Colchester United target a top-10 finish

Sammie Szmodics (far right, partly hidden) scores the U's third goal in the 3-1 home win over today'

Sammie Szmodics (far right, partly hidden) scores the U's third goal in the 3-1 home win over today's hosts Exeter City, from December. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United bring the curtain down on a disappointing season back in League Two, with a 540-mile round trip to Devon to take on play-off bound Exeter City this afternoon.

On the fringes of the play-off race for so long, and as high as fifth spot in December, the U’s campaign faded badly from late February onwards.

And that’s why the U’s have just pride and three points to play for at St James’ Park, when at this time last term they were still in with a shout of making the top seven.

John McGreal’s men have lost six of their last 12 league fixtures, a poor run that killed off those play-off hopes.

In fact, they are 12 points off the top seven, going into today’s final fixture, and down in 12th spot with only an outside chance of finishing in the top 10.

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To snatch 10th spot, the U’s must beat fourth-placed Exeter, and hope that 10th-placed Swindon lose to champions Accrington Stanley at the County Ground, and that Newport fail to win at Carlisle United.

“We’d like to go out with a bang, especially for our away fans,” explained McGreal.

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“We have the best away record for a good 10 years, and we want to finish on a high. We can’t do anything in the league, in terms of the play-offs, but we’d like to get a result against opposition who are in the play-offs.

“I think it should be a good game of football, and very good on the eye. Both teams play in the right way, and it should be a nice, hot day as well.

“We produced one of our best performances of the season in the home game against Exeter (3-1 home win on December 9), especially in the first half, when we were very good.

“But that was months and months ago. ‘What if?’ has been the case for us this season.

“We must make sure that we come back stronger next season.”

The U’s had been dogged by a poor away record in recent years, but that has not been the main problem this season with just eight league defeats suffered on the road, and 28 points accrued from 22 away games.

Instead, seven defeats on home soil have been very damaging, especially against some lowly opposition in Barnet and Yeovil.

By contrast Exeter, who need just one point to be sure of a home tie in the second leg of the play-off semi-final, have only lost four home games all season.

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