Colchester United shook up the Third Division promotion race by defeating Fulham on a freezing Essex evening.

The frosty and rock hard Layer Road pitch passed a late inspection and it was the hosts who made most of the early running. Fulham looked jittery and disjointed and paid the penalty when poor defending allowed Paul Abrahams to beat the visiting offside trap and chip the stranded Tony Lange to give United the lead three minutes before half time.

Micky Adams side were much more cohesive after the interval and equalised when Colchester half cleared a long throw from Rob Scott and Simon Morgan’s drive from the edge of the area took a deflection on its way in. The prospects of a Fulham victory seemed to increase when David Greene was sent off a minute later and United should have been down to nine men when goalkeeper Carl Emberson handled outside his box, but the referee elected to show him only a yellow card.

Fulham were fuming and that decision came back to haunt them as Emberson made a string of fine saves in the second half both before and after Chris Fry’s winner – which came from a purposeful run and shot – with nineteen minutes remaining.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Emberson; Gibbs, Greene, Gregory, Wilkins (Locke 82), Buckle, Whitton, Fry, McCarthy, Abrahams, Adcock. Subs (not used): Dunne, Reinelt.

BOOKED: Whitton, Emberson.

SENT OFF: Greene.

GOALS: Abrahams (42), Fry (71).

FULHAM: Lange; Watson (Freeman 75), Herrera, Parker, Cullip, Angus; Cockerill (Brooker 45), Carpenter (Cusack 77), Morgan; Scott, Conroy.

BOOKED: Parker, Watson, Lange.

GOAL: Morgan (65).