Phil Ifil has point to prove in high-stake Essex derby

AS if the stake were not high enough, Phil Ifil has added motivation for tonight’s Essex derby between Dagenham & Redbridge and Colchester United.

A win for the U’s over their county rivals would keep them in touch with the top six following the set-back of Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat against Southampton.

A win for the relegation-threatened Daggers would leave them believing they can pull off the great escape following a vital 2-0 win at Bristol Rovers at weekend.

For Ifil though there is a personal point to prove after the events of last summer.

The versatile 24-year-old had just enjoyed a relatively successful third season at the U’s making 30 appearances at either right-back or on the wing.

Manager Aidy Boothroyd duly offered him a fresh deal at the end of the campaign, but once he left for Coventry that was put on ice.

Assistant boss John Ward was promoted to the hot-seat in May and he eventually decided to let Ifil go just before the players were about to return for pre-season training – replacing him with right-back Brian Wilson on a free transfer after he was released by Bristol City.

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“I was very disappointed with the way it all happened,” said Ifil, who started this season without a club before Dagenham & Redbridge boss John Still offered him a one-year deal in September.

“It went from me being told I was going to be given a new contract to suddenly not. I appreciate different managers have different plans, but a decision a bit earlier would have been better for me and my family. It left me with a very short period to find a new club and was a very uncertain time for me.

“Why didn’t John (Ward) keep the offer on the table? I don’t know, you’d have to ask him that.

“I was happy and enjoying my time at Colchester and was looking forward to another season. I don’t hold any grudges though, I’ve moved on now and I’m looking forward to seeing some of my old team mates again.”

Colchester are without top-scorer David Mooney at Victoria Road tonight as he is serving the first of a three-match suspension following a controversial red card at the weekend. He had been dropped for Colchester’s last away game though having failed to score on his travels in the league this season.

With Icelandic international Matthias Vilhjalmsson having cut short his loan spell at the U’s last week it leaves Ward with just two out-and-out strikers to select from tonight in the form of Kayode Odejayi and Steven Gillespie.

The midfield trio of Andy Bond, Ian Henderson and Ashley Vincent have all fulfilled forward roles at different stages this season.

Dagenham & Redbridge are currently without their two first choice full-backs after Abu Ogogo and Damien McCrory both limped off in the last two matches. That has handed Ifil the chance to play against his former club, Saturday’s game his first appearance since the end of November, while Oluwafemi Ilesanmi is likely to come in at left-back.

The Daggers have two recent U’s targets in their squad in midfielder Solomon Taiwo and striker Marvin Morgan.

Taiwo saw a loan move to The Weston Homes Community Stadium fall through at the last minute in January last season due to the fact that parent club Cardiff suffered a host of injuries in his position, while Ward decided that League Two club Aldershot were asking too high a price for Morgan last summer. Since then the powerful forward has been allowed to join the Daggers on loan following an ill-advised ‘tweet’ which saw him put on the transfer list.

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