Colchester preview…

It’s back to the Ricoh on Saturday as we welcome Colchester in what looks set to be another nervy fixture. After going four games unbeaten away from home with Monday’s 0-0 draw at Meadow Lane, the Sky Blues will be looking to pick up all three points this weekend.

In the reverse fixture we picked up a 1-0 win at the Weston Homes Community Stadium courtesy of a scrappy Gary Madine goal. It wasn’t the best game I’ve ever seen, but it’s the type of game and result that we’d all fully accept now. There’s no doubt it will be a tightly poised game on Saturday though as both teams are fighting to beat the dreaded drop to League Two. It will probably come down to which team wants it more, and I pray to God that’s us. I’ve seen some improvements over the last month or so in terms of our drive to win. We seem a lot more up to the challenge than we did before Mowbray’s arrival.

Obviously our home form is a major concern, but what better time to put it right? A win against Colchester would get the monkey off our back so to speak, and then if we beat Oldham on Tuesday it starts to look a lot rosier. If we did manage to get six points from these two games then I believe we’d be all but safe. As I’ve said before, I think quality wise we should have enough to stay up, but the mentality has got to match it. I’m just hoping that we as supporters get behind the lads now for this final push… After all, relegation to the fourth tier could be the death of us.

Form…

The Sky Blues are in reasonable form going in to Saturday’s fixture after they picked up another point at Meadow Lane on Easter Monday. In the last six games, we have Won 3, drew 1 and lost 2 – giving us a total of 10 points from a possible 18. What will worry the supporters though is the home form, with only 4 wins coming at the Ricoh Arena this season after our long awaited return.

Colchester are in fairly fine form themselves as they head to Coventry filled with confidence. Winning their last two fixtures against Port Vale and Barnsley will no doubt stand them in good stead as they look to make it three in a row. Overall, in their last six games they’ve picked up 3 wins, 1 draw and 2 losses to amount to 10 points – an identical record to that of the Sky Blues. They also possess one of the best away records in the division so the Sky Blues will have to be wary.

Team news…

Coventry City will welcome imposing defender Reda Johnson back in to the fold for the weekend fixture. The Benin international was named on the bench for City’s trip to Meadow Lane but he failed to get any game time. He could see some action against the U’s on Saturday, however, Mowbray has hinted that it won’t be a start as Monday’s clean sheet was another impressive defensive display.

James Maddison will also be looking to get out on the pitch as he made his comeback from a back injury as a second half substitute versus the Nottingham side. Influential midfielder John Fleck, who missed the Easter fixture through injury, could also make a return to the delight of Mowbray and the City fans. The gaffer spoke about the possibility of a Fleck return on Friday: “We’ll give young Fleck every chance tomorrow to see if he’s available. It was a strain rather than a torn ligament in his knee. He’s got to be doubtful but we’ll give him every chance because he’s an important player for us.”

It’s as you were otherwise though with Marcus Tudgay being sidelined, along with Danny Pugh and Dominic Samuel who are out for the remainder of the season.

Colchester United will be bouyed by Matthew Briggs’ return as the defender will be available after serving a suspension, along with being on international duty with Guyana. Alex Gilbey was rested for the U’s game against Barnsley but the midfielder could be thrown back in to the starting lineup on Saturday.

On the injury front, David Fox is out of the picture as he is sidelined with a foot injury. Long term absentees are Frankie Kent, Magnus Okuonghae, Drey Wright and Mike O’Donoghue. Manager Tony Humes has also forced Ben Gordon, Sean Clohessy and Sanchez Watt to play under 21 football as they fell out favour with the first team.

My thoughts…

Confidence isn’t one of those feelings we get when we see we are playing at home at the weekend, but this time I can feel it. I don’t know what it is about this one, but I think we’ll end our home hoodoo. Let’s not beat around the bush though, it’s another must win game especially with all the other teams around us playing each other. We pick up three points, we pull away from it a little. It has to happen.

We’ve seen some encouraging aspects to our game over the last few weeks. At Notts County we weren’t great in the first half, granted, but we were by far the better team in the second period. The only thing we are missing since Dominic Samuel was forced back to Reading with injury is goals. Of course this is a major concern but I believe we have enough up there to start banging some goals in. I know Simeon Jackson and Nick Proschwitz haven’t set the world alight whilst being with us, but they do have quality. Both of them have played at a higher level and I think both of them are capable of a lot more. There were some encouraging signs against Notts, and after a whole week on the training ground I’m hoping they’ve built an understanding with each other. Once they get off the mark together I’m sure the confidence will increase performance and bring goals.

Defensively we are improving, with another clean sheet in our last game. We can expect to be put under pressure at times on Saturday as Colchester do pose a threat going forward but we’ve just got to stand up to it. As always with a young back four we run the risk of conceding a sloppy goal now and again (just look at Leyton Orient) but hopefully this doesn’t occur against the U’s. I think having Grant Ward in the centre of the park has made a huge difference to us. He’s a superb player who is destined for big things, the technical ability he possesses is second to none. This, coupled with a dogged side to his game is just what the Sky Blues need. He’s a ball winner and there’s no doubts he has been a huge influence on performances, both defensively and going forward he brings a threat.

I do fully believe we can end our Ricoh woes on Saturday though. I’m not going to get over confident as that’s the last think you want to do but I have faith that we get a result. As for staying up I think six or seven points would see us finish above that dotted line, so to go in to our game away at high-flying Bristol City with another six points on the board would relieve a lot of pressure. Mowbray and the lads will know how pivotal these next two games are. A loss would see Colchester leapfrog us and we could fall in to an even more precarious position. We can’t go down, it’s just not feasible. As I’ve said before, it’s time for the players to stand up and be counted now.

As for a prediction on the scoreline. I’ll go Coventry City 2-1 Colchester United

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