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Colchester United need to win their last three matches to make the play-offs, insists Tom Eastman

PUBLISHED: 08:00 21 April 2017

Tom Eastman is outnumbered as he battles to get his head to the ball during the U's 1-1 draw against Doncaster in the Essex club's last home match. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Tom Eastman is outnumbered as he battles to get his head to the ball during the U's 1-1 draw against Doncaster in the Essex club's last home match. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Colchester United stalwart Tom Eastman believes that the U’s will have to win all three of their remaining matches, to reach the League Two play-offs.

Tom Eastman, fighting fit again after his brief ankle injury. Picture: STEVE WALLERTom Eastman, fighting fit again after his brief ankle injury. Picture: STEVE WALLER

John McGreal’s men are currently two points and three places adrift of the top-seven, in 10th spot, going into their final three fixtures against visiting Plymouth Argyle (tomorrow), at Leyton Orient (tomorrow week) and at home to Yeovil (final day).

Although the U’s are within striking distance of the play-off zone, centre-half Eastman fears that the large number of teams still in contention will require a maximum haul of nine points from nine to extend the season beyond May 6.

“I think we have to win all three matches,” insisted Eastman.

“There are a lot of other teams around, so I think we will need three wins.

“But at least it’s a bit different for us this season, because usually at this stage of the year we are involved in a relegation battle.

“It’s a lot better than to just be fighting for survival, and there are three games left with us to challenge for one of the last few spots available in the play-offs.

“We’ve put in a lot of hard work to get into this position, so we don’t want all that hard work to go to waste.

“Everyone has worked so hard to get into contention for the play-offs, to try and get back into League One.”

Eastman’s season looked to have come to a premature end, when he ruptured ankle ligaments during the 1-1 draw at Blackpool on February 4.

But the 25-year-old returned quicker than expected, due to a series of injections, making a surprise return to the fold for the 2-1 home win over Luton Town on March 25.

A month later and Eastman is now relishing the prospect of a late play-off push, especially as he believes that last three fixtures are ideal for the Essex club.

“I think our last three games are good for us,” continued Eastman.

“Three years ago, Brentford came to ours having just got promoted, with us trying to stay up, and we ended up walloping them (4-1 win on April 26, 2014).

“Hopefully, we can replicate something like that this weekend, to set us up for the last two games.

“We’ve then got (bottom club) Leyton Orient, who aren’t doing too well, and over the last few years we have done quite well when we’ve played there (at Brisbane Road).

“Also, by the time we play Leyton Orient, they may well have already have been relegated.

“And then we’ve got Yeovil at home on the final day. That’s another very winnable game, being at home.

“So, yes, looking at it you would probably take those three games.”

Ex-Ipswich Town defender Eastman has rattled up 211 league appearances for the U’s, since his switch from Portman Road in the summer of 2011, and 232 in all competitions.

He is set to operate alongside George Elokobi and Cameron James in the U’s now familiar three-man central defence against Plymouth, who are just three points behinds leaders Doncaster in the race for the League Two title.

“Plymouth have got the championship to play for and I am sure they are going to give it 100%,” confirmed Eastman.

“But we might have that little bit more to play for than them, and hopefully that will show, with us starting well, which we have managed to do at home in our last few games.

“The way they play, Plymouth sit back a bit, which suits them, especially away from home.

“They’ve done really well to pick up all the away wins (13 from 21 games) that they have.

“They are going to be a good team, and it’s going to be a tough game, but hopefully our home form will win through.”

The U’s sunk to second-from-bottom, following a 2-1 defeat at Yeovil in mid-November, but Eastman always knew that a play-off spot was a realistic target.

“Even when we were second from bottom, I still was pretty confident that we could make a push for the play-offs,” said Eastman.

“It’s always been a tight league, and with the good squad that we have, we definitely shouldn’t have been down there in the first place.

“A great run got us back into the play-off picture, and we have done well to keep in and around that position since, despite all the injuries.

“We’ve had a very settled side recently, and a settled defence, and the formation is suiting us,” concluded Eastman.”

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