U’s look to end seven barren years with a League Cup success at Cheltenham
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United, fresh from an encouraging start to the season, will be looking to end their recent woes in the (EFL) League Cup at the expense of first round hosts Cheltenham Town tonight.
The U’s are sitting pretty in seventh spot, in League Two, after taking four points from their first two fixtures of the season, Saturday’s 2-0 home win over Port Vale following on from a solid 0-0 draw at title favourites Notts County the previous weekend.
By contrast, Gary Johnson’s Cheltenham have yet to pick up a point in League Two, after back-to-back defeats at the hands of Crawley (1-0 at home) and Tranmere (1-0 away). Morecambe and Macclesfield are the other two teams in the division yet to pick up a point.
John McGreal’s men will therefore fancy their chances of progressing into round two, at Whaddon Road this evening, although they will have to rectify what has been a dismal record in the competition in recent years.
The U’s have lost their last seven first-round ties in the League Cup, since reaching round two in 2010 with a 3-0 win at Hereford United – David Mooney netted a brace at Edgar Street that night, with Ian Henderson scoring the other.
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John Ward’s side lost 2-0 at Sunderland in round two, and since then it was been failure all the way with first-round exits at the hands of Wycombe, Yeovil, Peterborough, Charlton, Reading, Brighton and Aston Villa.
“It would be great to get a Cup run going this season,” insisted McGreal.
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“I said that to the boys, after the win over Port Vale. We need to win a cup match because the previous two (League) Cup games that we have had, have been very difficult.
“You think back to Brighton away (4-0 loss), and then Aston Vila at home (2-1 defeat), now we have Cheltenham way.
“They will be smarting from their defeat at Tranmere, and I’m sure they will be looking to get through. I expect a good game, and we need to try and win.
“I have got a very strong squad. We made two changes on Saturday and the boys who came in slotted in really well.
“The big thing for me is that players, if called up, will come in and perform. That’s been the case since I’ve been here.
“I couldn’t ask for much more so far, because it’s been a good start to the season.
“We had a good pre-season, but this is only a start, that’s all it is. This division sees upsets every week, not just once a month, so it’s going to be a tough league.”
McGreal brought in full-back Kane Vincent-Young and wide attacker Courtney Senior to the starting line-up against Port Vale, with Tom Eastman and Aaron Collins dropping to the bench.
And it is likely that the U’s boss will make further changes this evening, with the likes of centre forward Mikael Mandron, fellow front-runner Luke Norris and midfielders Brandon Comley and Diaz Wright all pushing for starts.
Senior certainly made the most of his inclusion in the side on Saturday, scoring the opening goal (the U’s first goal of the 2018-19 season) and going on to produce a man-of-the-match performance.
“Hopefully, I can get some more minutes under my belt at Cheltenham,” explained Senior.
“That would be great, and hopefully we can go far in the Cup as well.
“A good cup run always helps us in the league, 100%. If we can get a good cup run, then the limelight will be on us through that as well, so that would be good.”
Cheltenham will definitely be without Manny Duku after the striker dislocated his shoulder on Saturday – he fell over a three-foot wall behind one of the goals, after getting in a header at the far post.
Boss Johnson said: “Every game you go into, especially after losing two league games, you want that feeling of winning a game, and we want to show supporters the ability of the group that we think we have brought in.
“But the players need to come out of their shell a little bit, or actually quite a lot.
“Colchester look like they have started well, but every game is different. He (U’s boss McGreal) has kept the majority of the boys who did well for him last year, but this year they have made a point of giving it a go, spending a little bit as well.”
It will be a slightly strange evening for U’s summer recruit Harry Pell, who left Cheltenham to join the Essex club for a six-figure fee in May.
Midfielder Pell, who has impressed in his first two appearances for the U’s, spent three seasons at Whaddon Road, helping to guide the Robins back into the Football League via promotion from the National League in his first season.
In all he made 134 senior appearances for Cheltenham, scoring 22 goals.
CHELTENHAM: Flinders, Baldwin, Mullins, Boyle, Debayo, Dawson, Tozer, Atangana, Maddox, McAlinden, Kalala, Broom, Thomas, Smith, Addai, Forster, Lloyd & Lovett.
COLCHESTER: D Barnes, Jackson, Eastman, Kent, Vincent-Young, Lapslie, Comley, Collins, Szmodics, Dickenson, Mandron, Senior, Nouble, Prosser, Pell, Norris, Wright, A Barnes, Gondoh & Ross.
Referee: Chris Sarginson (Staffs)