Baldwin means business
PAT Baldwin is back. And he means business!
PAT Baldwin is back. And he means business!
Colchester United manager Paul Lambert's first match in charge coincided with Baldwin's first full 90 minutes of senior action for nearly 10 months, at Stockport County on Saturday.
The new U's boss had no hesitation in naming Baldwin in his first starting line-up, having watched the ex-Chelsea trainee play for the Reserves in midweek.
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The 25-year-old impressed in the heart of defence, alongside Paul Reid, during the 2-1 win at Edgeley Park, and is now hoping to mastermind the U's first ever win at their new Community Stadium. Millwall are tonight's visitors.
The year 2008 has almost been a write-off for centre-half Baldwin, due to long-term knee and shoulder injuries. But the Londoner is fighting fit again, and looking to end the year with a bang.
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“It's great to be back. It's been a long time, really since January 5, so that's 10 months out,” admitted Baldwin.
He injured his knee during the 3-1 home defeat to Peterborough United in an FA Cup third round tie in early January, which keep him out for three months. And his comeback match at West Brom at the end of March only lasted a few minutes, due to a dislocated shoulder that required an operation and another long spell on the sidelines.
Baldwin continued: “I've been feeling stronger in training, and have done everything asked of me. I've had a few games for the Reserves and I felt surprisingly good at Stockport, though I was a little tired by the end.
“I didn't actually know that I was playing until about five-to-two (1.55pm). That's a bit unusual. I haven't experienced that before, with the team being named so late, but the new manager wants to keep us all on our toes and makes sure that we are all well prepared.
“We stuck to it and really dug in against Stockport. I spoke to my girlfriend after the match, and she said that Sky Sports had revealed that Stockport had more than 60% of the possession. It was backs to the wall at times, but I thought we deserved the win.
“I was happy with my performance, but disappointed that we couldn't keep a clean-sheet. I just hope that I get picked again for the Millwall match,” added Baldwin.
Lambert has four experienced centre-halves at his disposal. In addition to Reid and Baldwin, Matt Heath was on the bench at Stockport and Chris Coyne is available again after his recent trip to Australia for a World Cup qualifier (he was an unused substitute against Qatar).
But Baldwin will be unlucky not to retain his place tonight. It would be his first senior appearance at the new Community Stadium, and he would like to mark that occasion with the Essex club's first ever win at their new home.
“We want to get that first home win now,” confirmed Baldwin, who has not actually played at home in the league throughout the whole of 2008.
“It's important that we get that out of the way quickly. We need that first win because everyone has been talking about it.
“If we can beat Millwall, then our season will be really up and running,” concluded Baldwin.
U's boss Lambert has no injury concerns, but visitors Millwall will be without striker Gary Alexander after he damaged ankle ligaments during Saturday's excellent 3-1 home win over Leeds.
However, the Lions are boosted by the return of fellow strikers Tresor Kandol and Jermaine Easter. The latter is on loan from Plymouth.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, White, Baldwin, Reid, Jackson, Yeates, Hammond, Perkins, Wordsworth, Platt, Gillespie, Izzet, Wasiu, Vernon, Heath, Coyne, Lockwood, Elito, Cousins.
MILLWALL: Forde, Craig, Robinson, Whitbread, Frampton, Grabban, Martin, Laird, Abdiu, Harris, Kandol, Easter, Dunne, Noel-Williams, Grimes, Moore, Hackett, Edwards.