Christmas is crucial time for U's
COLCHESTER United could be in the top half of the table by the turn of the year.The U's face two teams below them in the League One table, to bring a disappointing 2008 to a close, starting with a trip to Brighton & Hove Albion on Boxing Day.
COLCHESTER United could be in the top half of the table by the turn of the year.
The U's face two teams below them in the League One table, to bring a disappointing 2008 to a close, starting with a trip to Brighton & Hove Albion on Boxing Day.
Paul Lambert's men also entertain Leyton Orient on Sunday. The Seagulls are currently fourth from bottom, and the O's are one place behind United, so it is not being unreasonable to hope for a lucrative festive period.
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“If we can win both of them, then we will be right up there,” confirmed U's boss Lambert yesterday.
“I never look on a game as being easy, but I think we're playing well enough to win, which is pleasing.
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“Against Scunthorpe (0-0 draw) we were just as good as we were at Leeds (2-1 win). We just couldn't find that finishing touch. On another day, several goals would have gone in.
“Performances have been pretty good since I arrived, but that's all down to the lads. They have done it themselves.”
Boxing Day hosts Brighton have only won two of their 10 home league games - a poor record matched by the U's at their own Community Stadium.
The U's have been impressive on the road, with five league wins, so they will fancy their chances of taking all three points from the Withdean Stadium.
“We don't change the way we play, whether we are at home or away. The game plan is no different,” insisted Lambert.
“Some teams sit back when they come to us, which makes it difficult to break them down, although the better teams tend to give us a game, like Scunthorpe last weekend.
“We tend to get more space away from home,” added the Scotsman.
A few of the first team fringe players enjoyed a run-out for the Reserves in a friendly fixture at Norwich City on Monday afternoon. Steven Gillespie, John White and Anthony Wordsworth all played for an hour, while Medy Elito scored the U's goal in a 1-1 draw.
Gillespie has featured in the last two first-team outings, as a substitute for the final quarter of the games at Luton and against Scunthorpe, and he will be looking to play just as big a part at Brighton.
The former Cheltenham striker, who was signed by the U's for a club record £400,000 over the summer, has now fully recovered from a long-term hamstring injury, although he is still short of match fitness.
Lambert explained: “Steven (Gillespie) is not yet 100% match-fit. He is physically in a better shape, but he still needs goals.
“Medy (Elito) scored for us at Norwich, but the simple fact is that he can't get in the team at the moment. That's the nature of the game.
“Mark (Yeates) has been playing very well, as have several others. It's hard for Medy to get in the team,” concluded Lambert.
There will be several reunions on Boxing Day. Former U's assistant manager Micky Adams is the Brighton boss, while ex-U's winger Kevin McLeod is set to play against his old club. However, Adam Virgo, who had a season-long loan at Layer Road last term, will miss out through suspension.
And U's skipper Dean Hammond will be making his first return to the Withdean Stadium since his £250,000 move from Brighton to Colchester in January.