Proud Colchester boss Steve Ball praised his side’s dogged defending as they ground out a first away win of the season at Scunthorpe.
The Iron dominated possession and carved out a catalogue of chances but the only stat that mattered was Tommy Smith’s 26th-minute header, which settled the contest in the visitors’ favour.
“I’m probably the proudest I’ve been this season – and that’s not me overreacting,” Ball said.
“We knew Scunthorpe would come at us from the off – in the last six games they’ve won four and Neil Cox has really turned it around now he’s got his big players back in the side.
“We had to defend really well, but I was so proud of the lads for the way they ground it out.
“I thought that for all Scunthorpe’s pressure, our goal was the half’s best move. We know Cohen Bramall’s pace is unstoppable and it was a great goal from Tommy.
“We had a few things thrown at us a few weeks ago, rightly so, which hurt and were sore to take, but this was a real classic away performance.
“It was backs against the wall and we probably didn’t deserve to win when it comes to stats and stuff, but talk to Jose Mourinho about stats.
“Sometimes getting back behind the ball, and not having 60 per cent of the ball gets you results.”
Smith’s decisive header, from Bramall’s inviting cross, came against the run of play and was Colchester’s only real effort of the night, with goalkeeper Dean Gerken their star performer.
In the first half he denied the Iron’s Harrison McGahey with his boot and beat away a curling effort from Alfie Beestin, and after the break produced the save of the night to keep out substitute Ryan Loft at full stretch.
When Gerken was beaten, fortune was on the visitors’ side, with Devarn Green firing against the post from range and Loft seeing a header bounce down from the underside of the bar, but – to the Iron’s agony – not over the line.
“I’m left wondering how we’ve come away empty-handed,” Scunthorpe manager Neil Cox said.
“I know Colchester passed it around and kept the ball well, but we had 25 attempts on goal and we’ve lost to a soft goal.
“With Lofty’s header, the ball looked like it went over the line, but the linesman wasn’t sure and so hasn’t given it.
“We caused them problems and their keeper has made two or three good saves, but you have to give Colchester credit because they defended for their lives.
“I know we’ve been beaten, but I’m proud of the lads – the effort we put in after three hard games was excellent and exactly what we’re going to need going forward.
“Credit to my team, we had a real go.”