Must-win game for U's tonight

THE Championship's leakiest defence is beginning to shore up the holes, and it's not all down to Colchester United's new signings.Unsung hero John White has produced a string of solid performances since the turn of the year, following his one-month loan spell at Stevenage.

Carl Marston

THE Championship's leakiest defence is beginning to shore up the holes, and it's not all down to Colchester United's new signings.

Unsung hero John White has produced a string of solid performances since the turn of the year, following his one-month loan spell at Stevenage.

The 21-year-old has claimed the left-back berth for his own and he's getting better with every game. Fresh from a man-of-the-match display in Saturday's 1-1 draw at Burnley, White is now hoping to maintain his high standards against fellow strugglers Preston tonight.

It's really a must-win game for the U's, who are currently five points adrift of safety. Preston are fourth-from-bottom, just one place above the relegation zone.

“We are playing better football than we have done in a long time, and we don't look like a team about to be relegated. But now's the time to start winning,” insisted White, who is a product of the U's youth team.

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“Preston is a massive game. Playing a team near us at the bottom is more important. We have to beat these sort of teams to help ourselves and knock them back. We need to improve our home form, we know that. Our performances at Layer Road have not been good enough. We have recognised this, and we played a lot better against Sheffield United (2-2 draw).

“We're looking better as a team, and having a settled back four over the last few weeks has certainly helped. We know each other's game now, and I'm personally loving this run in the team.”

Local boy White, who was born just down the road from Colchester at Maldon, has started the last six games for the U's. Before the turn of the year, he had made just two league appearances in a disappointing season, both inside the first month.

Ironically, the second of those two outings was the 3-2 home defeat by Burnley, on September 1. Five months later and he frustrated the Clarets on their own turf.

“I don't look on it as being my best performance for the club. Instead, it's all about how the team performs, not me, that matters,” insisted White.

“It was a good display at Burnley. But we left disappointed with just a point, because we felt that we did enough to get the win. It was another case of what could have been, like against Sheffield United the previous weekend.

“We are starting to turn it around. The new signings have taken time to settle in, but things are picking up.”

White is part of a rejuvenated back four that includes Celtic loanee Adam Virgo at centre-half, and two of last month's new signings, Phil Ifil and Chris Coyne, at right-back and centre-half respectively.

Ignoring the 3-1 home defeat by Peterborough in the FA Cup, Geraint Williams' men have conceded just six goals in their last five league matches. It's not a spectacular record, but it's encouraging for a team who are rooted to the bottom of the table.

Defender White, who before this year had played most of his games at right-back, believes that he benefited from his loan stint at Blue Square Premier high-fliers Stevenage.

He explained: “I knew that it wasn't going to be the same as playing in the Championship with Colchester, but it helped my match-fitness and it boosted my confidence. I was also playing at left-back, which has helped me. Playing regular football got me into the swing of things again.”

White is now approaching the century mark for senior appearances. He is set to play his 92nd game for the U's against Preston tonight.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Ifil, Coyne, Virgo, White, Duguid, Izzet, Jackson, McLeod, Platt, Vernon, Sheringham, Guttridge, Balogh, Guy, Lisbie, Cousins.

PRESTON NORTH END: Lonergan, Jones, St Ledger, Chilvers, Hill, Sedgwick, McKenna, Carter, Whaley, Brown, Hawley, Ormerod, Mellor, Chaplow, Mawene, Davidson, Szamotulski.

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