Stockley aims to help U's to final

COLCHESTER United defender Sam Stockley is looking to emerge from what has been the lowest point of his career, by helping the U's on their way to the Millennium Stadium.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United defender Sam Stockley is looking to emerge from what has been the lowest point of his career, by helping the U's on their way to the Millennium Stadium.

Phil Parkinson's men travel to South Wales to take on fellow League One promotion rivals Swansea City, in the first leg of the LDV Vans Trophy southern area final.

Stockley has not started a league game since January 2, and has often been completely overlooked, with not even a place on the substitutes' bench in some fixtures.

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That was the case for the U's once-in-a-lifetime trip to Chelsea in the FA Cup, when Stockley failed to make the final squad of 16. The 28-year-old insists that he has nothing to prove, but he would love to impress at the Liberty Stadium tonight and so stake a claim for a return to league action.

Stockley will enjoy a rare start against the Swans, as Parkinson looks set to juggle with his squad, following last weekend's 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Southend. The U's boss has rung the changes in each of the previous rounds of the LDV Vans Trophy.

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“These last few weeks have been a total mixture of emotions for me,” admitted right-back Stockley last night.

“It's been a very frustrating time for me. Before I was left out of the team, I was feeling happy with my form. We had only lost once in 15 games and the team was doing well.

“But for one reason or another, I was suddenly out of the team. It's been a very difficult time for me, and certainly the lowest point of my whole career, not even being in a squad that was doing well.

“I missed out on three big FA Cup games, including the big one at Chelsea. I have also not started a league game since January 2 (3-1 win over Nottingham Forest), which is the longest I have been left out in my career.

“Instead, I've just had to train as hard as I can. The lads have stuck by me in the dressing room, and I'm looking forward to playing at Swansea.

“I don't feel that I have anything to prove, to myself or the team. I've never doubted my ability. I've played nearly 400 games in my career, and I've always given 100%.

“Now I'm like a little kid waiting for Christmas. I can't wait to finally start a game again,” added Stockley.

The U's, after a fantastic run of 20 victories from 22 games, have now failed to win in their last five fixtures. They have not scored in the four league games, although they did play out of their skins in the 3-1 defeat at Chelsea in the fifth round of the FA Cup.

They are only one step away from an appearance in Cardiff, at the Millennium Stadium. The second leg of their southern area final will be at Layer Road next Tuesday, and the winners will play the Northern champions, either Macclesfield or Carlisle, in the final.

“The important thing is for us to make sure that the second leg is still alive,” continued Stockley.

“We want to keep it tight. Personally, I want to help us keep a clean sheet, by being solid and compact at the back, and getting us up the field.

“The lads were feeling very low after the Southend defeat, but this is a quick chance for us to bounce back. It's a massive game for the club, and a massive one for me as well.

“I want to do well at Swansea, and so stake a claim for a place in the league team. I've been in this game for 10 years, and I've never tasted promotion, so I'd like to put that right this season.

“Every team goes through a stage of having a dip in form. It's all about consolidation now. We have not suddenly become a bad side overnight.

“We can put it right in the league, but we also have a great chance to play at the Millennium Stadium. That's a big prize to aim for,” added Stockley.

Parkinson has no new injury concerns, although reserve striker Tony Thorpe is cup-tied, having played for Swindon in the LDV Vans Trophy earlier in the season.

Swansea's main problems are in central defence. Gary Monk is their only fit recognised centre-half, so midfielder Alan Tate is set to deputise at the back this evening.

Centre-halves Izzy Iriekepen, Steve Watt and Kevin Austin are all out injured, while Kristian O'Leary serves the first of a two-match suspension for being sent off in Saturday's 2-2 draw at Barnsley. Tate filled in for O'Leary at Oakwell.


SWANSEA CITY: Gueret, Ricketts, Monk, Tate, Williams, Britton, Martinez, Robinson, McLeod, Trundle, Akinfenwa, Forbes, Way, Knight, Murphy and MacDonald.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Stockley, Baldwin, Richards, Elokobi, Halford, Izzet, Watson, Duguid, Williams, Garcia, White, Iwelumo, Danns, Brown, Chilvers, Yeates and Davison.

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