Hartlepool still part of our ‘big six’ says Ward

THE ‘big five’ may be out of the way – but this is no time for Colchester United to relax.

That’s according to U’s boss John Ward, whose side have just emerged from a relentless spell of games against high-flying League One sides with their heads held high and very much still in the promotion hunt.

Not only did they win their two home games in that period – beating Bournemouth and Peterborough – they also claimed a battling point at Huddersfield, gave it a good go in a 2-0 defeat at league-leaders Brighton and only came away with nothing from Charlton on Tuesday following a refereeing farce.

Today the Essex side, on paper at least, face a slightly less daunting trip to Hartlepool – a side that have been sucked back to within four points of the relegation zone in recent weeks following a dreadful run of results.

However, Victoria Park hasn’t been a particularly happy hunting ground for the U’s over the years, while it must be remembered that Mick Wadsworth’s side were above Colchester in the table not so long ago and gave them a tough test in the reverse fixture.

It’s for those reasons that Ward says today’s match is the last in a run against a ‘big six’ rather than the first after facing the ‘big five’.

“They were included in the beginning and I’m still including them now,” said Ward.

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“It’s the final game of that group because while people at the moment don’t recognise them as a top six team, when we played them before they were above us in the league at that time.

“If we don’t include them in that group we wouldn’t be giving Mick Wadsworth’s team the respect they deserve.”

He added: “I’m very pleased with the way my team has responded to this tough batch of games recently.

“While not all results have gone in our favour, the way we’ve gone about it has been very positive, very front foot and very direct.

“We had a go at Brighton and Huddersfield and Charlton away from home and gave good accounts of ourselves. We now have to be equally as positive at Hartlepool.”

Colchester are without keeper Ben Williams today. He aggravated a back injury during the first half at Charlton on Tuesday and did not travel with the squad yesterday. Mark Cousins, who performed well during a 12 game spell in the team at the start of the season, returns to the side with summer signing Carl Pentney making an appearance on the bench.

Hartlepool will be without right-back Neil Austin after he injured his calf in Tuesday night’s 4-0 defeat at Oldham.

– Full match preview in today’s EADT.

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