10 reasons why Colchester United are on the ropes

U's boss John McGreal

U's boss John McGreal - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United are stuck in a rut. But how did they get there?

The U’s were in the top two, after winning their first two home games of the season, and were still in the top six by the middle of September.

But it has been a downward spiral since then, to a lowly third-from-bottom ahead of tomorrow’s trip to Yeovil Town.

Yeovil suffered back-to-back relegations, in 2013-14 and 2014-15, to sink from the Championship to League Two, before stopping the slide last season. If the U’s emulate them, by enduring successive relegations, then they will end up in the National League next season.

So where has it all gone wrong?

No. 1 Fragile mentality

The U’s are seriously lacking in self-confidence, and self-belief, hardly surprising given their current run of no wins in 12 matches. When they concede goals, they struggle to regroup and strike back. They need to cope better with knock-backs, otherwise they will get a reputation for being easy touches.

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No. 2 Injuries galore

The current dreadful run has coincided with a spate of injuries, with the loss of Brennan Dickenson and Tom Lapslie being major factors. Influential midfielder Owen Garvan has not featured all season, due to injury, and is only now on the comeback trail, while the likes of Doug Loft, Matt Briggs and Lewis Kinsella have also been long-term absentees.

No. 3 Summer departures

Although the U’s suffered relegation last season, they were a League One team at the time, and they have certainly become weaker due to summer exits. The midfield trio of George Moncur (to Barnsley), Alex Gilbey (to Wigan Athletic) and Joe Edwards (to Walsall) have all been missed, as has stalwart winger Gavin Massey (to Leyton Orient).

No. 4 Conceding soft goals

The U’s have earned an unwanted reputation for conceding soft goals, certainly goals that could have been avoided. Jay Simpson’s opening goal against them last weekend (in a 3-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient) was a good illustration, the U’s twice failing to clear their lines before Glen Kamara’s stray ball was pounced on.

No. 5 Missed chances

The U’s have not been clinical in front of goal. Sammie Szmodics and Chris Porter both fluffed their lines in the narrow 1-0 defeat at Doncaster, while Kurtis Guthrie squandered two great chances in last weekend’s loss to Leyton Orient.

No. 6 Sam Walker’s dip in form

Even Sam Walker, one of the best keepers in the bottom two divisions, has struggled for form since his return to the team, having missed the whole of the last league campaign with a serious knee injury. He has set very high standards for himself, but was distraught after letting Lee Molyneux’s free-kick slip through his fingertips in the 2-2 draw against Morecambe.

No. 7 Inexperienced management

John McGreal is a rookie manager, and so deserves time to settle into his role. He will make mistakes, but one of his more puzzling decisions was to drop an in-form Craig Slater from his starting line-up last weekend. The plan didn’t work.

No. 8 Individual errors

There have been far too many of these. Even the consistent Luke Prosser blundered with his poor back pass for Plymouth’s winner.

No. 9 Young blood

It is time for the youngsters to start performing, such as Kane Vincent-Young, Macauley Bonne, Dion Sembie-Ferris and Frankie Kent.

No. 10 Poor recruitment

Chairman and owner, Robbie Cowling, mentioned at the end of last season that recruitment needed to improve. As yet, it has not.

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