Danns: It's going right down to the wire

COLCHESTER United midfielder Neil Danns has predicted that this season's pulsating League One promotion race will go “right to the wire.”Danns and his team-mate Greg Halford have both been named in the League One divisional team of the year, which was revealed yesterday.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United midfielder Neil Danns has predicted that this season's pulsating League One promotion race will go “right to the wire.”

Danns and his team-mate Greg Halford have both been named in the League One divisional team of the year, which was revealed yesterday. They are the first Colchester players to be given this honour since Mark Kinsella in the mid-1990s.

Danns re-ignited the U's late push for the Championship by netting two late goals in the 2-0 win over Hartlepool a fortnight ago, since when Phil Parkinson's men have taken control of second spot.


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A battling 2-2 draw at Chesterfield, followed by nerve-wracking wins over Tranmere (1-0) and at Bournemouth (2-1) have propelled the U's to within touching distance of the Championship.

They need to win their final two games, at home to Rotherham on Saturday and then at Yeovil on the final day of the campaign, to be assured of finishing in the top two. In fact, win both those fixtures and they could even overhaul Essex rivals Southend for the title!

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“There's some quality teams up there, so I expect it to go to the wire,” revealed Danns.

“We know what we have to do, which is to win our final two games. We only need to focus on ourselves, because we needn't worry about other results.

“Of course, I would love us to go up a week early, by beating Rotherham next weekend with both Brentford and Huddersfield losing. But that's unlikely.

“We have to concentrate on beating Rotherham. That will be a tough one because they are battling for their lives,” added Danns.

Rotherham are still in danger of the drop into League Two. The Millers were held to a 1-1 draw by mid-table Scunthorpe last Saturday, which leaves them just two points clear of the relegation zone.

So next weekend's game is as crucial for the Millers as it is for the U's. A bumper Layer Road crowd is guaranteed.

Danns is just hoping that the U's continue where they left off at Bournemouth, when goals from defender Liam Chilvers and Blackpool loanee Scott Vernon secured a 2-1 win.

Both Brentford and Huddersfield also secured away victories, at Swindon and Walsall respectively, to keep the pressure on both Colchester and Southend.

“That was a massive three points for us. I'm ecstatic. It has brought us one step closer to where we want to be, and what we want to achieve this season,” continued ex-Blackburn Rovers midfielder Danns.

“We just have to keep going. Bournemouth gave us some problems with their five players in midfield but we stayed disciplined.

“We got a great start, with Liam's early goal (five minutes), only for Bournemouth to equalise quickly. But we are a confident team and we just waited for the goal to come. I was so relieved when it came!

“We have some very young lads in the side and we have a go at every team, whether we be at home or away.

“I had to work my socks off at Bournemouth, and I was suffering from cramp when I got substituted near the end. But I'm happy to have played my part in such a big win,” concluded Danns.

Danns has plundered an impressive 16 goals this term from his attacking midfield role, while Halford has been just as inspirational on the right flank.

Halford scored eight goals before the end of November, although since then he has concentrated on setting up goals for others, with his long throws and dangerous crosses.

Players from Essex clubs fill five of the 11 places available in the divisional team of the year. In addition to Danns and Halford, leaders Southend have three representatives in keeper Darryl Flahavan, defender Adam Barrett and midfielder Kevin Maher.

While the U's entertain Rotherham this Saturday, chief rivals Brentford are at home to Hartlepool and Huddersfield play host to Yeovil. So, in all three cases, promotion hopefuls take on relegation candidates.

Southend's recent slump in form has left them just three points clear of the U's. And they will not be relishing their final two fixtures, at play-off hopefuls Swansea City next weekend and then at home to Bristol City, who are the division's in-form team, on the final day of the regular campaign.

Tickets for Colchester United's last game of the season, at Yeovil Town on Saturday, May 6, have now sold out.

The U's had an allocation of 1,600, and the remaining tickets were snapped up yesterday.

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