‘It has surprised me’ – Colchester United boss John McGreal
- Credit: Richard Blaxall / Pagepix
Colchester United boss, John McGreal, admits that he has been “surprised” by his side’s failure to win any of their last five matches.
The U’s were serious League Two play-off contenders, until their recent lean spell of just two points collected from a possible 15, with four of these fixtures against teams preoccupied with trying to fend off relegation.
The last five weeks have almost certainly cost the U’s any chance of gate-crashing the top seven, which is such a shame after they had risen to 10th spot and within striking distance of the play-offs following an encouraging 2-1 home win over Coventry City on February 13.
But since then, the U’s have tumbled to 1-0 defeats at the hands of the lowly trio of Crewe, Barnet and Yeovil, while drawing on the road at Mansfield (1-1) and at Morecambe (0-0 on Tuesday evening).
“It’s been a while since we won a game, and we are still pushing,” explained McGreal.
“And yes, it has surprised me, having been in-and-around it (the play-offs) for so long.
“We have usually managed to pull it around, which we did last year.
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“But I think this season we have drawn too many games, and also not scored enough goals.
“Defensively, we have the eighth best record in the division, but we need to find ways to win games, which is something we have not been able to do in recent weeks.
“Our away record is better than it was last season, not so much in the number of wins (five away victories), but in the number of draws we have had.
“In fact, we’ve drawn 13 matches (from 38 league starts) this season, which I believe is second only to Mansfield (15 draws).
“So if we had just managed to win half of these, then we would have still been up there, because performance have been good.
“Matches like at Carlisle (1-1 draw) and at Mansfield we should have won,” added McGreal.
Tuesday night’s goalless draw at Morecambe left the U’s trailing the top seven by a distant nine points, with just eight matches remaining.
And being stuck down in 13th spot, this could end up being the U’s lowest finish in the Football League since their 17th spot in the fourth tier in 1993-94, at the end of Roy McDonough’s era.
A disappointing total of just 46 goals in 38 matches – only eight clubs have scored less in League Two this season – and just one goal in their last five outings has been the U’s Achilles’ heel.
“It’s just a case of finding that win now,” continued McGreal.
“We had a good base to start from on Tuesday night, and again we looked solid, but now it’s a question of what else can we find in the final third?
“We’ve asked those questions again in training today, and we’ll see what we’ve got this Saturday.
“There are a number of factors, like decision-making, the confidence needed and also that element of luck.
“We have worked on different phases of play in training, to get players into the final third. It might be a case of taking the-bull-by-the-horns, so to speak.
“It’s not just the strikers we are looking to, like Mikael (Mandron) and Sammie (Szmodics), but also the wingers and the midfielders to contribute a few goals – players like Drey (Wright) and Brennan (Dickenson).
“Our last two away performances have been very, very good, and I’m always the sort of person who will stay positive, you know me.
“It’s a very young squad, and they are the sort of players who are able to brush themselves down after a setback, and go again. They are very vibrant, and they tend to recover without any fears.
“We try to take that element of fear out of them, in that if they miss (with a goal attempt), then they miss.
“After such an early start, and then getting home at 5am after the match, it was a good point at Morecambe, but it’s been our home form that has been hindering us.
“We have another away game this weekend, against a Stevenage side who have a new manager (Dino Maamria) whom I’m sure will bring his own ideas to the table,” added McGreal.
The U’s boss is unlikely to make too many changes, for tomorrow’s short trip to Broadhall Way.
Centre-half Ryan Inniss remains sidelined by injury, and McGreal also confirmed that out-of-sorts striker Kurtis Guthrie will not be involved in the 18-man squad. Neither Inniss nor Guthrie featured in midweek.
Frankie Kent aggravated a knee problem during the warm-up at Morecambe, and so was replaced by Tom Eastman in the starting line-up. But a scan has since given Kent the all-clear.