Green challenge as U’s face defining moment

A GOOD day against the men in green will make for a good day on the greens for Colchester United this weekend.

The U’s travel down to the south west today in preparation for back-to-back away games against League One’s bottom two sides – Plymouth tomorrow afternoon and Bristol Rovers on Tuesday night.

Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling has once again agreed to pay for the players and staff to stay at an Exeter hotel for four nights to give the team the best possible chance of picking up maximum points at such a crucial stage of the season.

The team stayed at the same venue at the very beginning of the season when they played Exeter and Hereford away in quick succession and were able to enjoy a round of golf on the Sunday.

The same is planned this time, but manager John Ward has warned his players that they will only enjoy it if they win tomorrow.

“There’s a nice golf course there and a chance for a little relaxation and I don’t mind that as long as I get what I want on Saturday,” said the 59-year-old.

“It’s only a good three or four days if you can get your first result. If we get a good result at Plymouth the rest of it will follow on nicely, but if we don’t then it might not be so pleasant because there’s nowhere for them to go – they’re stuck with me!

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“I’m not an ogre but we’re going there to play football. If we win then staying there will have worked, if we don’t then the chairman will wonder why he’s spent the money on it.”

Colchester have put in two of their best performances of the season over their last two games, beating a previously in-form Walsall 2-0 with an utterly dominant home display last weekend before following that up with an impressive 1-1 draw at high-flying Peterborough on Tuesday night.

The latter was only the U’s second away point of the year and ended a spell of nearly nine-and-a-half hours without a goal on their travels. Now, with the next three away games coming against the division’s bottom three sides (Dagenham & Redbridge also coming up), there is a big opportunity to improve on that record further.

“If we’re going to be seriously considered top six possibilities then it’s very important we come back with points from these next two,” said Ward.

“I’ve been questioned about our away form recently but if we can put that behind us now this could prove to be a really defining moment.

“We’ve set good standards over the last two matches and the challenge that I’ve now thrown to the players is to maintain that standard.

“It is a good time of the season to be putting a bit of form together and if the next two performances are the same as the last two I’ll be very happy.

“We’re fighting the odds with the big teams up there but I want to come back after Tuesday still in a fighting position.

“If we can hit form now it would be great but I know I’m one of 92 managers saying that.”

Crisis club Plymouth moved to the bottom of the table last week after they were deducted 10 points for going into administration.

The Pilgrims, who were forced to cash in on star players such as Bradley Wright-Phillips and Craig Noone in January and who are struggling to pay their players on time, are now in serious danger of suffering consecutive relegations.

– For full match preview, including probable line-ups, an interview with U’s in-form midfielder Lloyd James and John Ward’s thoughts on the situation at Home Park, see tomorrow’s EADT.

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