John Ward or Rudyard Kipling?

JOHN Ward would be the first to admit that he is no Rudyard Kipling, but one of the famous poet’s quotations rang true from yesterday’s Colchester United press conference.

JOHN Ward would be the first to admit that he is no Rudyard Kipling, but one of the famous poet’s quotations rang true from yesterday’s Colchester United press conference.

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you .... The world will be yours and everything in it, what’s more, you’ll be a man, my son” – Kipling, not Ward.

The U’s boss did not directly quote Kipling yesterday, but his sentiments regarding his team’s ability to keep cool heads in the face of an injustice at Wycombe on Tuesday night were similar to these expressed by the former champion of British Imperialism.

The U’s bowed out of the Carling Cup at the hands of Wycombe Wanderers, beaten 5-4 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw, and are now preparing to entertain the Chairboys in a quickfire return at the Weston Homes Community Stadium tomorrow, this time for a League One clash.

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Ward was heartened by the way that his side battled back from conceding two goals inside the first 12 minutes at Adams Park, but it was not just the show of character that impressed the U’s manager.

He was also encouraged by the way that his players do not lose their rag, or their discipline, despite the huge controversy surrounding Wycombe’s first goal.

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Referee Pat Miller clearly blew his whistle after the free-kick was taken, which led to Scott Donnelly’s second minute opener. The visitors had made no effort to close down Donnelly, believing that play had stopped, but the goal was allowed to stand.

It was one of those occasions when a “lesser” team would have allowed that sense of injustice to simmer, and perhaps even boil over, for the rest of the game. But the U’s resisted the temptation to feel sorry for themselves, and in the end were very unlucky to bow out of the competition.

It certainly bodes well for the rest of the season.

“The last thing I want is a team that can’t keep its discipline, because then everything falls apart,” explained Ward.

“We have managed to keep everything in the right place. Of course I need a little bit of devil in them, which we have got, but we need control as well.

“This is an improving group of players, on more than just the football counts. They are also improving on how they control and conduct themselves.

“I’m a big believer in that. I don’t want a ragged band of players who can’t control themselves.”

Ward was unhappy that the referee did not spot a foul on Anthony Wordsworth, which allowed Donnelly a clear sight of goal, but he was most annoyed by the rogue whistle.

““Having seen it again on the video, our first observations were correct. There are two things that happened,” said Ward.

“The free-kick had been given, and we know that they (Wycombe) do what a number of teams do, with a kind of block-off where the shooter has his marker blocked by another player in the penalty area.

“The referee walks away from the free-kick with the whistle in his hand, then the movement takes place in the penalty box. The ball is then played and the whistle is blown after this by the referee.

“At the time we thought it might have been a whistle in the crowd, but it was the ref’s whistle.

“My players have heard that whistle, Anthony Wordsworth is fouled in the block-off and falls to the ground, and their guy puts the ball in the net.

“We grumbled on two counts, one that there is a foul, but also that the whistle is blown after the free-kick.

“The fourth official told me that he glanced away at the important moment, the linesman did not have a clue what was going on, and the referee was confused by it all as well.

“By the time he got the two teams lined up again, there was no way he was going to disallow it.

“That was then a test in the team, and we kept our cool. We didn’t lose our discipline and there was no surrounding the referee and no pushing or shoving.

“My captain (Kem Izzet) went and put the protest officially. It’s a real good discipline from us under very difficult circumstances.

“Everyone says play to the whistle, but when the whistle sounds you can start or you can stop!

“It would have been too easy to lose your heads in these circumstances, because the game has not even got established, you have gone a goal down and you feel unjustly done.

“Lose your way football-wise, and lose your discipline, and then it’s a 5-0 defeat and off you go and everyone is distraught.

“But we didn’t do that, which is a major positive for us.”

The incident at Adams Park brought back memories of the U’s visit to Charlton in February, when referee Darren Sheldrake initially ruled out a goal by Steven Gillespie, then gave the goal after consulting with his fourth official, only to then revert to his original decision after home players lodged a protest.

Ward confirmed: “It was similar in a way to what happened at Charlton last year, and we have come out of it at the sticky end both times.”

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