The Opposition View: Colchester United

Last updated : 10 March 2017 By Jim Bonner

What's your assessment of Colchester's season so far and what has been the key to your success?

I was hoping for a push at the right end of the table this year and we started off brightly enough but soon slipped back into the rut of the past four seasons, going ten games without a win. We weren't playing too badly for much of that run, but you could see the confidence just draining gradually and, by the end of the run, we had become a bit of a mess with genuine concerns over our future.

At half-time away to Cheltenham towards the end of November we were bottom of the Football League, but we scored three times after the break to win 3-0. We then won six of the next eight games, drawing the other two, to really propel us into the play-off picture, including a 1-0 win away at Luton, a 4-2 win away at Stevenage and a 4-1 win over Carlisle. We looked a team transformed and there was a real buzz around the club for the first time in a few years. The win over Carlisle was probably the peak point for me, they'd looked very strong in the first half and we were lucky to be level, but we completely tore them apart after the break and could have had six or seven.

For the Cheltenham game we switched from a 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 formation which seems to have really suited us. The centre halves appeared more comfortable with the extra man, whilst Brennan Dickenson and Richard Brindley both flourished in wing back roles. We brought George Elokobi back from a loan spell at Braintree and Owen Garvan returned from injury, and their experience seemed to really help us.

How is Alex Wynter faring now? Is he still awful?

He's been in and out of the team, but seems to have struggled to push on. He was doing well last season until he suffered a bad head injury, but hasn't been able to secure a regular place in the team. We've got five centre halves out injured currently, but after playing in the defeat at Accrington he lost his place to 18-year-old Cameron James who made his first senior start and looks to have made the spot his own until the summer.

Who are the key players in the Colchester squad?

Brennan Dickenson has looked extremely dangerous all season on the left wing. He's a very direct, powerful runner who seems to have a knack of beating his full back nine times out of ten. He has a beautiful left foot and whips in some really wicked crosses, it's astounding that Gillingham released him last summer really.

In the middle, Owen Garvan's football brain is a cut above and he picks out some excellent passes. As mentioned earlier, the team's upturn in form coincided with his return from injury, although he has started to look a bit leggy recently. I think he may be playing with a bit of a knock.

Craig Slater and Kurtis Guthrie must also be in the running for Player of the Year but, unfortunately, both are currently out injured until the summer.

What are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of your team?

I think youthfulness is possibly our biggest strength and weakness. Experimental 361 posted recently that we have the youngest average age in League Two and the fifth youngest in the top four divisions, and at times the inexperience has proven costly. On the other hand, I think it also gives us an energy to dig in. Last weekend at Cambridge, half of the outfield players on the pitch at the end were recent academy graduates and it gave us an enthusiasm to keep going.

Currently, we're trying to play around what we have available thanks to injuries, and in more recent games a lack of forwards has left Chris Porter fighting an increasingly isolated battle up front, making goals hard to come by. Kurtis Guthrie has really shone since being moved into a front two and his injury is a massive blow to any hopes we have of creeping into the top seven.

We've had a series of season-ending injuries in recent months and as many as 14 or 15 senior players out at any given time which has really knocked us off course. We've lost the spine of the team with our best centre backs (Prosser, Eastman, Kent), our best midfielder (Slater) and our best forward (Guthrie) all being ruled out for the season. At times it's been a bit of a mishmash of reserves, youths and players filling in out of position and we've looked pretty disjointed as a result.

What kind of match can we expect to see tomorrow and is a draw a good result for you?

We've got an excellent home record this season and have made a habit of scoring quite early on, so I'd hope that we'll come out of the blocks quickly and start on the front foot. For the last 20 minutes or so of the first half the opposition usually grow back into it and we seem to reassess things at the break. I'm just hoping we go out and attack as we have nothing much to lose now - we're not going down and we're really depleted so let's have a good go and see what happens.

Whilst a draw wouldn't seem a bad result on the face of it, I would be a bit disappointed as we have seven home games out of our remaining eleven and I think we'd need around seven wins at least if we were to threaten the play-offs - winning at home is going to be crucial. I guess any reaction to a draw depends on how the game pans out though.

Predict the outcome of the game.

I think we'll lose this one unfortunately, and I'll go 1-3.