Stability is what new Colchester United manager Aidy Boothroyd promised to bring his team and this close encounter at Southampton represented delivery on that pledge. The nil-all scoreline, he said afterwards, felt like a win because of slightly unfortunate first-half circumstances that almost entirely dictated the game`s nature.
The U`s lost two of their most inspirational figures, in Kem Izzet and Pat Baldwin, through back luck, the first after a correctly called dismissal and the second thanks to an awkward landing and subsequent injury.
Izzet, who Boothroyd suspected was trying to prove a point to his new manager, went in rashly on opposing midfielder Adam Lallana at the touchline and was given his marching orders. Baldwin`s injury was self-inflicted; he landed on his ankle, shortly after the defender succeeded in blocking a goal attempt from defender Wayne Thomas.
Southampton made one change, bringing in striker Matthew Paterson, while Clive Platt`s midweek goal before the watching Boothryod against Gillingham saw him recalled over eventual second-half replacement, Scott Vernon. United also brought in new laonee John-Joe O`Toole, as well as giving starts to Anthony Wordsworth and John White over the rotated Alan Maybury, Simon Hackney and David Fox.
Opposing striker, Ricki Lambert, had the game`s first effort with nearly a quarter-of-an-hour elapsed but Baldwin distracted the potentially dangerous striker to the point where his change fizzled out and went past the left-hand post.
Within five minutes later, Lambert attempted to play in his partner, Patterson, with a headed assist on goal. Although Patterson looked to have taken the ball beyond goalie, Ben Williams, a terrifically athletic interception from giant defender, Magnus Okuonghae, scooped the ball and away to stop it rolling over the line for a goal.
Neither side really seized overall control of possession -the only noteworthy attempts at attack by Colchester had ended prematurely in two offside calls against Kevin Lisbie and in an easily saved free-kick attempt from Wordsworth, enjoying his first start of the campaign.
The U`s were reduced then reduced to 10 men. Izzet, fooled by several tricky stepovers by Lallana, was shown a straight red for going in with two-footed challenge, despite his remonstrations. Coming ten minutes before the break, it was only the second sending off in his career.
Colchester were galvanised by the decision, which amid injury to Baldwin, still saw them create two great chances. With Platt`s contribution directly suffering from the dismissal as Lisbie became an auxiliary left-winger, Ashley Vincent was the man to wriggle free. He outstretched Dan Harding, beating him to a toe-poke intended for stopper, Kelvin Davis. Vincent used his pace to regain control of the ball, after losing the initial one-on-one. He launched a composed lob with deft technique, with unfortunately cannoned away from the crossbar having been agonisingly close.
Lisbie linked with Vincent again before the break, with Baldwin now afforded a standing ovation from the away support once he was eventually stretchered away and replaced by Matt Heath. Vincent managed to cross for Lisbie but his half-contact on the ball failed to test Davis and it flew wide.
Half-time: Southampton 0 – 0 U`s
Ben Williams, who looked assured despite coming under increasing second-half pressure, was tested first after interval. A header by ex-Colchester laonee, Neal Trotman, from a point-blank range was far too tame to trouble him.
At times, also both Thomas and Trotman were reduced to taking long-shots from the middle of the park as they lacked invention despite the recently well-publicised addition of another ex-man, midfielder, Dean Hammond.
He next had the first of three shots during the half, this one another comfortable catch from Williams who easily collected. Although Southampton packed the midfield, their ball-retention counted for very little as Lisbie and even full-back Marc Tierney managed to shoot for goal.
Hammond again failed to break the deadlock from 30 yards and also had a second of the Southampton support thinking he had scored during the extensive spell of injury time. The ball bobbled on the wrong side of the net.
Sub Vernon had Colchester’s best last chance, but the ball ran away from him in the final third after he had been well spotted in a dangerous area.
So ends a run of recent league defeats under caretaker Joe Dunne. Aidy Boothroy`s new era begins with a creditable draw under the most awkward conditions. This was a case of great point, well made.