Goalscoring problem still with U's

WINNING promotion is hard enough, but it's doubly difficult without an out-and-out goalscorer in your ranks.

Carl Marston

Colchester soccer preview

By Carl Marston

WINNING promotion is hard enough, but it's doubly difficult without an out-and-out goalscorer in your ranks.


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Colchester United have struggled for goals for most of this season, mainly because none of their strikers have hit top form. It is a fact not lost on manager Paul Lambert.

The U's are still clinging onto faint hopes of reaching the play-offs, thanks in part to the number of goals scored elsewhere in the side - winger Mark Yeates is the top scorer with 10 goals (nine in the league), while midfielder David Perkins has contributed five.

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But of all the Colchester strikers who have seen action in League One this season - and there have been seven of these - none of them have scored more than five goals.

Target man Clive Platt, who has always set up more goals than he has scored throughout his career, has notched five goals, but others have disappointed.

The luckless Steven Gillespie has only started six league games since last summer's move from Cheltenham, due to a string of injuries, while loanees Jermaine Easter and Sam Williams were both hit by the injury hoodoo.

Scott Vernon has found goals difficult to come by, while Sunday Akanni-Wasiu and Jamie Guy have failed to stamp their authority in the side.

That is one of the reasons why Lambert settled on a new-look formation for Tuesday night's 1-0 win over Stockport County. The Scotsman picked Platt as the lone striker, flanked by wingers Yeates and Simon Hackney.

It is a ploy that worked well, and that will probably be implemented again for this afternoon's visit of Hartlepool United.

Club record signing Gillespie, who scored a brace on the opening day of the season, in a 4-2 defeat at Hartlepool, is again likely to be on the substitutes' bench.

But Lambert has not ruled out the possibility of signing a striker on loan to increase his options during the run-in.

“We have found goals hard to come by, and it's pretty obvious that we need to score more goals,” admitted Lambert.

“Mark Yeates is our top goal-scorer, and that's from a wide position.

“We need to try and give the other lads a hand, which is why I'm trying to get someone else in. We are dominant in most games, but we are finding it difficult to score, and when you get one goal you really need another as well.

“The other teams up there all have proven goalscorers in their side, so this is an area that I'm looking to strengthen.

“Steven Gillespie has been struggling with his calf. It felt sore last weekend (against Southend), so it was good that we were able to win without using him against Stockport.

“He's desperate to play. It's been such a frustrating season for him. I just haven't seen enough of him, although I've seen a little to know why the club paid �400,000 for him.

“Steven has played just a handful of games, and yet he always seems to get chances.

“Jamie Guy played against Walsall, and he did fine. But I've told him that I need to try and pick a team to win the game. Anthony Wordsworth is another of those who is a big talent, who can find himself back in the team.

“But the squad is big, and needs to be trimmed down a little,” added Lambert.

The U's are now eight points adrift of the top six, following Tuesday night's 1-0 win over eighth-placed Stockport. Marc Tierney celebrated his first goal in a U's shirt with a 17th minute winner.

Lambert has certainly not given up hope of reaching the play-offs, although he is full aware of how far the team has come already since his appointment in mid-October.

He continued: “The main objective when I arrived was to keep the Club in this League, considering where we were and where we were going.

“The expectations had been high, after relegation the previous season, simply because the Club was coming down from the league above. People automatically thought that we would go straight back up.

“But things are never as easy as that. The manager has to rebuild, because most of his players go, which has a knock-on effect.

“The old manager (Geraint Williams) left because the team did not look like winning games, so in I came. It was all doom and gloom at that point.

“We went on a good run (one defeat in 13 league games), and suddenly everyone's expectations went up. We then lost three matches, but we haven't trained any differently from the last two-and-a-half months. I didn't want to make major changes.

“I was pleased with the manner in which we bounced back against Stockport, who are a decent side. How responded to getting beat (by Southend) was a big factor.

“I think we are still in there fighting to get in the play-offs, especially if we can win this weekend.

“We have more than enough time to try and do something this season,” concluded Lambert.

The U's will continue to be without the injured duo of Johnnie Jackson and John White. They are both nursing shoulder problems.

Squads

COLHESTER UNITED: Walker, Maybury, Baldwin, Reid, Tierney, Perkins, Hammond, Izzet, Yeates, Hackney, Platt, Gillespie, Vernon, Coyne, Wordsworth, Gobern, Heath, Guy, Cousins.

HARTLEPOOL UNITED: Lee-Barrett, Sweeney, Nelson, Collins, Humphreys, Guy, Liddle, Clark, Monkhouse, Foley, Henderson, Mackay, Jones, Tait, Rowell, Cook.

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