‘The biggest game of our lives’ – Magnus Okuonghae

Magnus Okuonghae

Magnus Okuonghae - Credit: Archant

COLCHESTER United defender Magnus Okuonghae insists that the players have “not been hiding” behind the knowledge that the club’s future is still in their own hands.

And he also billed this weekend’s encounter as the “biggest game of our lives”.

Despite last Saturday’s disappointing goalless home draw against Shrewsbury Town, which left the U’s flirting with the prospect of relegation, Joe Dunne’s men still only need a point from their final game of the season at Carlisle to be guaranteed League One football for another year.

The U’s were heavily criticised for their performance last weekend – not least by manager Dunne, who slammed his players for a “lacklustre” display.

But Okuonghae, one of the most experienced players at the club, is adamant that the team will be ready for the challenge in Cumbria this weekend.

“I don’t think the players are hiding behind anything, especially the fact of it still being in our own hands,” said Okuonghae.

“We lost nine games on the bounce (club record), so for us to still even be in with a chance is unbelievable.

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“So I’ve got faith in my team-mates and I’ve got faith in the staff. And the staff have got faith in us.

“It’s still in our hands, it’s not hiding behind it, it’s a fact.

“We will just go to Carlisle and do what needs to be done,” added Okuonghae.

The former Dagenham & Redbridge centre-half has been involved in several big games, during his eight years as a senior professional, but nothing compares to the challenge that lies ahead at Brunton Park, with the U’s League One status hanging by a thread.

“It’s definitely like a cup final,” admitted Okuonghae.

“And it’s going to be one of the biggest games of my career.

“I had this situation when I was at Crawley, when we were in danger of going out of the Conference (in 2007), and we managed to do what we needed to.

“Now I’m confident that the boys will do what we have to do.

“As long as we go out there with no fear, work as hard as we can, and just treat it like the biggest games of our lives – a cup final – then we’ll be fine.”

If relegation rivals Scunthorpe fail to beat Swindon Town at home, in their final fixture of the campaign, then the U’s will be safe, whatever the result of their own game.

But Okuonghae is not pinning his hopes on Iron missing out, especially as Brian Laws’ side shocked MK Dons with a 1-0 away win last weekend.

Okuonghae said: “We’ve got to look on it as though Scunthorpe are going to win their game.

“So we’ve got to go and win our game, as simple as that.

“If we have given up already, then we might as well stay at home. There’s no point in travelling up to Carlisle, but that’s not the case.

“We are still in the driving seat, and we’d still rather be in our position. Scunthorpe would also rather be in our position!”

Okuonghae is set to chalk up his 143rd league appearance for the U’s on Saturday, since his move from Dagenham & Redbridge in the summer of 2009.

Earlier in his career, during a half-year stay at Crawley in 2007, Okuonghae was part of the Red Devils team that secured a goalless draw against Kidderminster Harriers, on the final day of the season, to avoid relegation out of the Conference.

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