Talking Points from U’s triumph over Sol’s Macclesfield

Delight on the face of Mikael Mandron as he hugs team-mate Ryan Jackson after giving the U's a 1-0 l

Delight on the face of Mikael Mandron as he hugs team-mate Ryan Jackson after giving the U's a 1-0 lead against Macclesfield. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Carl Marston’s Talking Points from yesterday’s 1-0 home win over Macclesfield Town

Colchester United boss John McGreal meets Macclesfield Town manager Sol Campbell before kick-off. P

Colchester United boss John McGreal meets Macclesfield Town manager Sol Campbell before kick-off. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United remain in the thick of the promotion race, after yet another welcome 1-0 victory at the expense of Sol Campbell’s Macclesfield Town on Saturday.

The U’s celebrated their fifth 1-0 win in their last eight league outings, thanks to Mikael Mandron’s lethal strike on 29 minute

Mandron’s long-awaited first goal of the season consolidated the U’s position in the automatic promotion zone. They are in third spot, and are now five points clear of eighth-placed Forest Green Rovers, so they at least look assured to be in the top seven going into 2019.

But there is no reason why John McGreal’s men cannot think big, or aim high – they are scoring some crucial goals, and are backed by a very solid defence – which would obviously mean trying to stay in the top three.

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The signs are encouraging.

Magical Mandron

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Mikael Mandron has had to bide his team this season, after bagging 10 goals in 44 league appearances during his first season with the U’s last term.

The Frenchman has hardly had a kick, with summer recruit Luke Norris taking up the mantle of chief centre forward and main goalscorer.

Norris’ recent injury woes, and Frank Nouble’s struggle to hit the target (but also his versatility to play out on the wing), finally gave Mandron a first league start in the 1-1 home draw against Exeter City a fortnight ago, and he duly celebrated his first goal of 2018-19 in his third league start on Saturday.

- ‘It was very pleasing’ - McGreal

The goal was well-worked, capped by a deadly finish.

Sammie Szmodics did well to control a long ball pumped forward by Frankie Kent, before slipping the ball into the path of Ryan Jackson, who in turn picked out Mandron on the edge of the box.

The ex-Wigan striker suddenly let fly with a left-footed shot which beat keeper Kieran O’Hara all ends up, flying low into the bottom corner of the net.

It was enough to win the game.

Mandron and Szmodics always seem to gel, as an attacking unit, and the former was close to a second early in the second half when his close-range header lacked the power to beat keeper O’Hara, from Jackson’s delivery.

Certainly, Mandron deserved the warm applause afforded to him by home supporters when he was substituted, with a quarter-of-an-hour to play.

Return of Norris

Norris had netted eight goals in his first 17 appearances for the U’s, until he was struck down by an ankle injury during the home tussle against his former club Swindon, at the beginning of November – another of the U’s fine 1-0 triumphs.

It was initially feared that the experienced front-man would be out of action for several months, and would certainly not appear again before the turn of the year.

But the injury was not as serious as first feared, to such an extent that the 25-year-old was only out of action for five weeks, only missing five games (three in the league) before he was unleashed as a substitute for Mandron against Macclesfield.

The three points were welcome, but Norris’ return to the fray was just as important, looking longer term.

The goals might start flowing again.

Miserly defence

The U’s back four has been excellent in recent weeks, as reflected in the eye-catching statistic – eight clean-sheets in 21 league games – five of them in the last eight league games.

Keepers Dillon Barnes and Rene Gilmartin have not had many saves to make, with club captain Luke Prosser and the ever-improving Frankie Kent proving to be one of the best centre-half partnerships in League Two.

Kent’s game has come on leaps and bounds this season, while Prosser is ‘Mr Dependable,’ with fellow centre-half Tom Eastman waiting in the wings and close to a return to the squad after a head injury.

Full-backs Ryan Jackson and Kane Vincent-Young are both excellent as defenders, as well as an attacking force, and the roles of central midfielders Tom Lapslie and Harry Pell must not be under-estimated.

Macclesfield did have a couple of chances to find an equaliser.

Elliott Durrell headed over the bar from point blank range on 15 minutes, while centre-half Fiacre Kelleher should also have netted an equaliser in the 66th minute, only to head wide from close-in.

Otherwise, though, the Silkmen were kept at harm’s length.

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