Preview: Colchester United

In 110 minutes without Dominic Samuel Coventry City have failed to score and dropped five important points against relegation rivals. We should be approaching this home game against Colchester United in a positive frame of mind, hoping to finally sort out this godforsaken home form ahead of a push for the play-offs next season. Thanks to our inability to score over the past two games, three points is an absolute must here.

This do-or-die game against Colchester United comes at just the worst time for us with our opponents in their best run of form of the season. In contrast to us, Colchester are scoring freely, salvaging points from losing positions and are playing like a team with a purpose. If we are to win this game it will be via sucking all the life out of it rather than putting our opposition to the sword with a swashbuckling display.

Reda Johnson, he pees when he wants!
Reda Johnson, he pees when he wants!

Reda Johnson’s return to the squad is quite obviously massive. Thanks to the limited number of games he has played for us this season, he has taken on this mystic quality where his inclusion results in us doing well. Whether the correlation between Reda Johnson playing and us getting above average results is down to a statistical quirk or something more tangible, this is not the time to question it. With our home form so horrendous, having Reda Johnson in the team may just give the rest of the team the confidence that luck is on their side.

A more rational man, Tony Mowbray has intimated though that he may stick with the back four from the Notts County game. Not only do I think Johnson will be needed for his leadership in this game but you would fancy him to score were we to have same number of set-piece opportunities as we did on Monday. Everyone of our current back four do seem to have issues playing at the Ricoh Arena and it doesn’t fill me with confidence that they will can come through such a big game with an unblemished record.

Another area of the team that does not fill me with confidence is in attack, this week has seen Simeon Jackson talk about his desire to ‘fire’ us to safety and Nick Proschwitz’s finishing ability has been talked up by Tony Mowbray. It’s just words though at the moment, we’ve heard good words all season, if the league table was decided on saying the right things, we would be near the top. It’s time for the duo to play respectively like a player who has recent Premier League experience and like someone who once cost £3 million.

Both John Fleck and Blair Turgott missed Monday night through injury and ‘injury’ respectively. Fleck may struggle to make the starting line-up from the sounds of things and Turgott has either fallen out with Tony Mowbray or has not replicated in training what he showed against Peterborough. Either of them missing out would leave our bench in a bad state should we need to turn this game around.

Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Burge; Willis, Pennington, Martin, Stokes; Ward, Barton; O’Brien, Jackson, Nouble; Proschwitz

Last Time We Met

There wasn’t a great deal of optimism heading into our previous meeting with Colchester. Without an away win for the entirety of the season, Steven Pressley’s side were still living with the scars of a recent cup defeat to Worcester. Colchester were the slightly better team in the first-half but the Sky Blues eventually grew into the game as part of a more convincing away performance. Gary Madine settled the game in our favour with a typical scrappy finish from a rebounded Danny Swanson shot.

How Are They Doing?

Much like Leyton Orient a few weeks ago, Colchester have resuscitated their season over the past few games. A home defeat to Crawley had Colchester six points adrift of safety but the U’s have reduced that deficit to two points with three wins from their past four and they will be looking to move out of the relegation zone with a win at the Ricoh Arena.

Once given the nickname 'Khuma-lol' at Reading, Khumalo is an international quality centre-back playing League One football.
Khumalo is an international quality centre-back playing League One football. Also a current international, Simeon Jackson.

Two loanees have played a massive role in Colchester’s sudden revival. South Africa international centre-back Bongani Khumalo arrived on loan from Tottenham having been one of Doncaster’s best players last season, at Championship level. Needless to say Khumalo has been excellent for the U’s, playing alongside the equally impressive Tom Eastman in central defence. Colchester have also borrowed Jacob Murphy from Norwich and the winger has been incredibly potent for them, scoring four in six appearances.

As always with Colchester, their squad is supplemented by a number of young academy players making the step up to first-team level. Midfielder Alex Gilbey has become a vital player this season as a box-to-box midfielder but could be left out of the starting line-up in favour of Tom Lapslie whose inclusion has coincided with Colchester’s recent revival. We should also watch out for Sammie Szmodics who has been in brilliant form since the appointment of Tony Humes in September and helps forms a potent and pacey line of three in Colchester’s 4-2-3-1 formation.

That trident looks set to be formed of Jacob Murphy, Szmodics and ex-Watford youngster Gavin Massey. Massey has been inconsistent during his time with Colchester but on his day is a pacey but physical wide-forward who can wreak havoc. Colchester’s attack will be spearheaded by Chris Porter, who has scored five in 15 appearances since joining from Sheffield United. Porter is a fairly traditional target-man centre-forward who will bring his pacier colleagues into play. Colchester seem perfectly set up to cause us real damage on the counter-attack.

Possible Line-Up: (4-2-3-1) Walker; Brindley, Eastman, Khumalo, Briggs; Lapslie, Moncur; Murphy, Szmodics, Massey, Porter


Needless to say, this is a massive game for both teams. For Colchester, it is a chance to continue their remarkable turnaround, get out of the bottom four and hurt a relegation rival. If we only to win one more game this season, the best one to win would be this one. Three points here would go a long way towards safety and would have us actually looking forward to our remaining home games against ‘winnable’ opposition.

Season ticket holders though will have seen the same game play out in front of them all season and this looks set to be no different. Slow start, no urgency from the Sky Blues and an eventual sucker punch from an opposition buoyed by playing at a big stadium and with a bumper away following. To save myself some of the disappointment from 5 pm on Saturday, I’m just going to predict a 2-0 loss and prepare for the worst. Does anyone know if any trains go to Accrington?

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