Preview: Colchester United

Where We Are

After a disappointing draw against Shrewsbury last Saturday the most notable event of the past week was the closing of the transfer window with the majority of the squad still in place. Yes we said goodbye to a few faces but they had been long frozen out of first team affairs prior to their respective departures. This has now given our manager space in his budget to sign one or two new players as well as hand a few new contracts out to key players with Callum Wilson on top of that particular list.

On the pitch we now find ourselves in the novel position of being able to overtake a side in the league were we to win tomorrow. Yes that team, Notts County, would then have a game in hand but getting off the bottom of the league with summer visible in the rearview mirror is something few were anticipating at the start of the season. Last season it wasn’t until the end of September that we’d actually been able to win a game and we ended that month on just 6 points. Despite the 10 point deduction there is the very real prospect that we could at the very least keep pace with that sort of points tally. Given that we weren’t so far from the play-offs before we were deducted points last season there’s the sudden realisation that the play-offs are an achievable prospect were we to maintain our current form.

Last week’s draw at Shrewsbury though highlighted a lack of depth at the club. Leon Clarke had to play despite being far from 100% fit given that Manset was even less fit. Ryan Haynes put in a decent shift at left-back but is a clear downgrade on Blair Adams and hinders our attacking potential. This is by far our greatest weakness, Pressley must use the forthcoming opening of the loan window as an opportunity to increase his viable options in the squad.

The good news is that Leon Clarke and Blair Adams are both reportedly back to full fitness. Billy Daniels should also have recovered from a stomach virus which relegated him to the bench last week and will be pushing Carl Baker all the way for a starting berth despite the latter providing an assist during his last outing.

Last Time We Met

It was Steven Pressley’s first home match as manager of Coventry City with the club still holding out faint hope of reaching the play-offs. However it did not get off to a good start with Colchester taking a 2 goal lead with just over 15 minutes left. Up stepped Callum Wilson though to score a sensational goal which fired the team back into the match. A late equaliser from Carl Baker kept up Pressley’s unbeaten run as manager going and there was a thin trace of optimism that the season was far from over.

How Are They Doing?

After being tipped as one of the relegation favourites at the start of the season, Colchester got off to a flying start. Inspired largely by the electric wing play of ex-Arsenal youngster Sanchez Watt, Colchester claimed some notable scalps and had appeared to shaken last season’s inconsistencies away. However their recent form has been poor, a large number of injuries has culminated in an embarrassing 4-1 defeat to Dagenham & Redbridge in the JPT this week. After suffering a long winless run last season their confidence is clearly brittle, the defeat to Dagenham as well as a injury crisis may return the U’s to the crisis of confidence they suffered last time out.

Towards the end of the run their manager Joe Dunne contemplated quiting the job. A man who has been around the club for a long time now but struggled during his first spell as full-time manager thus far. He has largely placed his confidence in young players, getting rid of several hangers-on from the Boothroyd/Lambert era such as Kem Izzet and John-Joe O’Toole and bringing in a number of academy players as well as youngsters from elsewhere. However he’s a man who doesn’t transmit a lot of confidence from his media interviews, this may be why his Colchester side blow hot and cold (mainly cold) so often.

Their key men will depend on who is fit with only 11 fit first team players in their squad. With a full compliment of players to choose from their danger man is Sanchez Watt, who I believe is injured for tomorrow’s match, is a potent attacking threat down the flanks. Gavin Massey though should play tomorrow and is perhaps their greatest threat from an attacking perspective. He’s tall and fast and can play either up front or out wide, Massey’s been their most consistent attacker over the past two seasons and is one to watch. Ex-Sky Blue Clinton Morrison though may have a point to prove despite having a fairly poor time of it since making the switch to Colchester after leaving Sheffield Wednesday in summer 2012.

Their main strength though may be in defence where they have Magnus Okuonghae who perhaps should be playing at a higher level. He’s rock-solid, tall and strong as an ox, he’s also been a mainstay in the centre of their defence since their Boothroyd days and is a player the U’s are somewhat lucky to still possess. Their goalkeeper Sam Walker, on loan from Chelsea, is another key man, someone who helped secure their League 1 status after joining on loan in January he’s returning to Sixfields where he once made a big impression with Northampton, a player on the rise in league football.

Prediction

With a first choice starting XI available again, unimpinged by injuries or transfers, the excuse for last week’s drop-off in performance over 90 minutes won’t be available again. Colchester, despite a strong start, arrive as almost the perfect opposition to wipe away the 10 point deduction. With a manager lacking in confidence, only 11 fit players and having suffered an embarassing mid-week defeat, we couldn’t have chosen a better team to play tomorrow. The only thing stopping me being 100% confident is that everything is almost too perfect. Perhaps this is the game where we find out that Callum Wilson isn’t the real deal, that Leon Clarke was only playing well for a move, that Carl Baker is only a bad player who sometimes does good things, that Joe Murphy isn’t a top goalkeeper, etc, etc. It’s almost in Coventry’s DNA to blow such a good opportunity for 3 points as this Colchester game presents, so that’s why I’m slightly wary.

However Pressley has proven that he’s capable of overcoming the obstacle of ‘typical City’ in the way the team has handled itself to this season’s obstacles and challenges. This is why I’m hopeful that tomorrow will finally see City move into positive points with a good display of fluent attacking football. Forza Sky Blues!

Prediction: Coventry to win 4-1.

 

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