U's aim for five-year best

COLCHESTER United have a chance to make this season their best start for five years, when they host Gillingham tonight.

Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United have a chance to make this season their best start for five years, when they host Gillingham tonight.

Phil Parkinson's side won their first three league games of the 2004-05 campaign, by scoring three late goals at Sheffield Wednesday (3-0), and then claiming home victories over Stockport County (3-2) and Peterborough (2-1).

And Paul Lambert's current team will match that hat-trick of league wins, if they can beat Gillingham. They are already the league leaders, just as their counterparts were five years ago (ahead of Luton on goal-difference). The U's class of 2004-05 eventually faded to a final position of 15th, although they did have a couple of good cup runs.

By contrast, Colchester sides have also suffered the anguish of three defeats on the bounce at the start of two seasons, over the last decade.

They lost their first three league fixtures of 2003-04, when Parkinson was also at the helm. Barnsley, Swindon and Port Vale were their conquerors.

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And of course there was also that tough start to their first ever season in the Championship (2006-07). Geraint Williams' men lost four on the trot away at Birmingham and West Brom, and at home to Plymouth and Barnsley.

Back to this year, and the big duo of Leeds and Charlton are level on points with the U's. They too will be looking to preserve their 100% records at Walsall and Leyton Orient respectively.

Tonight's visitors Gillingham have already scored nine goals in their first three games. Mark Stimson's side thumped Swindon 5-0 on the opening day, thanks chiefly to a hat-trick from striker Simeon Jackson, and then beat Championship side Plymouth 2-1 in the Carling Cup. Jackson and fellow front-runner Andy Barcham netted against the Pilgrims.

By all reports, they were unlucky to lose 4-2 at Tranmere Rovers on Saturday. It was 2-2 until the final quarter of the game.

One familiar face in the Gills starting line-up will be centre-half Garry Richards, who came up through the youth ranks at Colchester and made 20 league appearances, before his switch to Southend to 2007.

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