Can U's reach playoffs?

CARL MARSTON considers the chances of Colchester United mounting a dramatic bid for the League One play-offs during the second half of the season

Carl Marston

CARL MARSTON considers the chances of Colchester United mounting a dramatic bid for the League One play-offs during the second half of the season

COLCHESTER United for the play-offs? It's highly unlikely, and yet not inconceivable.

Just over a month ago and the U's were in the bottom four, facing up to a long struggle against a second successive relegation.

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Even now they are still closer to the drop zone (nine points) than the play-offs (10 points), but a run of just one defeat in seven league games has changed the whole perspective of this season.

Momentum is an important trait in football, and Paul Lambert's men are on a roll. U's supporters are now looking towards the top of the table, not the bottom.

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So can the U's defy the odds and mount a dramatic push for promotion during the second half of the season? The history books suggest otherwise, but don't give up hope.

Blackpool won promotion via the League One play-offs two seasons ago, even though they took a mere eight points from their first 11 games and were stuck in the bottom four. The Seasiders did not win at home until the start of October.

So here we have some parallels. The U's fared marginally better at the same stage this season, with 11 points after 11 fixtures to sit in 18th spot. And they didn't win their first game at the new Community Stadium until a 5-0 triumph over Carlisle at the end of October.

Blackpool's sudden turn in fortunes offers hope for teams like Colchester, who are currently adrift in mid-table. On closer scrutiny, the Bloomfield Road club had already begun their rise into the top six long before the turn of the year - they had actually soared into fifth spot by then.

However, such was their incredible run, after such a miserable start, that Simon Grayson's old team actually finished the regular season in third spot, a mere two points off the second automatic promotion slot.

United can also gain heart from last year's sixth-placed team, Essex rivals Southend.

This time a year ago, the Shrimpers were only in 10th spot on 33 points, which is only one place and a couple of points better off than current-day Colchester. So it can be done.

Of course for the U's to mount a promotion push, they need to maintain the form that they have shown over the last month. Previous years seem to suggest that a club needs at least 71 points to stand a chance of scraping into the play-offs.

That means the U's will have to accumulate at least 40 points from their final 23 games, and perhaps as many as 45 (Southend's final tally from 12 months ago). This equates to an average of nearly two points every game, or two wins from every three games.

It's not impossible. But given the U's awful first three months of this season, a top half-of-the-table finish would still be deemed a success.

Often, the top six at the end of the year is the same six at the end of the campaign. That was the case in 2006-07, and Southend were the only exceptions last season.

The mere fact that the play-offs are being mentioned is a bonus.


THE final points total of sixth-placed teams in League One over the last five years:

2007-08: Southend 76pts

2006-07: Oldham 75pts

2005-06: Swansea 71pts

2004-05: Hartlepool 71pts

2003-04: Hartlepool 73pts

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