Into the Lion's Den go Colchester

A MIDWEEK trip to Millwall, who are gunning for automatic promotion, is not everyone's idea of a perfect remedy.

Carl Marston

Colchester soccer preview

By Carl Marston

A MIDWEEK trip to Millwall, who are gunning for automatic promotion, is not everyone's idea of a perfect remedy.

But Colchester United's under-fire players are just glad to be back in action, a mere three days after a sub-standard display and a post-match roasting at Scunthorpe.

“Thank goodness for this game. Otherwise, it would have been a very long week,” admitted U's boss Paul Lambert.

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“This is a good chance to bounce back, after a defeat, and put a few things right. There might be a few changes, although I can't really make that many.

“We were really poor in the second-half at Scunthorpe (3-0 defeat), and the players know how I am feeling,” added Lambert.

The Scotsman kept his players in the dressing room for half-an-hour after Saturday's Glanford Park flop, to tell them a few home truths. It will be interesting to see how they react in south London this evening.

Their play-off hopes are now dead-in-the-water, even though Lambert will not concede defeat until it is mathematically impossible to reach the top six.

A win at Scunthorpe would have cut the gap to seven points, but instead they find themselves 13 points adrift of sixth-placed Iron, and also in the bottom half of the table.

There is no doubt that expectations were raised to an unreasonable level when Lambert began leading the U's out of the relegation zone and up the league. A top 10 finish would still be a good achievement for a team who were in the bottom four in mid-October.

But it's disappointing to see them slither back into the bottom half of the table for the first time since the turn of the year.

A win tonight could see them return to the top 10, but a defeat and a positive result for Huddersfield would see them slip to 14th in the table. And who are 15th? Leyton Orient, with ex-U's manager Geraint Williams at the helm!

Lambert would no doubt like to make changes this evening. However, his hands are rather tied by injuries to Steven Gillespie (swollen ankle) and Johnnie Jackson (torn hamstring), as well as defender Chris Coyne's absence due to international commitments with Australia.

Winger Simon Hackney could return to the starting line-up after a groin problem, while new signing Ashley Vincent, recruited from Cheltenham, should make the 16-man squad for the first time. Keeper Dean Gerken and defender John White are also knocking on the door for a rare start.

Hosts Millwall, by contrast, are going great guns. They have a genuine chance of pipping Peterborough to the second automatic promotion slot, although they cannot afford a slip-up against the U's.

Experienced striker Neil Harris is a non-starter, having suffered a facial injury during first-half stoppage time at Crewe on Saturday. Debutant Jason Price netted a dramatic injury-time winner in this 1-0 success at Gresty Road.

Tall striker Price, who signed on loan from Doncaster Rovers on loan deadline day, is set to replace Harris in the starting line-up this evening.

Boss Jackett said of leading scorer Harris' injury: “He's got three stitches just below his eye and he's broken his nose. There's some damage in his face and some swelling in his cheek. He's in pain.”

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