Cousins to get his chance again

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward will have no hesitation in putting second-choice keeper Mark Cousins back in his team today.

First choice custodian Ben Williams aggravated a back injury he had felt in the warm-up during the first half of Tuesday night’s 1-0 defeat at Charlton and was replaced by Cousins at half-time

Williams was then left behind in Essex when the team coach left for Hartlepool yesterday as it was felt that the long journey to the north east may worsen the problem.

The 28-year-old’s absence means that Cousins will once again get his chance to shine at Victoria Park this afternoon.

The Chelmsford-born 24-year-old, who has been with the club from a young age, was largely a frustrated substitute for his first six seasons as a professional.

A pre-season ankle injury to Williams – who had just ended last season as Colchester’s stand-out performer – meant he finally got his chance at the beginning of this campaign though.

And he took it with both hands, quickly putting a disastrous night at Sunderland in the League Cup behind him with a string of impressive displays – including a man-of-the-match performance in a goalless draw at Southampton.

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Following 12 consecutive appearances, Cousins once again returned to the bench when Williams returned to fitness.

“Mark’s been brilliant,” said Ward. “He’s probably been the most frustrated of all the players.

“I made a decision on him 12 games in which was a tough one on Mark and he had every reason to knock my door down and say ‘what’s that all about?’ He didn’t though – he just got on with it.

“I don’t want Ben (Williams) to be out the side or injured, but there’s a part of me that’s pleased for Mark to get an opportunity to get back in the team.

“You saw on Tuesday night he was very bright, very lively, very quick on his toes and ready to play. To come on halfway into to a game you’ve got to be mentally ready as well as physically and Mark has been both of those.”

Cousins today faces a Hartlepool side that has scored just twice in their last seven games. Mick Wadsworth’s side have taken just two points from a possible 18 to slip to within four points of the drop zone.

Hartlepool had previously won 10 of 16 games between October through to New Year’s Day – suffering a rare defeat at Colchester during that time – to briefly get to within a point of the play-offs.

– Full Hartlepool v Colchester preview in today’s EADT.

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