Colchester United’s hectic schedule of 20 games in 84 days
- Credit: Richard Blaxall
Colchester United face a daunting schedule of 20 games during the final 84 days of the season.
That’s an average of about one every four days, or the equivalent to an additional midweek fixture for all bar three weeks of the run-in.
In fact, only fellow League One outfit Crawley Town have a more demanding final three months of the league campaign, out of all the 92 clubs in the Premier League and Football League.
The U’s have so far played 26 games, two or three less than the majority of their rivals. The main exception are mid-table Crawley (25), while basement dwellers Stevenage played their 27th game at home to Gillingham last night.
Everyone in the Championship has played at least 27 fixtures, and the same goes for League Two, with the exception of Newport County, who play their 27th game at home to Fleetwood on Friday.
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It will be a big test of character for the U’s, and their resources will be stretched as they look to continue their push up the League One table.
Joe Dunne’s men only played three games last month, due to the postponements of their home games against Sheffield United (the Blades had FA Cup commitments) and Shrewsbury Town (waterlogged pitch).
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Last Saturday’s short trip to Peterborough was also called off, because of a waterlogged pitch at London Road, so by the time the U’s hopefully take on visiting Rotherham this weekend, it will have been three games since their last competitive game, at Carlisle.
Manager Dunne has said in the past that he is a supporter of a mid-season break, which exists in some European countries, but this unscheduled inactivity has left him extremely frustrated.
Not least because the U’s had actually been firing on all cylinders, and steaming up the table, thanks to a haul of 13 points from a possible 18.
They had momentum in terms of results, while injured players, such as Sanchez Watt and Freddie Sears, returned to the fray. Gavin Massey is the latest player on the comeback trail.
It will certainly not be easy to pick up where they left off at Carlisle (4-2 win), especially against a Rotherham side who dislodged Russell Slade’s Leyton Orient from the top two with a 2-1 home win over the O’s last weekend.
“Its going to be a manic end of the season,” admitted Dunne.
“And it will have a real bearing on who goes up, and who goes down.
“It depends on what squad size can cope with it, so the backlog of matches could play into hands of those with bigger squads.
“The trick, though, is to keep the squad fit, like Leyton Orient have managed this season, being able to play the same players.
“We’ve been grateful to people helping us out with places to train, like Essex University and Colchester Garrison, and Five Lakes have also offered us facilities.
“The thing is to get the right balance between training on Astroturf, or training indoors on hard concrete or on boards.
“Grass is at a premium at the moment, but it’s not just us with this problem.”