Big test for U's tonight

COLCHESTER United's youth team manager, Joe Dunne, is confident that his side “will not freeze” within the imposing surroundings of Villa Park tonight.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's youth team manager, Joe Dunne, is confident that his side “will not freeze” within the imposing surroundings of Villa Park tonight.

The U's take on hosts Aston Villa in an FA Youth Cup third round tie, the latest highlight in an already successful season.

While the senior side have been taking all the plaudits in the Championship, the youth team have been enjoying an even more productive campaign in the Youth Alliance League.

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In fact, Dunne's youngsters soared to the top of the league, following a 2-1 win at Northampton Town last Saturday. Previous leaders Wycombe were beaten at home by Southend.

“We're having a decent season. We're top of the league and we've only lost one match all year,” enthused Dunne. “We have scored 36 goals in 15 games, and we're looking forward to continuing our good tradition in the FA Youth Cup with this visit to Aston Villa.

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“We are under no illusions as to how hard it will be. We will be the extreme underdogs, that's for sure, especially as Aston Villa have spent £1.5m on their Academy.

“But it's a great opportunity for the lads to show what they can do. We have done well in past years, against such big teams as Blackburn, Leeds, Crewe, Arsenal and Chelsea.

“And I have a lot of experience in the team. Four of the squad which reached the quarter-finals of the FA Youth Cup two years ago will play at Villa,” added Dunne.

Former right-back Dunne was referring to the quartet of Tom Webb, Tom Devaux, Stephen Opoka and keeper Anthony Hughes.

The U's have already chalked up some big wins this season, both in the League and the Alliance Cup. The likes of Webb and Anthony Wordsworth have been in prolific scoring form, which has led to such eye-catching results as a 6-5 home win over Gillingham, a 4-0 victory at Brighton and a similar 4-0 success at Southend.

Dunne continued: “We are capable of causing problems to any opponents. It's just a question of whether we will freeze, but I don't think we will. I have no injuries, so I'm taking a squad of 20 players. It should be a great night.”

This will not be the first time that the U's have visited Villa Park for an FA Youth Cup tie. Nearly 12 years ago, Steve Foley's young side were beaten but not disgraced in a fourth round fixture on January 30, 1995.

The U's went down 4-0, although they more than held their own for the first 40 minutes that night. Lee Hendrie was the star player for Villa.

Included in the U's team were several players who went on to feature for the first team, giving the current crop of youngsters hope that they too could break into the senior side one day. Current skipper Karl Duguid was in the starting line-up for that cup-tie at Aston Villa in 1995, as were striker Tony Lock and left-back Nicky Haydon


Colchester squad: Hughes, Best, Devaux, Hammond, Haynes-Brown, Oakley, Wordsworth, Wright, Elito, Webb, Opaka, Speed, Amass, Griffiths, Corcoran, Olusanya, Quintyn, Pirie, Malton and Smelt.

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