Bring on the Rams!

COLCHESTER United striker Richard Garcia believes that the U's have every chance of progressing through to the last 16 of the FA Cup, after they were paired at home to Derby County in yesterday's fourth-round draw.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United striker Richard Garcia believes that the U's have every chance of progressing through to the last 16 of the FA Cup, after they were paired at home to Derby County in yesterday's fourth-round draw.

Garcia limped off with a nerve problem in his hamstring during Saturday's thrilling third-round victory at Sheffield United.

The Australian had set up Neil Danns for a 33rd-minute equaliser, which cancelled out Steve Kabba's early strike, before watching from the sidelines as Gareth Williams headed home a 72nd-minute winner.

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Supersub Williams was the man to replace Garcia up front, so competition for places is sure to hot up as the U's prepare for Derby's visit to Layer Road on Saturday, January 28.

Garcia said last night: “I think it's a great draw for us, simply because I think that it's a match that we can win.

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“We all want to play the big teams, like Chelsea and Manchester United, but not everyone can, and at least we have a good chance of making even more progress in the FA Cup.

“We have already shown that we can more than match teams from the Championship. We proved that at Sheffield United, and this time we will have home advantage, which should make a difference,” added Garcia.

Ironically, Derby's last visit to Layer Road was also for an FA Cup fourth-round tie, 29 years ago on January 29, 1977.

A crowd of 14,030 turned up to watch Derby, who were then in the top flight, escape with a 1-1 draw against old Division Four promotion hopefuls Colchester.

The U's lost the replay 1-0 at the old Baseball Ground, in front of a crowd of 22,155. Bobby Roberts' men did go on to win promotion later that season, finishing third behind Cambridge United and Exeter City.

The capacity at Layer Road has since been reduced to just over 6,000, but Garcia is hoping for a bumper gate when the Rams make a long-awaited return to north Essex.

“Layer Road was jam-packed for our last home game against Nottingham Forest, which was good to see,” continued Garcia, who netted the third goal in that 3-1 win over the former European Cup champions.

“It made for a great atmosphere, and hopefully the fans will get behind us for the Derby match. The team needs their support.

“We started slowly against Sheffield United, but we are playing with such terrific confidence that we always felt we could turn it around.

“The signs are good. We are creating so many chances, and that's helping us to win games. We had nothing to lose at Sheffield. We could just go out and play our football, and things are really going for us at the moment.

“I was pleased to have a hand in Neil Danns' equaliser. I could have had a shot myself, but that would have been a bit selfish. Neil was standing in front of an open goal, so I decided to toe-poke the ball through to him.

“I thought we caused Sheffield problems all afternoon, especially from crosses and long throws. We have nothing to fear from Derby,” added Garcia.

Derby are currently lying in 18th spot in the Championship, a massive 33 points behind second-placed Sheffield United. In fact, the Rams are only four points clear of the relegation zone.

A brace from Paul Peschisolido ensured a 2-1 win over visiting Burnley in Saturday's third-round tie at Pride Park. Peschisolido broke Colchester hearts two years ago, when scoring the only goal in Sheffield United's fifth-round win over Phil Parkinson's men at Bramall Lane. Revenge would be sweet.

The U's took advantage of Derby's hospitality last Friday, by training at their Moor Farm Facility on the way up to Sheffield.

Rams boss Phil Brown is anticipating a tough game. He said: “We won't underestimate Colchester. They will be difficult opposition and we will prepare in exactly the same way as we would do for a Championship game.

“I'm mates with Parky, and their goalkeeper Aidan Davison, but friendships will be put to one side on the day of the game.”

It will be a special day for U's assistant manager Geraint Williams, who made 277 league appearances for Derby, before moving on to Ipswich and then Colchester.

Meanwhile, despite Garcia's new injury woes, the 24-year-old is still hoping to be fit for this Saturday's trip to Walsall for a League One fixture.

Garcia revealed: “I jarred my back, which caught a nerve in the top of my hamstring. I tried to carry on, but I didn't want to cause too much damage.

“It's not too bad. I will be having a lot of massage on my back and upper hamstring, to work the nerve out, and I'm hoping to be back in training by Thursday.

“That's the plan, and if everything goes well, there's no reason why I shouldn't be fit for the Walsall game on Saturday,” concluded Garcia.

The U's are fourth in League One, and currently on an amazing run of 13 victories from their last 15 games. Their away trip to Doncaster, on January 28, will have to be rescheduled because of the cup-tie against Derby.

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