Make or break derby facing U's

COLCHESTER United star Greg Halford insists that the result of tomorrow's Essex derby, against visiting Southend, could “make or break” the U's season.

COLCHESTER United star Greg Halford insists that the result of tomorrow's Essex derby, against visiting Southend, could “make or break” the U's season, writes Carl Marston.

In fact, it is such a crucial fixture that Halford rates this clash with the league leaders as more important than the recent glamorous FA Cup fifth-round tie at Premiership champions Chelsea.

Halford, with the rest of the squad, enjoyed a three-day break in Portugal during the first half of this week. But he is now back home and focusing all his attention on beating high-flying Southend.

“The Chelsea game was a nice day out, but Saturday's match is more important for our whole season,” revealed Halford.

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“It's the biggest game of our season. The league has always been our priority, and the result could well make or break our season. If we can beat Southend, then we will almost have caught them up, with games in hand.

“The teams are bunching up at the top of the table. Brentford could only draw [at Doncaster] in midweek, and so are still a point behind us, while we have a couple of games in hand on the teams above us.

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“That means that our destiny is in our own hands. If we keep winning, then we don't even have to worry about other results.

“We want to get promotion. We are looking at finishing in the top two. Anywhere else would be considered a disappointment. We are after the top two, not the top six,” added Halford.

Right-midfielder Halford was the most crestfallen of figures following the U's 3-1 defeat at Roots Hall on Bank Holiday Monday, August 29.

The U's never clicked out of first gear in that first Essex derby of the campaign. While Southend were mounting their bid for promotion early, the U's were down in the relegation zone after just one win from their first seven fixtures.

Halford recalled: “The match at Southend was our poorest performance of the season. The team were poor, and I was poor.

“But we now have a chance to put that right. I'm really looking forward to this weekend. We want to make up for that defeat, both for ourselves and the fans.

“Southend have done well to keep up there all season. But it's no surprise, because they are a very consistent team.

“However, we are at home, and our home form has been excellent. We will have the more fans, and we want to give them something to cheer about.

“Our main problem last season was our indifferent home form. We wanted to turn Layer Road into a fortress, and that's just what we have done,” insisted 21-year-old Halford.

The U's have not suffered a home defeat since the 1-0 reverse at the hands of visiting Bournemouth on October 15. They won their next 12 games at Layer Road, a sensational run that was finally ended by a goalless draw against Walsall on February 14.

Although Phil Parkinson's men have only taken one point from a possible nine in their last three league games, they remain in the thick of the promotion race. They are fourth, five points behind leaders Southend with two games in hand.

The U's were unlucky to lose 1-0 at promotion rivals Barnsley last weekend, after which they flew off to Portugal for a mini-break.

“We have had a good break, to recharge our batteries,” said Halford. “A few of the lads played golf, and we had a training session on Tuesday. I play golf myself, although I didn't out there because I just wanted to rest up.

“It was the same hotel that we went to a couple of years ago. There's a football pitch and a couple of tennis courts.

“The short break worked in our favour a couple of years ago, because our results were good for the rest of the season. It was a time for us to relax and refocus, and now we're looking forward to enjoying a good run-in,” concluded Halford.

Tomorrow's game is a sell-out.

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