Cousins to start against Plymouth

BEN Williams has a fight on his hands to get back into the Colchester United team.

The 28-year-old keeper was by far and away the U’s stand out performer last season in his debut campaign at the club, his 17 clean sheets leading to speculation that a Championship club may come calling.

He injured his ankle at AFC Hornchurch playing the Essex Senior Cup Final in the week leading up to the new campaign though, meaning second choice Mark Cousins has played the opening seven games of the season.

Williams returned to action on Wednesday night, playing the whole game as an experienced reserve team lost 3-0 at Stevenage. However, Ward has revealed he will stick with Cousins for tomorrow’s visit of Plymouth Argyle,

“Mark will start the game on Saturday, I don’t mind telling you that now,” said the U’s boss.

“Mark Cousins is the guy in possession of the jersey at the moment and he deserves to keep it. He sat on the bench for over 50 games last season and wondered whether he was ever going to get in. Well he’s in now and Ben’s now got to be the patient one.”

Chelmsford-born Cousins has generally looked solid for the U’s in his seven games so far, the only blip having come in the 2-0 Carling Cup defeat at Premier League Sunderland where he was badly at fault for both Darren Bent goals.

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The young keeper had to deal with some bad press the day after that defeat, with the national papers going particularly overboard with their criticism.

The academy product has proved he is made of stern stuff since then though, beaten only by a late scrambled equaliser in an impressive individual display against Carlisle three days later and then keeping a fine clean sheet at Walsall last weekend.

Cousins admits he had requested a loan move away from his boyhood club this summer following a frustrating season, but was fatefully persuaded by Ward to stay.

Carl Pentney was drafted in as temporary keeper cover following Williams’ injury in August and, after impressing for the reserves, his non-contract agreement was turned into a one-year deal yesterday.

And Ward was quick to state that if any of his three keepers were to go out on loan later in the season it will most likely be Pentney, the Colchester-born 20-year-old who was released by Leicester City this summer, rather than Cousins.

“Because of the situation we’ve had with the goalkeeper position, the chairman (Robbie Cowling) has agreed for us to run with three goalkeepers,” said Ward.

“And if we get into the position where all three of them are fully fit then we might look to loan one of them out, but that would probably be Carl.”

Colchester have just one fresh injury worry for their visit of newly-relegated Plymouth tomorrow, with Ian Henderson having missed two days’ training through a minor knee injury.

– For a two-page match preview of Colchester’s game against Plymouth, see tomorrow’s EADT.

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