Resurgent U’s out to exploit anxiety at Hillsborough

COLCHESTER United must try and exploit the anxiety spreading around Hillsborough at present.

That’s according to manager John Ward as his resurgent side prepare to face a desperately out-of-form Sheffield Wednesday at their iconic home this afternoon.

The Owls were heavily tipped to bounce straight back up into the Championship this season.

It’s all gone wrong for the Yorkshire giants though who, unbelievably, are now in danger of being drawn into a relegation dogfight.

Manager Alan Irvine was sacked in February after an inconsistent – if not disastrous – run of form saw them fall away from the top six. He’d just spent �750k on three players in the January transfer window.

Former Bolton boss Gary Megson was appointed his successor and inherited a bloated squad. And it’s been his inability to settle on his best side which has cost the club over the past two months.

Wednesday have claimed just nine points from a possible 36 since their change of management.

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They have now lost four home games in succession to plummet to 17th in the table and within four points of the drop zone.

“As a major club they are now looking over their shoulders a little bit and needing one or two more points,” said Ward.

“I’m sure there is some anxiety around the place, what we’ve got to try and do is exploit that a little bit.”

It wasn’t that long ago that Colchester were in a little slump of their own, four successive defeats seeing them fall dramatically away from the play-off places.

They bounced back with a 1-0 home win over Oldham last Tuesday though and, with the freedom of their early season play flooding back, followed that up with a rousing 5-1 home victory over nine-man Exeter last weekend.

As a result, Ward could well name an unchanged side for the third successive game today, with Ipswich Town loanee defender Tommy Smith possibly having to make do with a place on the bench following his return from international duty with New Zealand in China.

By contrast, it’s almost impossible to predict the Sheffield Wednesday formation and line-up.

Megson has used no fewer than 26 players in his last five fixtures alone, alternating between a 4-5-1 and 4-4-2 formation.

Keeper Nicky Weaver (groin) and centre-back Mark Beevers (fractured cheekbone) are both out for the season, while centre-back Rob Jones and midfielder Giles Coke will both undergo late fitness tests today. The former went off with concussion against Brentford on Tuesday, while the latter missed the game with tonsillitis.

Sheffield Wednesday lost that home match 3-1, despite the fact visiting Brentford made seven changes ahead of their Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final against Carlisle at Wembley tomorrow.

One player that is likely to start for the hosts is Danny Batth, the young centre-back having chosen to go on loan there earlier this month rather than return to Colchester where he was a big hit last season.

“The recent wins have not restored the belief but just kept it in there,” said Ward.

“Can we repeat the chances, the pace and the movement? You don’t win 5-1 every week, but if we play like we can then we’ll give Sheffield Wednesday problems.”

– For live match updates, follow Stuart_Watson on www.twitter.com.

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