Does Bond need a rest?

FROM loss of form to purple legs and violent illness – Colchester United’s players are desperately trying to shrug it all off in order to keep the club’s play-off hopes alive.

The U’s slipped a point and a place further off the top six on Tuesday night – the gap now five – following a disappointing 2-0 defeat at lowly Notts County.

That’s seven defeats from the last eight away games for the Essex side, however there certainly can be no questioning the determination, desire and attitude in the ranks ahead of tomorrow’s visit of relegation-threatened Walsall.

The trio of Nathan Clarke, Ian Henderson and Andy Bond are testament to that.

A bone-shaking challenge up at Hartlepool less than two weeks ago left Huddersfield loanee Clarke with his leg black and blue leg from ankle to knee. The U’s club doctor said he had seen less bruising following fractures, while manager John Ward revealed that he’s seen similar injuries keep players out for over a month before.

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The tough centre-back volunteered to play against Swindon seven days later though and only didn’t at the insistence of his concerned boss. Replacement Pat Baldwin injured his Achilles in that match and Clarke didn’t hesitate when asked to come back into the team in midweek.

Then there’s Henderson. The passionate midfielder was delighted to be put back into the starting line-up on Tuesday night following four matches without an appearance. So when he began to, in the words of Ward, ‘vomit big-time’ shortly before kick-off, there was no way he was going to pull out of the team. Instead he put in a 68 minute shift before enduring a queasy bus journey home.

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“I can’t speak highly enough about how much these guys want to play,” said Ward

Which brings us to Bond. The tireless midfielder has just started to dip below his sensational early season form in recent weeks having played virtually every match since his arrival from non-league last summer.

“When you consider he hadn’t played a Football League game when he came to us it’s no surprise really that it’s catching up a little bit,” said Ward. “Maybe he needs a wee breather.”

However, the steely-eyed northerner summed up the spirit in the U’s camp when the above was put to him yesterday.

“I’m not a player who wants to be rested – I want to play every game,” he said. “I’d play in goal if it meant I could play!”

There will be late fitness tests on Ashley Vincent and Henderson (illness), Baldwin and striker Steven Gillespie (hamstring) – the latter having scored four goals in the last three home games – ahead of tomorrow’s visit of Walsall.

The latter two didn’t train yesterday and are major doubts. However, if Clarke and Henderson are anything to go by, you can’t rule anyone out.

– Full match preview in tomorrow’s EADT.

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