Stevenage caretaker boss Robbie O’Keefe was relieved a controversial call went in his side’s favour as they beat Colchester 1-0 at the Lamex Stadium.
A cagey contest looked to be heading for a goalless first half when Colchester goalkeeper Shamal George brought down Elliott List just inside the area in the third minute of stoppage time.
And List’s spot-kick proved the game-winner as the Us hung on for the three points and sealed their first win in seven Sky Bet League Two games.
O’Keefe said: “It’s not how I really want to play if I’m being absolutely honest, but it was a case of working out a way to win the game.
“I thought it was a penalty and I also thought it showed an awful lot of bravery from the players in the build-up to the goal as well.
“It would have been easy just to hook it on but we brought it down, played it into a pocket in behind the press which we’d identified in the week and then the through ball to Listy.
“In those situations, there’s only ever going to be a penalty or a goal in my eyes and his pace got him there, with Elliott brought down for the penalty.”
Colchester keeper George had denied Jake Taylor in the second minute but the visitors had the better of the first half after that.
Livewire Sylvester Jasper’s long-range effort was pushed around a post by Stevenage keeper Adam Smith.
And Jasper was denied in similar style by Smith later in the half after he had run at the home defence, and Colchester’s Frank Nouble had an effort ruled out for offside just after the break.
Both sides created opportunities throughout a contest that saw Colchester enjoy 56% possession and five shots to Stevenage’s single attempt.
And Boro should have doubled their lead just after the hour when the unmarked Luke Norris sent a weak header straight at substitute goalkeeper Jake Turner from Luther James-Wildin’s precise cross as the hosts clinched victory.
Colchester head coach Hayden Mullins, who argued George was wrongly penalised, was frustrated by a result that saw his side outperform their opponents.
He said: “It’s such a tough one to take.
“We controlled so much of the game and we’ve really got to try and score when we’re on top, stamp our authority on the game and make those chances count.
“We were comfortable for very large spells of the game. We got into really good areas of the pitch but we’re committing a few too many bodies forward for my liking.
“I think that’s what happened with the goal – we left them with a little bit too much grass to run into.”