With survival already comfortably secured for Carlisle United it was all eyes on Colchester as they came to Brunton Park in need of a point to secure their League One status for another year.
Striker Jabo Ibehre had issued a - we’ll rip your heads off - threat via his local press in the build-up to the game but that approach wasn’t required as a tame affair tipped in favour of the visitors thanks to two second half headed goals.
“It wasn’t the best game to watch and it’s one where we just didn’t get going," manager Greg Abbott said. “We saw bits and pieces of what we can do but that wasn’t the way we wanted to end the season at all. The goals we conceded were sloppy and there are no excuses for that. It’s massively disappointing and I agree with the grumbles because, like I say, that isn’t how we wanted to finish things off, and particularly after we’ve played so well in recent weeks."
It was Ibehre who tried to get things going with a wild shot from distance moments after kick off when he moved onto a thrown in from White. Billy Clifford followed suit with Porter and Massey screaming to be played into the box.
Brian Wilson then rifled a poor free kick from distance high over the target but Carlisle struggled to find any meaningful possession of their own as misplaced passes brought a subdued feeling to the proceedings.
A quick interchange between Thirlwell and Robson was cause for optimism and the space opened up for a low cross into the box. Loy did well when he took the ball under control with his back to goal and a spin and shot on the turn was heading for the bottom corner until Wright put a boot in the way.
Massey missed a teasing cross at one end as Livesey opted to allow it to float through to his keeper and Carlisle responded with a purposeful attack of their own. Robson crunched his cross past the first man and White had to intervene before Loy could finish it off.
The football improved from Carlisle and Loy and Potts worked their way through on the right flank as the U’s dropped deep. A lay-off for Noble invited an edge-of-the-box shot and the midfielder was disappointed to see it curl just over the bar.
Massey was guilty of a woeful miss on the half hour when Porter teed him up with a wonderful delivery, but it was easy for Gillespie as the miscued volley bobbled into his hands.
The Cumbrians survived a strong appeal for a penalty when O’Hanlon appeared to put a hand out to block a dangerous Clifford cross, but the referee waved play on as a signal from this assistant indicated nothing untoward had taken place.
Strength from Robson sparked another rare good moment from the home side as his tussle with Eastman allowed Noble to overlap. A hurried cross from the left boot had Walker worried and he had to tip the ball behind to safety. James Berrett picked a deep cross from the set-piece but Miller had to stretch and he sent his harmless header into the stands.
Livewire Liam Noble thought he’d grabbed a half time lead in time added on when he cushioned an O’Hanlon header from a Berrett free kick on his thigh. Walker was unsighted for the volley which followed and he was relieved to see it graze his upright and fly behind to safety.
Colchester stuck to their game-plan throughout a tame start to the second half and it earned them a brief sight of goal bang when Wright pounced on a poor pass from Noble. His cross had Ibehre interested but a slash from O’Hanlon sent the ball safely behind.
Wide man Matt Robson dragged a shot wide as Carlisle tried to find some momentum but Colchester grabbed the initiative and almost guaranteed their survival with 25 minutes left to play. Trickery from Porter left Mustoe on the floor but Clifford thought the moment was gone when his pile driver from 19 yards rattled back off the bar. Gavin Massey kept his eye on the ball and sparked the celebrations when his guided header somehow bobbled over the line.
The home side tried to respond and a sharp Mustoe cross brought an excellent header from Miller. Stopper Sam Walker saw it late but he readjusted to make a save on the line. Liam Noble was next to try his luck when he unleashed one from a very tight angle. He caught it well but it whisked over the bar.
The shackles were off for the U’s as time ticked on and they made sure of their divisional status when Wright lobbed a harmless looking cross towards the far post. Tom Eastman was the only player to look interested and he got his reward for that when he lobbed another weak header into an empty net.
“We have an important week ahead,” Abbott said. “We have decisions to make on our out of contract players and then the work starts to make sure we have a squad together which will really compete next season. This season hasn’t been what we wanted it to be, and today has given us things to think about, so the challenge for us is to get a group together which will take things forward for all of us.”
U's - Massey (65), Eastman (80)
United - Thirlwell (6), Mustoe (62), Noble (80)
Carlisle United - Gillespie, Potts, Livesey, O'Hanlon, Mustoe, Thirlwell (Manset 52), Noble, Berrett, Loy (Salmon 66), Miller, Robson. Subs - Collin, Simek, Murphy, Beck, Todd.
Colchester United - Walker, Wright, Okuonghae, Bean (Izzet 87), Ibehre, Eastman, Wilson, Massey, White, Porter (Garmston 70), Clifford (O’Toole 82). Subs - Cousins, Sears, Bond, Smith..
Referee - Mr Carl Boyeson
Attendance - 5,427 (364 away fans)