Matt Heath playing for his future
MATT Heath could be playing for his Colchester United future over the closing weeks of the season.
Experienced centre-half Heath will start his first game of 2012, at relegation-haunted Exeter City this afternoon, in place of the leg-weary Tom Eastman.
Heath has not started a senior game since New Year’s Eve, ironically against today’s opponents Exeter in a 2-0 home win.
The 30-year-old has been restricted to just three substitute appearances, against Oldham, Huddersfield and Walsall, totalling a mere 38 minutes on the pitch.
But now he has a chance to re-establish himself in the U’s starting line-up, over the last seven games of the season.
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Heath’s contract expires this summer, but he is keen to stay at the Essex club for much longer.
“It’s an important next few weeks for me,” admitted Heath.
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“I’m obviously very happy at the club, and I want to be playing here for a lot longer than this season.
“So the next six or seven games, if I can establish a place in the team again, will be a good bonus for me.
“I’d like to stay at Colchester longer, and hopefully we will be able to sort something out pretty sharpish.”
Despite his lack of match-action, since the turn of the year, Heath has had no complaints with having to bide his time on the bench.
The ex-Leeds, Coventry and Leicester defender has recognised the strong partnership forged by Eastman and Magnus Okuonghae, especially during the recent run of just one defeat in 10 games.
But now is his time, starting at Exeter.
“I’ve been watching the lads play the last 10 or so games. They’ve been excellent really, especially as a defensive unit,” continued Heath.
“They’ve not conceded so many goals, though that’s not just been down to the defence because the whole team has been a lot more solid.
“I’ve been sitting on the sidelines, but seeing as though they’ve lost just one in 10 games, I cannot really have many complaints.
“But on the other side of it, I’ve been itching to get back into the team and to be out on the field, because that is where I want to be.
“When you do get that chance, and you’ve been out of the team for as long as I have, you are going to prepare right and try to take the chance with two hands.
“It’s high on my priority to try and stay in the team, but I can only do that if I perform well, and the team performs well,” added Heath.
Heath is set to partner Okuonghae in the heart of defence at Exeter. It will be his 89th league appearance for the U’s, and his 103rd in all competitions. But he is full of admiration for his 20-year-old counterpart Eastman.
“Tom is a young lad coming into his first season of playing so many games, and I think he has done really well,” said Heath.
“He’s learning as every game goes by, and he’s not making mistakes over and over again. He’s the kind of lad that wants to listen to everybody, and take advice on board. I think he definitely has a bright future ahead of him at Colchester.”
Martin Rowlands will again miss out, due to a groin injury, but Kem Izzet should return to central midfield after missing the 3-1 defeat at Walsall due to ill health.