Colchester United’s three wise men

Frankie Kent gets up highest at Mansfield during the first half

Frankie Kent gets up highest at Mansfield during the first half

Colchester United manager John McGreal’s recent decision to veer away from the Essex club’s trademark 4-3-3 system, to three-at-the-back, has worked a treat.

Previous managers, such as Joe Dunne, Tony Humes and Kevin Keen, were always reluctant to tamper with the side’s formation, which was practised by all the various age groups in the U’s Academy.

But following a desperate run of 13 games without a victory, in all competitions, McGreal, a centre-half by trade, took the decision to favour a new three-man central defence of Tom Eastman, Frankie Kent and the returning George Elokobi.

It could prove to be an inspired moment in the U’s season, because since then a total of seven points have been collected from a possible nine to lift McGreal’s men out of the relegation zone and up to 16th in the table.

“All my three centre-halves were excellent,” enthused McGreal, following last Saturday’s goalless draw at Mansfield.

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“We knew what was coming, and that Mansfield would be physical. We had to withstand a heavy shower in the second half, with balls fizzing into the box, and the three centre-halves were outstanding. They deserved their clean-sheet.

“George (Elokobi) and Frankie (Kent) are doing a lot more talking, as is Tom (Eastman), who is coming out of his shell. And the late clearing header from Richard Brindley (right wing-back) was fantastic as well.”

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Kent has particularly benefited from his new role as a sweeper, flanked by the more experienced Eastman and Elokobi.

“Tom and George are so strong and powerful,” enthused Kent, who made his 47th career appearance at Mansfield.

Kent continued: “George is very vocal. He really helps us out, and give us non-stop information.

“Tom, meanwhile, always sees things very early, so he can anticipate well, and I think the right foot (Eastman) left foot (Elokobi) gives us a good balance, with me sweeping up in the middle.

“We are all helping each other out,” added 21-year-old Kent, who has started each of the last three games.

Kent’s appearances were restricted to outings in the League Cup (at Brighton), EFL Trophy (against Charlton under-23s) and one in the league (3-0 home defeat to Leyton Orient), before he was recalled for the superb 3-0 win at Cheltenham.

That was the night that McGreal introduced his three-man central defence, helped by Elokobi’s return from a loan spell at Braintree.

Since then, the U’s have thumped Crewe 4-0 and ground out a 0-0 draw at Field Mill.

The U’s will be looking to make it four clean-sheets in a row this Saturday, when they entertain Notts County.

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