A defence transformed – Colchester United stalwart Tom Eastman

Tom Eastman, sandwiched between two Doncaster players

Tom Eastman, sandwiched between two Doncaster players

The personnel has not changed, but Colchester United’s defence suddenly has a very different look about it – which is just as well!

New manager Kevin Keen, appointed four days before Christmas, was fully aware that he was taking over the Football League’s worst defence.

But the 48-year-old has already made an impressive impact, after just four games in charge. The U’s no longer resemble the whipping boys of League One.

Tom Eastman, who was an ever-present last season – he never even missed a minute of the action – has again started every U’s league game of this campaign.

So the ex-Ipswich Town defender is the perfect man to quiz about the U’s upturn in fortunes, in terms of the defensive side of the game.

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After conceding a staggering 31 goals, in the 10 games prior to Keen’s arrival, the U’s have let in just five goals in their last four outings, under Keen, including a fine 2-1 win over Championship strugglers Charlton in the FA Cup last weekend.

“I feel the performances have been transformed, since the new manager came in, for the last four or five games,” explained Eastman.

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“We look more solid defensively, so I think he’s (Keen’s) made an impact.

“The back four and the team look more compact, and more solid. I know it’s only one point (1-1 draw at Oldham), that we’ve gained, but things are starting to work.

“In truth, there have been no big changes to the defence. There’s just been some tweaking, but not any new arrivals or big changes in personnel.

“The formation is different (now 4-4-2), and now we, as a whole team, do look more solid. We are closing down the space for opposing strikers to get into, but that’s not just about the back four – it’s the back eight, and even our strikers are also chasing back.

“To stay in this league, our defensive record had to improve, we knew that, and with players like Monks (George Moncur), Ports (Chris Porter) and Marvin Sordell in the side, we are always likely to score at the other end.”

All talk has been of the FA Cup this week, especially since the U’s drew either Leicester City or Tottenham at home in round four, following Monday night’s draw.

The two Premier League clubs will replay their third round fixture next Wednesday, after the 2-2 draw at White Hart Lane last Sunday.

The eventual fourth round clash, whomever the U’s face, will be shown live on BT Sport on Saturday, January 30, with a 12.45pm kick-off.

Eastman was delighted with the draw but the 24-year-old knows full-well that the U’s must put the Cup distraction to one side, to give themselves a fighting chance of pulling away from the relegation zone.

Keen’s men entertain Sheffield Untied tomorrow, and then host Fleetwood next Tuesday evening.

“It hasn’t quite happened for us in the league yet, but hopefully we can bounce off the win over Charlton, and turn the corner over the next couple of games,” said Eastman, who played alongside Alex Wynter against the Addicks, due to George Elokobi’s hamstring injury.

“I’ve played with Alex (Wynter) a few times, and whenever he has come in, he has done well.

“We have a good partnership going.

“And with George being injured at the minute, it perhaps might be difficult to change it.”

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