Stevenage boss Graham Westley poured praise on his battling side after they survived an early Tom Soares red card to hold promotion-chasing Colchester to a goalless draw at the Lamex Stadium.
Soares walked down the tunnel in the 19th minute after a foul on Colchester’s Luke Gambin but his teammates, one place above bottom-side Morecambe, held Colchester at bay as Paul Farman produced miracles between the sticks.
“What a work ethic – what a hunger, what a desire, what an appetite, what a togetherness,” commented Westley. “It was like the days of old.
“We all want to see a game of football out there; we don’t want to see a side backs to the wall, hanging on and having to put a defensive performance on, especially the home side.
“It would have been very easy for the lads with it being their four game in nine days to feel tired and use that as an excuse. But we didn’t look for excuses, we did everything we could to be men about the situation.”
Dean Parrett squandered a gilt-edged chance to give Stevenage a 10th-minute lead after mis-controlling Craig Mackail-Smith’s pass seven yards from goal.
But after Harry Pell had headed a good chance wide for Colchester, the hosts were reduced to 10 men in the 19th minute when Soares was sent off for a bad foul on Gambin midway inside the Colchester half.
Stevenage keeper Farman brilliantly pushed away Luke Norris’ header and just after the half-hour mark, made another great save to deny Norris whose follow-up effort was saved off the line by Paul Digby, before Farman made another fine block to foil Callum Harriott.
Frank Nouble’s attempted lob hit Farman in the face soon after, and before half-time Stevenage almost scored an own goal when an attempted clearance hit Ben Nugent and bounced off the crossbar.
Farman denied Pell and Harriott headed a great far-post chance wide but the spoils ended up shared.
Colchester head coach John McGreal, whose side ended the day eighth, commented: “We should be scoring goals – it’s as simple as that.
“It’s one where we’ve hit the woodwork three or four times and their keeper was outstanding – he was very, very good.
“We got into really good areas to get on the end of things but just missed it.
“We had 50-odd per cent of shots on target from our shots on goal and we should be scoring goals.
“From where we’ve worked from to get us in this position now, we have to work even harder.
“We’re getting the bodies into the areas we need – it’s just then a case of the individual going as cold as ice or taking a little bit more time to slot the ball in.”