Familiar old faces set to grace the Colchester United turf
- Credit: Andrew Partridge
December could be make-or-break for Colchester United, in their bid to clamber out of the League One relegation zone.
Fresh from a morale-boosting FA Cup second round victory over Peterborough last Sunday, thanks to George Moncur’s dramatic injury-time winner, the U’s now close out the year with four crunch league games.
Tony Humes’ men will end a difficult 2014 with three fixtures against fellow bottom eight clubs. There are away games at second-from-bottom Yeovil and 17th-placed Crawley, sandwiching a home match against Gillingham on Boxing Day. The Gills are only out of the bottom four on goal difference.
Before these relegation showdowns, however, the U’s have to focus on a meeting with Rochdale, one of the surprise packages of the division, at the Community Stadium this afternoon.
Newly promoted Dale are sitting pretty in eighth slot, just three points adrift of the play-off zone and with a better goal-scoring record (32 goals) than any other club outside the top four.
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And they have two very familiar faces in their squad.
Both Ian Henderson and Michael Rose left the U’s under a cloud, but each has discovered a new lease of life at Deepdale.
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And both men will be eager to impress against their former employers.
Front-runner Henderson, in particular, has been in prolific form.
The former Norwich City attacker, who had his Colchester contract terminated by mutual consent at the end of January 2013, has been a popular figure at the Greater Manchester club.
Having gradually slipped out-of-favour in Joe Dunne’s regime, Henderson signed a short-term deal with Dale until the end of the 2013-14 season before signing a two-year extension the following summer.
Henderson hit the headlines when scoring the second goal in a shock 2-0 victory over Leeds United in the third round of the FA Cup last January.
And he has been in red-hot form this season, scoring eight goals in 17 league outings.
The U’s defence, with Tom Eastman and new recruit Kaspars Gorkss expected to continue their partnership today, will have to be on their toes to keep Henderson at bay.
At the other end of the pitch, left-back Rose, inset, will be determined to keep out his old team.
Rose had his U’s contract terminated on the same day as Henderson and has since also found a settled home at Rochdale.
The 32-year-old, like Henderson, had a short-term deal extended with a long-term package signed in the summer of 2013.
He has already rattled up 73 senior appearances for Dale and if the U’s concede a free-kick in a dangerous position on Saturday then Rose will be first in line to take the set piece.
Despite their success in the FA Cup last weekend, the U’s go into today’s clash on the back of four straight league defeats.