Preview: Colchester United

Although we may have played well for the first half against Peterborough, if you defend like we did and go to pieces once you go a goal down, you deserve to lose. It isn’t bad luck that we’ve not been getting results over the past few months, we’re getting what we deserve due to our own carelessness.

We’re careless when we have the ball, too few players are looking to drive forwards, create chances and take them when they fall our way. We’re careless in defence, conceding so many soft goals from set-pieces or over-playing in front of our own goal. It’s what renders however well you play irrelevant, football is won and lost in moments, you have to force those to land your way.

There has to be scrutiny on what Tony Mowbray has done with this team to take them from top of the table in November to losing sight of the play-offs in March (not forgetting that he did take us to the top in the first place). For me, it’s a combination of a series of wrong decisions when it came to freshening up the squad in January (Stephen Hunt over Jim O’Brien, what the hell was that?) and relying on a group of young players playing their first full season as a our only source of goals.

We can still make the play-offs, mathematically at least. This actually wouldn’t be a terrible position to be in had we been in any kind of form over the past few months. We’re could take points off several teams who are still in the mix which would improve our current position. But it’s going to require levels of intensity and nerve that haven’t been there for quite some time.

Following Millwall’s win over Burton yesterday, a win here would move us back to five points off the play-offs. This game against Colchester doesn’t quite feel like ‘last chance saloon’ it feels like the staff at the saloon are stacking up the chairs, staring intently into the back of our heads while we try and pretend that we haven’t noticed the very obvious signs that it’s closing time. But it would certainly improve our chances of sticking around a while longer if we did win.

Possible Line-Up

As far as the team goes, Fortuné and Henderson both picked up injuries in the Peterborough game which makes Marcus Tudgay our man in attack for the evening. Jack Stephens returns the defence, and by God we need him, which will surely mean Bigi drops out of the team after on overall poor performance against Peterborough.

Jodi Jones looked very bright against Peterborough, especially considering he couldn’t get into the Dagenham team two weeks ago, I’ve got a feeling though that Mowbray is cautious enough not to subject him to the glamour of a Tuesday night game in a quarter-full and angry Ricoh Arena. Unless he persists with Andy Rose on the wing, who at least stopped Peterborough waltzing through our midfield in the first-half, Ruben Lameiras could be handed a start before getting dropped again for Saturday.

Last Time We Met

The last time we played Colchester, we had this thing called form on our side. With Adam Armstrong out on international duty, it was hard to see where the goals were coming from. Mowbray made a surprise move in playing Jacob Murphy through the centre and, just like on Friday night, he combined with Fortuné effectively. A brace from Murphy and a rare goal from Fortuné saw the Sky Blues recover from going a goal down, although some of the credit does have to go to Colchester’s terrible defending.

How Are They Doing?

Colchester are in the last chance saloon now in their hope to mount a fourth consecutive late run to survival. After starting the season in promising fashion with the likes of Marvin Sordell and Callum Harriott banging the goals in, some simply awful defending dragged Colchester into the mire. The goals dried up over the winter as the U’s looked increasingly like relegation certainties.

That may still be the case but results have picked up over the last month to leave Colchester with a very slim hope of survival. Manager Kevin Keen arrived in December, saw an improvement in performances but couldn’t stop his side leaking goals left, right and centre. It may be all too late, but Keen is now starting to get the results his team’s performances deserve. A 4-1 win over Doncaster on Good Friday was an emphatic culmination of Colchester’s improvement under Keen.

Possible Line-Up
Possible Line-Up

Colchester’s defence may be awful but their attacking play is much more promising. Their top scorer is George Moncur who has 11 goals, all the more impressive as they have come from midfield in a relegation-threatened team. Moncur will be joined in midfield by the impressive Alex Gilbey who is a good mixture of physically strong and technically competent, there’s going to be a long list of teams queueing up to sign either of those two in the summer.

Colchester don’t have an out-and-out goalscorer who’s been particularly reliable throughout the season but West Ham loanee Elliot Lee has developed a habit of scoring some spectacular goals of late. Chris Porter will play a typical target-man role to help bring into play some of Colchester’s quick, exciting attacking players. Winger/forward Gavin Massey was excellent against Doncaster on Friday and when on form, his pace and power from a wide position can be hard to deal with.


It’s a game between two sides with very different kinds of pressures on them. Colchester have to win this game to give them any kind of hope for survival. We have to win this game to give ourselves to give us any kind of hope for the play-offs. As ever in these end of season games, you tend to back the side fighting for survival over the one sinking into mid-table.

That being said, Colchester are awful at the back, currently on course to concede 105 goals this season. We’re the type of side who does well against accommodating opponents and if we can take an early lead in the game, scoring a second not too soon after, this could be a comfortable win for us.

My gut instinct with this game is that we’ll lose this game 2-0. I’m sick of this season already.

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