Lambert to take no risks over Gillespie

COLCHESTER United boss Paul Lambert will not be risking Steven Gillespie from the start against visiting Scunthorpe United tomorrow.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United boss Paul Lambert will not be risking Steven Gillespie from the start against visiting Scunthorpe United tomorrow.

Gillespie made his first appearance for more than seven weeks at Luton Town in the Johnstone's Paint Trophy on Tuesday night. He was introduced as a 75th minute substitute and missed a great chance to equalise in a 1-0 defeat.

The U's club record signing has spent most of this season battling a succession of injuries. The latest was a hamstring injury sustained during the early stages of the 5-0 home win over Carlisle on October 25.

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That is why Lambert is reluctant to throw Gillespie straight back in at the deep end, even though fellow striker Jermaine Easter's loan stint from Plymouth has been cut short by a long-term knee injury.

“It was good to have Steven (Gillespie) back playing again,” explained Lambert.

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“He should have scored. It doesn't matter whether he had been out for two months or not, he should have equalised.

“We now have to get him fully fit. He came to this club for a transfer fee of £400,000 (from Cheltenham), which is an awful lot of money.

“It's a big price tag to have on your head. He has to produce the goods, which means playing a succession of games. He hasn't done that yet.

“He hadn't played that many games before I came, and he hasn't played many since. Just 15 minutes in the last two months.

“He's not ready to start a game yet,” added Lambert.

Clive Platt was rested for the midweek trip to Kenilworth Road, but he will be back against Scunthorpe. Scott Vernon, who rattled the bar with a thunderous shot against the Hatters, is the most likely to partner Platt in attack.

The U's boss made eight changes for the Luton game, but he is set to revert to a more familiar starting line-up tomorrow.

Left-back Marc Tierney was cup-tied, while Mark Yeates, Chris Coyne, David Perkins and keeper Jimmy Walker were only named as substitutes - Coyne ended up playing 84 minutes due to a nasty head injury to fellow centre-half Matt Heath.

Defender Paul Reid missed out due to a virus. It's a problem that has affected a few U's players this week.

Obviously Easter's return to Plymouth is a big blow for the U's. The 26-year-old loanee will be out of action for six to eight weeks after sustaining medial ligament damage during last weekend's 2-1 win at Leeds.

“Jermaine (Easter) was terrific for us, and he will be a huge miss,” confirmed Lambert.

“He scored two goals, and helped Clive Platt enormously. In fact, they both helped each other out.

“It was me who sold Jermaine to Plymouth from Wycombe, and I don't know what their plans are for him in the future.”

The U's are currently 16th in the table, but they could even break into the top half with a win over promotion-chasing Scunthorpe.

“It will be a different team playing to that at Luton on Tuesday night. We want to carry on where we left off at Leeds,” continued Lambert.

“There are 12 points available over the festive period, but it's up to us to go out there and get them. We have a chance to move up the table.

“No one expected us to beat Leeds. We are making good progress considering what's happened at the club. We are getting there slowly but surely.

“You might say that I shouldn't have made so many changes at Luton, but hindsight is a wonderful thing.

“I could have played a stronger side and ended up getting five injuries! It was a Catch 22 situation,” concluded Lambert.

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