Play-offs still a target, says Barker
LEFT-back Chris Barker still has his sights set on Colchester United reaching the play-offs, even though the odds are stacked heavily against them.Barker has bitter-sweet memories of the U's last clash against Southend, which ended in a 3-0 win for the Layer Road hosts, but a red card for himself.
By Carl Marston
LEFT-back Chris Barker still has his sights set on Colchester United reaching the play-offs, even though the odds are stacked heavily against them.
Barker has bitter-sweet memories of the U's last clash against Southend, which ended in a 3-0 win for the Layer Road hosts, but a red card for himself.
The Cardiff loanee was dismissed for two bookable offences, the second of them for a foul on former U's winger Jamal Campbell-Ryce. It brought the curtain down on an incident-packed game, that had seen the Southend duo of Kevin Maher and Mark Gower both sent off early in the second period.
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The dust has long since settled on that November clash, but while the Shrimpers are facing a desperate battle against relegation, the U's are safely installed in the top 10. Barker wants more.
“We have won our last two games, against Southampton and Norwich, and if we can win our next two, then we'll be putting pressure on the teams above us,” explained Barker last night.
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“I'm not just looking at us finishing in the top 10. I think we still have a shot at making the play-offs.
“We can get back up there, especially as we play Southend and Leeds in our next two matches, and they're both in the bottom three.
“They are big games, and not just for the opposition. I think that we will be back in the frame, if we can get six points out of six over Easter.
“I'm certainly not ruling out a push for the top six. It might be a tough call, but I believe that we are in with a chance,” added Barker.
To stand a chance of gate-crashing the play-offs, Colchester would probably have to win at least five of their last six games. It's unlikely, but it's not impossible.
At present, they are seven points behind sixth-placed Wolves, who were walloped 6-0 by visiting Southampton last weekend. If they could complete a league double over Southend today, a tall order in itself, then Geraint Williams' men would leapfrog Stoke City into ninth spot.
“I love playing in local derbies, so I can't wait for this match,” continued Barker, who signed on loan from Cardiff just after the start of the season.
“I haven't actually been involved in a south Wales derby, between Cardiff and Swansea, but I've played in Yorkshire derbies for Barnsley, especially against Sheffield Wednesday.
“They are special occasions. The home game against Southend was disappointing for me personally, because I got sent off, but it was a good day for Colchester United!” added Barker.
U's boss Williams has no injury concerns. His squad is at full-strength, with winger Kevin McLeod returning after a two-game absence due to a hernia operation.
Former Swansea wide-man McLeod played 45 minutes for the Reserves in midweek, in the goalless draw against Oxford's second string, but he is unlikely to start today. Williams will probably stick with the same team that thumped Norwich City 3-0 last weekend.
Southend manager Steve Tilson has options, due to the return of midfielder Alan McCormack after a two-match suspension and centre-half Adam Barrett after injury.
McCormack might well start, alongside skipper Maher in central midfield, with Mark Gower switching to the left flank and Richie Foran dropping to the bench.
Barrett has just endured a five-week lay-off, recovering from a double hernia operation. He has passed himself fit, so will be putting pressure on the centre-half duo of Efe Sodje and Peter Clarke, who leaked four goals in a 4-0 drubbing at Hull City last Saturday.