Shrimpers could be overhauled - Gerken

COLCHESTER United keeper Dean Gerken believes that Southend, his home-town club, could be overhauled in the race for promotion from League One.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United keeper Dean Gerken believes that Southend, his home-town club, could be overhauled in the race for promotion from League One.

The high-flying Shrimpers have topped the table for the last few months, and yet a recent blip in form has not only damaged their title credentials but also sparked question marks over their ability to stay in the top two.

Rampant Colchester moved to within three points of leaders Southend, following a 2-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday. The Shrimpers, meanwhile, spurned an opportunity to wrap up promotion when losing 1-0 at home to Doncaster Rovers.

Gerken was recalled to the U's side last weekend due to first choice keeper Aidan Davison's serious bout of food poisoning. And the 20-year-old looks set to retain his place against visiting Rotherham this Saturday.

“Aidan (Davison) has lost a lot of weight because of the bug. He has to put that weight back on, and he hasn't come in for training so far this week,” revealed Gerken yesterday.

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“I have nothing but praise for Aidan. His form has kept me out of the side for most of the season. This year he has realised what he can and can't do, because of his age (37). He has been excellent.”

Before the trip to Bournemouth, Gerken's last league start had been the 3-1 defeat at bitter rivals Southend on August Bank Holiday Monday (August 29).

The U's were unable to gain revenge in the return match at Layer Road (3-0 reverse), but they could still have the last laugh.

Gerken insisted: “Out of the top four sides, Southend are the team that is wobbling. I reckon that their bottle has gone!

“I spoke to a couple of mates after the Doncaster match and they both said that Southend were very poor. It was treated as a fun day out to celebrate the team's promotion but it didn't work out that way.

“I don't fancy their last two matches either. They are at Swansea, who are aiming for the play-offs, and then they play Bristol City in their last match. Bristol City have been superb since Christmas. They are going like a train.

“I think that we are capable of overtaking Southend and winning the championship though, of course, that is not our priority. Winning promotion is the main aim.

“We have two games left. Win them and that's it,” added Gerken.

If Steve Tilson's stuttering Southend team do lose their final two fixtures, then they will be muscled out of the automatic promotion zone if Brentford win both their matches and Colchester collect at least four points.

The Bees entertain Hartlepool this weekend before ending their season at Bournemouth, while the U's are at home to relegation-threatened Rotherham this Saturday.

Phil Parkinson's men then travel to Yeovil Town on May 6 - all 1,600 away tickets have already been snapped up for that end-of-season showdown.

Gerken believes that the U's have the quality to finish in the top two and so avoid the lottery of the play-offs. “I know that Bournemouth scored an early equaliser against us but, deep down, I knew that we would have too much for them,” explained Gerken.

“We didn't panic. We are more than capable of beating the teams further down the table.

“I had a few saves to make in the first-half, which was played at a high tempo, but we were able to sit back after retaking the lead. They didn't create much in the second half.

“I knew that I would be playing from last Wednesday, because I had a call from the gaffer. I was pulled out of the reserves game that day.

“These last three games are the biggest of all our careers. There is so much at stake,” concluded Gerken.

Meanwhile, Colchester front-runner Richard Garcia will undergo an exploratory operation this morning to assess the damage to his injured knee.

The Australian hyper-extended his knee during the first leg of the LDV Vans Trophy Southern Area final at Swansea City on March 7 and has been sidelined since then.

He could be out of action for anything between six weeks and six months, depending on the findings from today's operation.

carl.marston@archant.co.uk

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