Colchester manager Hayden Mullins declared that Freddie Sears is an example for all young players after the 31-year-old striker earned the Essex outfit a 1-1 home draw with Newport.
Sears, who played with Mullins in the Premier League for West Ham, grabbed his eighth goal of the season for the U’s to cancel out Dom Telford’s 14th in 2021-22 for the visitors.
But it was the quality of how Sears found space for his 78th-minute finish – his fifth goal in seven outings – that impressed Mullins most.
“It was a goal of real quality and, if any youngsters get the chance, they should look at his movement for it, because he made three subtle moves to get in,” the U’s boss said. “He’s been making those runs for the last three or four weeks and he’s getting his rewards.
“His finish was also top class on his left foot. The keeper was in no man’s land, but it’s still a tough finish from that angle.”
Mullins was also happy with the spirit his side showed to build on the 3-1 home triumph over high-flying Exeter just three nights earlier.
He added: “I’m really pleased with the character the players showed to get back into the game having been down for so long and having not started very well. We were slow and didn’t look like ourselves and I think Tuesday took a lot out of us.
“We gave the ball away too many times and did that close to our goal too many times, which happened for their goal. We were the masters of our own downfall during the first half, but the players will learn from that.”
Newport boss James Rowberry refused to accept, however, that his players had been affected by a punishing schedule that had handed them long trips to Crawley and Colchester in the space of three days.
He did not make a single substitution at the JobServe Community Stadium and argued: “The fact that we didn’t win was nothing to do with the mileage we have been doing because we had enough chances to win. I didn’t make any changes because I didn’t feel that I needed to.
“I’m as disappointed and as frustrated by the game as I have been during my time as manager because the only thing our keeper had to do was pick the ball out of the net. They had a fair bit of possession but did not threaten our goal and we had so many chances to win the game, but we were just not clinical enough.”
Goalkeeper Joe Day was caught stranded out of his goal for Sears’ 78th-minute leveller, but Rowberry insisted: “I won’t criticise my players to the media. I made that commitment to myself and them when I started the job and we win, lose or draw as a collective.”