Iwelumo: We're ahead of schedule

COLCHESTER United marksman Chris Iwelumo believes that the U's are currently five points ahead of schedule going into tonight's televised Championship showdown at Coventry City.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United marksman Chris Iwelumo believes that the U's are currently five points ahead of schedule going into tonight's televised Championship showdown at Coventry City.

Iwelumo insists that the chief aim of the U's, despite a superb recent run of just one defeat in eight matches, remains to avoid relegation.

The Scotsman slammed home his fourth goal of the season, in last Wednesday's 4-0 demolition of visiting Sheffield Wednesday, a result that cost Owls boss Paul Sturrock his job.

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But the 28-year-old is not getting carried away with the U's impressive rise from the relegation zone to mid-table.

“It's still early days. The aim has always been to get an average of a point-per-game, so we are five points ahead of schedule,” insisted Iwelumo. The U's have earned 17 points from their first 12 games.

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“We want to stay up there in mid-table all season but the gaffer's main target is for us to finish fourth-from-bottom, at worst, to stay in this division.

“We are playing well at the moment and it certainly helps that we've had an unchanged side in recent weeks. We know each other's game, inside out.

“The club is in the spotlight, which is a good thing, and we're all looking forward to playing in front of the Sky television cameras again.

“We are all loving playing at this level, and we are confident that we can stay in this division. There's a long way to go, but we are approaching it in the right way,” added Iwelumo.

Tonight will be the third time this year that Colchester have featured in a live televised game - a record for this traditionally unfashionable club.

The Sky TV cameras were at Stamford Bridge in February, to screen the U's gutsy display against Premiership champions Chelsea in an FA Cup fifth round tie, which ended in a 3-1 defeat.

Just over three weeks ago, Layer Road hosted its own live game - U's fans will never forget that historic 1-0 win over East Anglian visitors Ipswich, the first meeting between the two clubs in 49 years.

United, therefore, have no history of freezing on the big stage, under the glare of the television cameras. That should be the case again at Coventry's new Ricoh Stadium this evening.

And Geraint Williams' men are bang in form. The 4-0 thrashing of Sheffield Wednesday was their biggest win for 11 months, since the 5-0 victory over visiting Gillingham on November 26, 2005.

Iwelumo continued: “That was a great night for the club. Confidence is very high in the squad at the moment.

“I'm happy with my goal. It was a shot from the edge of the box, something I'm conscious that I should be doing more of. Much of my game is about being a provider, especially from flick-ons, rather than just scoring goals.

“I don't think that my goal, the third of the match, killed off Sheffield Wednesday. That had already been done by Greg Halford's terrific strike (second goal). We would always be very unlikely to concede two sloppy goals.

“We were only leading 1-0 at half-time, but the gaffer told us that we were easily the better team, and we proved it in the second-half. We increased the tempo, having not been at the races much in the first-half.

“None of us were happy to learn that Paul Sturrock (Sheffield Wednesday manager) had lost his job. It's not a good thing, to be put out of work.

“It surprised me a little, because he had only been given a new contract last month. The timing of it surprised me,” added Iwelumo.

Former Stoke and Brighton centre-forward Iwelumo was the leading scorer with 19 goals in the U's successful promotion campaign last term. He had the distinction of starting each of the 46 league games.

But he has competition for the top-scorer accolade this season. His strike-force partner, Jamie Cureton, has taken an early lead, poaching his fifth goal of the campaign with the opener in the win over Wednesday.

It was an extra-special goal for Cureton, because it marked his 150th career league goal. Iwelumo has nothing but admiration for his fellow front-runner.

“Jamie (Cureton) has brought something very special to this club,” said Iwelumo.

“He is a great finisher, and to score 150 league goals is a terrific achievement. He gives something different to the team, and I'm sure he'll score a lot more goals for us.”

Iwelumo and Cureton are set to spearhead the U's attack again tonight. In fact, manager Williams is poised to select the same 10 outfield players for the ninth successive game.

But it will be Richard Garcia's last appearance before he serves a one-match suspension against visiting Southampton next Saturday. The Australian picked up his fifth booking of the season against Sheffield Wednesday.

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