The big interview: Colchester United stalwart Tom Eastman
- Credit: Archant
Tom Eastman will never forget the day that he scored a dream goal at Carlisle United, to protect Colchester United’s League One status for another season.
Eastman buried an 80th-minute header at Brunton Park, in a 2-0 win over hosts Carlisle on April 27, 2013, doubling the lead handed to the U’s by Gavin Massey’s opener.
It will almost certainly end up being the most important goal of Eastman’s whole career, even though the experienced centre-back is still only 24 years old, with perhaps a decade of football still lying ahead of him.
The U’s eventually suffered relegation, three years later, and this afternoon they will be renewing rivalries with Carlisle in the fourth tier.
“I will remember that game for the rest of my life, especially as I scored a goal as well,” enthused Eastman.
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“It was a massive game. It was the first real relegation battle we had experienced, really. We went into that game basically needing the three points, and there was a great response from the boys.
“It was great to score that day, and I remember all the commotion afterwards. It was brilliant,” added Eastman.
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Although fracturing a metatarsal during the U’s final away game of last season, at Barnsley, and missing the first half of pre-season over the summer, Eastman has hit the ground running this term and has not missed a league game to date.
And he was buzzing after the U’s last game, a 1-1 draw at Crawley – he had a loan spell with the Red Devils in 2011 – after Chris Porter salvaged a point with an 88th-minute equaliser.
“The Crawley game is something for us to build on,” continued Eastman.
“Nicking the late goal was vital for the team, and it could turn out to be a good point, come the end of the season.
“Crawley had been doing well recently, so to get a point there was a good point in the end. We’ve now got to take that forward into the Carlisle game.
“It’s a long trip – which should be fun! They are unbeaten so far this season, so it should be another tough game.
“It’s very tight in the table, with just two points between us in 10th, and the second spot. It’s obviously still quite early, but it looks as though it’s going to be a very tight season.
“League Two is a bit different to League One, I would say. Quite a few teams play with a big powerful striker. In fact, most League Two teams play with two big lads up top, while in League One they are a bit smaller but maybe a bit smarter.
“It’s all about finding ways to win games, against different teams.”
Eastman has enjoyed playing alongside summer signing Luke Prosser, the U’s skipper, in central defence, in what is effectively a new-look back-line.
Left-back Lewis Kinsella is another summer recruit, while keeper Sam Walker sat out the whole of the last league campaign with a knee injury.
“It’s quite a new back five,” confirmed Eastman.
“Luke Prosser has come in and done well, while Kins (Kinsella) has also come in and played well.
“Even Rich (right-back Richard Brindley) didn’t play too much last season, and Sam (Walker) didn’t play at all.
“So it’s been all change. For the majority of the time we have played not too bad, there’s just a few games where we’ve conceded too many.”
Eastman could well come up against one of his former Colchester team-mates today, in the shape of 33-year-old target man Jabo Ibehre.
“Jabo is a tough customer, very tough, and on his day he is almost unstoppable,” said Eastman.
“Jabo is big and strong, but we’ve played against strikers like that already this season and done OK. Hopefully we can cope with that.”