Colchester United 1 West Bromwich Albion 2
West Bromwich Albion moved up to second place in the Coca-Cola Championship as they became the first visiting team to win at Colchester’s Layer Road ground since August.
After losing their first two home matches, Geraint Williams’ team had gone 14 without a home defeat but Paul McShane and Diomansy Kamara struck in two second-half minutes to end that run.
Johnnie Jackson replied almost straight away but Albion climbed above Birmingham City into second spot.
"I think my players showed a lot of togetherness and determination," said Albion manager Tony Mowbray. "We’re on a decent run at the moment - and we want to keep that going. We have immense respect for Colchester, and that’s why we built this game up to almost like a cup final."
Colchester were unchanged from the side that won at Barnsley on Saturday while, for Albion, John Hartson and Darren Carter replaced Kevin Phillips and Jason Koumas respectively.
Albion had the first effort on goal when Richard Chaplow fired in a low shot which Kem Izzet deflected wide, and Neil Clement headed over from the resulting corner.
Kamara then fired wide from 20 yards while Wayne Brown blocked after Kamara and Hartson had linked up well.
The first shot on target came midway through the opening period but Dean Gerken, in the home team’s goal, was equal to Carter’s effort and Chaplow fired wide from 30 yards, before a Carter corner hit the post and bounced clear.
That seemed to spark the home side and they fashioned an effort just after the half-hour but Jamie Cureton failed to trouble Dean Kiely.
Jackson did manage to test Kiely moments later but his 25-yard effort was saved comfortably by the former Portsmouth stopper, before Izzet fired wide from distance.
The visitors began the second half brightly and Hartson sent a left-footed shot narrowly wide of the post inside the first 30 seconds before Zoltan Gera sent a 30-yard effort over the bar.
Albion were rewarded five minutes into the second half when Robert Koren’s corner from the left was turned in by McShane for his first league goal for the club.
Two minutes later Kamara beat Gerken with a smart close-range finish, from a Chaplow pass, for his seventh goal in six matches.
But Colchester hit back almost straight away when Kevin Watson’s corner was flicked on to Jackson and he fired home his first goal for the club.
Colchester threw caution to the wind shortly after as striker Richard Garcia came on for defender John White as the home side tried to get back into the encounter.
Cureton came close to bringing them level with a 20-yard effort which Kiely had to tip over his bar.
Albion should have grabbed the game’s fourth goal when another Koren corner was met by McShane six yards out but his header went over the bar.
Curtis Davies then broke through but was denied by the feet of Gerken while, at the other end, Kiely had to make a fine save to deny Chris Iwelumo after Karl Duguid had played him in.
McShane then saw a header — this time from a Carter corner — saved by Gerken and substitute Sherjill MacDonald’s shot was also claimed by the Colchester stopper.
The Belgian striker also fired wide from 20 yards, Gerken denied Kamara and Koren had an effort blocked by Garcia as Albion saw out the game.
* Albion will play Middlesbrough away in the fifth round of the FA Cup on Saturday following Boro’s win on penalties, by 5-4, after drawing 2-2 with Bristol City after extra time at the Riverside.
Scorers: McShane (51) 0-1; Kamara 52 (0-2); Jackson (55) 1-2.
COLCHESTER: Gerken; White (Garcia 58), Mills, Brown, Barker, Duguid, Watson, Izzet (McLeod 76), Jackson, Iwelumo, Cureton. Subs: Cousins, Baldwin, Ephraim.
WEST BROMWICH ALBION: Kiely; McShane, Curtis Davies, Clement, Robinson, Gera, Carter, Chaplow, Koren, Hartson (MacDonald 76), Kamara. Subs: Daniels, Albrechtsen, Koumas, Hodgkiss.
Referee: Martin Atkinson (W Yorkshire).
Bookings: Albion — Carter, McShane. Colchester— Izzet.