Colchester United review of the year

ALAS, 2011 will not go down as a vintage year at Colchester United.

ALAS, 2011 will not go down as a vintage year at Colchester United.

In fact, you could argue that it has been one of the leanest years of recent times, in terms of results, performances and general excitement.

Struggling in the league (until a resurgence in December), devoid of cup drama, and haunted by a miserable away record, the U’s will be glad to see the back of 2011.

At best, it was average, or at least a year of consolidation; at worst, it was medicore.

The U’s last game of 2010, a goalless draw at home to Yeovil on December 12, had John Ward’s men installed in sixth spot, the final play-off berth, with 30 points accrued from 19 games.

Unfortunately, it has been largely downhill since then, albeit for an encouraging few weeks in August, and then a return to winning ways in December.

Most Read

A series of postponements meant that by New Year’s Day, 2011, the U’s had dropped a place to seventh.

And they gradually slithered out of the play-off race, during the second half of last season, hampered by a disastrous spell on the road which yielded just one solitary victory from the last 15 away games of the campaign.

No wonder that a haul of just six points from a possible 45, in those last 15 away league fixtures, saw United end the campaign in 10th spot, a distant nine points adrift of those long-forgotten play-offs.

A quiet summer, with precious little activity in the transfer market, left the U’s with a limited squad for the start of this term. If anything, the squad looked unbalanced with too many midfielders and full-backs, and too few strikers.

Most clubs in League One have three, four or even five senior strikers on their books, to accommodate a couple of attacking options on the bench.

But remarkably, and certainly frustratingly, Ward has made do with a mere two senior strikers, one of them an injury-plagued Steven Gillespie.

It is asking a lot to mount a serious promotion bid with just one regular striker – before sitting out the last game of the year (2-0 win over Exeter) Kayode Odejayi had started every league game, as well as the three cup fixtures in the Carling Cup and FA Cup.

Odejayi scored in the opening day 4-2 win at Preston, my favourite U’s game of 2011, to offer hope for the coming months.

But tellingly, United did not return to the top 10, from the middle of August, until after they had recorded back-to-back wins over Bury and Hartlepool before Christmas.

Throw in Cup defeats at the hands of Wycombe (penalty shoot-out in the Carling Cup), Barnet (at home in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy) and Swindon (at home in the FA Cup), and you have the recipe for a disappointing year.

Of course hope springs eternal, and U’s fans will be looking forward to a change for the better during 2012.

But it will not be easy. Ward’s squad remains solid, but hardly inspiring, while attendances have been on the slide.

Having said all that, the return of Karl Duguid – Mr Colchester United – has been a big boost, while winger Michail Antonio proved an inspired loan signing.

U’s fans will be hoping that Odejayi maintains his consistency, as well as adding a few more goals to his game, and that Gillespie enjoys an injury-free second half of the campaign.

Much could also depend on what happens during the transfer window. Will Ward add to his squad, and will he be able to keep hold of his prize assets, like Magnus Okuonghae and leading scorer Anthony Wordsworth?

My guess is that Colchester will still be a League One club by this time next year.

And despite those two years in the Championship (2006-08), it is certainly no failure for the U’s to be an established third tier club.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter