Huge amount at stake for U's tonight

SO much is at stake tonight. Colchester United face their biggest game of the season, and they cannot afford another home flop.

Carl Marston

Colchester soccer preview

By Carl Marston

SO much is at stake tonight. Colchester United face their biggest game of the season, and they cannot afford another home flop.

The U's woeful set of results, at their new Weston Homes Community Stadium, is the prime reason why they are stuck in the relegation zone.

In fact, only League Two strugglers Grimsby Town have picked up fewer points (four) than the U's (five) from the top five divisions.

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Tonight's visitors, Yeovil Town, leapfrogged the U's in the League One table after beating Tranmere Rovers 1-0 at Huish Park on Saturday. Defender Terry Skiverton was the Glovers hero with a spectacular free-kick.

That result, combined with the U's 2-1 defeat at Peterborough, enabled Yeovil to escape the drop zone and cause Paul Lambert's men to slither into the bottom four.

Colchester will be out of the relegation zone if they can beat the Somerset side this evening. But a fourth successive defeat would leave them stranded.

Such a key fixture deserves a good crowd, but they have been in short supply at the U's new ground this season. The previous Saturday's 2-0 home defeat by Walsall attracted the smallest attendance to date (4,071), and that could even be eclipsed on a night of televised Champions League football.

The disappointing attendances are hitting the club hard financially, not least because the proposed break-even figure is believed to be around the 6,800 mark.

Interestingly, Yeovil have also been plagued by poor crowds this season. In fact, Saturday's figure of 3,445 for the win over Tranmere was their lowest since they were elevated to the Football League!

On the pitch, Lambert will again have to reshuffle his defence, due to a trio of injuries at Peterborough. John White, Matt Heath and Lee Hills all hobbled off at London Road, and none of them are expected to return tonight.

However, Chris Coyne should figure after his recent travels with Australia - the U's club skipper played 68 minutes of the Socceroos' 1-0 over Bahrain in a World Cup qualifier last Wednesday, and he should start alongside Pat Baldwin in the heart of defence.

Phil Ifil appeared as a substitute to fill-in at centre-half against Posh, but he should revert to his more favoured right-back role in the absence of White. Johnnie Jackson is set to continue at left-back, especially as Aston Villa loanee Hills is out.

By contrast, the midfield and strike-force are unlikely to change. Jermaine Easter will therefore make his home debut for the U's, since signing on loan from Plymouth last Thursday.

Easter will partner Clive Platt up front. The duo teamed up well against Peterborough, with Platt celebrating his third goal of the season.

Yeovil completed the signing of striker Luke Rodgers on loan from Port Vale last night. The former Shrewsbury and Crewe goal poacher goes straight into the squad.

The diminutive Rodgers was Vale's top scorer with 12 goals last term, and he has netted five to date this campaign.

The Glovers also welcome back ex-Liverpool defender Lee Peltier and midfielder Aaron Brown after suspension.

n Young Colchester defender James Hammond has signed on a month's loan at Blue Square South side Fisher Athletic.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Ifil, Baldwin, Coyne, Jackson, Yeates, Izzet, Hammond, Perkins, Platt, Easter, Vernon, Wasiu, Wordsworth, Elito, Reid, Williams, Cousins.

YEOVIL: Wagenaar, Alcock, Skiverton, Forbes, Smith, Schofield, Warne, Roberts, Downes, Tomlin, Rodgers, Noel-Williams, Peltier, Brown, Jones, Welsh, Murtagh, Thompson, Street.

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