but he might feel he could have done better with Dawson’s goal. Looked long for Nouble with his goal-kicks, or sometimes Mandron after he came on. 5

Frankie Kent – commanding in the first hour or so and posed a threat in the opposing box, but perhaps found life more difficult when Barnett came on. One or two important blocks after the break. 7
Tom Eastman – a solid performance in which he battled on despite being on the receiving end of a bad challenge from Duku in the first half. One or two accurate diagonal balls to Nouble. 7
Luke Prosser – the ex-Southend defender has had his battles with injury in recent years but appears to have recovered to become a key man for The U’s. 7

Ryan Jackson – the former Newport right-back’s impressive long-throws have contributed to two of Colchester’s goals this season. While he showed he was able to get distance on his long throws this year, they didn’t lead to clear cut chances on this occasion. Got up and down the flank well in the first half but found himself stretched more after the break, when he needed help from the likes of Pell. 6
Brandon Comley – sat deep for much of the game in his attempts to protect the back-line; although he excelled at denying space for Cheltenham in advanced areas, he didn’t necessarily impose himself on the contest in a positive sense. 6
Harry Pell – facing his old club, Pell showed flashes of the quality that helped Cheltenham win the National League title in 2015-16 but we mostly saw the more defensive aspects of his game; ironically, that had been something he had been questioned on while at Whaddon Road. Won the penalty for the first goal and scored from the spot for the third, much to the disgruntlement of the home supporters, although he handled the goal in a suitably subdued manner. 7
Kane Vincent-Young – the left-back has been highly-rated at Colchester for some time but here, he wasn’t able to show what he can do in an attacking sense. Looked more secure defensively after the break though than Jackson – partly because he wasn’t facing a direct wide man. 6

Sammie Szmodics – the attacking midfielder is hoping to add consistency to his game this season, but this was a relatively quiet performance from the academy graduate; although, he did win the penalty for the third goal. 5

Frank Nouble – the forward, who is selfless enough to drift into wide areas at times, enjoyed a good season at Newport last term and has continued that form here. His power, aerial strength made him a useful out-ball from deep while his pace meant, sporadically, he threatened on the break, even if he spent much of the second half sitting deeper than he might have liked. 7
Luke Norris – a ruthless poacher at this level, Norris certainly he showed a knack of getting into goalscoring positions; he also scored the penalty for the opener and hit a wonderful free-kick. In the second half though, when Colchester weren’t crafting chances for him, he lacked the pace and power to win his battles individually, which might explain why he was taken off. It might sound churlish to say, but he didn’t offer a great deal, beyond the small matter of his two goals. 6

Mikael Mandron (on 66) – brought on to provide an alternative reference point to Nouble from Barnes’ goal-kicks, but lacked the pace to get in behind. 5
Diaz Wright (on 86) – didn’t have much time to influence proceedings, although it was surprising Aaron Collins didn’t come off the bench to use on the counter. 5