Pat looking to double his goal tally

COLCHESTER United defender Pat Baldwin has a special reason to look forward to this afternoon's clash at Roots Hall - he scored his first and as yet only career goal against Southend.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United defender Pat Baldwin has a special reason to look forward to this afternoon's clash at Roots Hall - he scored his first and as yet only career goal against Southend.

Baldwin's main task is keeping opposing strikers under wraps, and helping to keep clean-sheets, but he turned defence into attack with a clinical finish against the Shrimpers last November.

The ex-Chelsea trainee tucked home the U's second against nine-man Southend, to pave the way for a comfortable 3-0 win. Kevin Watson's corner was hammered goalwards by Johnnie Jackson, the ball flying off Chris Iwelumo's shoulder and ricocheting back off the bar, before Baldwin slammed home the rebound.

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“I have good memories of that last match against Southend, and I'm sure that I'll be coming up for corners this time as well,” revealed Baldwin last night.

“It should be a brilliant atmosphere. They will be gunning for revenge, after what happened at Layer Road, but we will be looking to keep cool heads.

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“The gaffer (Geraint Williams) is a very level-headed, laid-back character, and that has rubbed off on us this season. Our disciplinary record has been excellent, and we want that to continue at Southend.

“The home fans will make it a hot atmosphere, especially after their team ended with just nine men against us in the last meeting. But I love playing in these sort of games. That's why I'm a footballer,” added Baldwin.

The U's disciplinary record has been superb - in fact, it's the best in the division - with just one red card and 41 yellow cards from 40 league games. Crystal Palace are the next best with 43 yellows and one red, while five clubs have accumulated more than 70 bookings. Those “bad boys” are Derby, West Brom, Ipswich, Leeds and QPR.

Williams has only had a small squad at his disposal, so the lack of suspensions has been a major factor in the club's success. Chris Barker served a one-match ban for his dismissal against Southend, as have Richard Garcia and Kem Izzet for accruing five bookings.

But those three are the only suspensions incurred by United. Combined with the lack of injuries, it has meant that the U's have enjoyed a settled team for virtually the whole of the campaign.

Southend and Colchester both clinched automatic promotion from League One last term, with the Shrimpers winning the title, but Baldwin was never in any doubt as to who would adapt best to life in the Championship.

“I said all along that we were the better footballing side,” insisted Baldwin.

“We started slowly last season, like we did this season, but we always had the potential to do better at this level than Southend, even though we are clubs of a similar size.

“I didn't play (unused substitute) in the match at Roots Hall last season. We were at the wrong end of the table at the time, and we ended up losing 3-1.

“We will be looking for a better result this time. There are some big games coming up, and there are still 18 points to play for, so a few good results and we will be back up there,” added Baldwin.

London-born Baldwin moved from Stamford Bridge to Layer Road, without making a senior appearance for Chelsea, during the summer of 2002.

The 24-year-old played second fiddle to Wayne Brown and Liam Chilvers for much of last year, but he and Brown have formed a reliable partnership at the heart of defence this season. Chilvers moved to Preston last summer.

“Wayne (Brown) is an outstanding player, and I really love playing alongside him,” said Baldwin.

“We want to keep as many clean-sheets as possible, and behind us we have a terrific young keeper in Dean Gerken. I believe that Dean won't be playing at this level for very long, because he's a very special keeper.

“He's done well to keeper Aidan (Davison) on the bench,” added Baldwin.

The U's have kept five clean-sheets in their last 11 fixtures, and Baldwin would love to mastermind a sixth from 12 this afternoon.

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