U's aim to make amends
THERE is no need for alarm. Colchester United's fantastic unbeaten run might be over, but they are still a force to be reckoned with in League One.The U's have an immediate chance to bounce back from the disappointment of the Boxing Day defeat at basement club Swindon Town when they entertain mid-table Scunthorpe at Layer Road this evening.
By Carl Marston
THERE is no need for alarm. Colchester United's fantastic unbeaten run might be over, but they are still a force to be reckoned with in League One.
The U's have an immediate chance to bounce back from the disappointment of the Boxing Day defeat at basement club Swindon Town when they entertain mid-table Scunthorpe at Layer Road this evening.
Phil Parkinson's men were undone by an injury-time winner from Robins hit-man Rory Fallon at the County Ground to end the U's unbeaten run of 12 games. However, the Essex club remain in the top six, and they can cement their play-off berth with a good result against the inconsistent Iron.
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Parkinson is confident that his team will respond in a positive fashion, and he has the statistics to back him up - the U's have won their last six home matches. “I'm not over-concerned by one defeat. I felt we deserved a draw at Swindon anyway,” said Parkinson last night.
“We have had a chat about that game. The lads are disappointed with the way they performed. It was a very poor game, and there were not many chances for either team.
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“We have had just a light training session today and are now geared up for the visit of Scunthorpe.
“We must remember that we have just been on a fantastic run. We established ourselves in the top six and that's where we still are.
“Our great run of results has given us some leeway.
“Likewise, Swansea have lost two of their last three matches, and yet they are still in second place. We just have to get back to what we were doing best before the Swindon match.
“We need to be competing all over the pitch, and also playing our football. We didn't manage to do either at Swindon, but you sometimes get those sorts of games during a season,” added Parkinson.
Jamie Cureton, on loan from Swindon until the turn of the year, was not allowed to play against his full-time employers on Boxing Day, forcing Parkinson to make his first change in team selection for six league matches.
But front-runner Cureton is set to return against Scunthorpe. The 30-year-old has netted seven goals in eight starts for the U's, and he will probably link up with leading scorer Chris Iwelumo tonight.
Pat Baldwin, who has been an unused substitute in recent weeks, with the exception of a strong performance in the LDV Vans Trophy win at MK Dons, missed the trip to Swindon through illness. But the centre-half is added to this evening's squad.
Visiting Scunthorpe may have found goals easy to come by this season, but they have also found conceding goals a difficult habit to shake off.
While only second-placed Swansea (48 goals) have scored more than Iron (39) in League One, the Lincolnshire club have leaked more goals than any other team in the division. A total of 44 goals conceded from 23 league games, amounting to the first half of the season, is far too many. The next worst defensive record is relegation-haunted Bristol City (41).
“Scunthorpe have a couple of young exciting strikers,” admitted Parkinson, with reference to Billy Sharp and Andrew Keogh. “They came back strongly to draw 2-2 with Chesterfield on Boxing Day. I consider Chesterfield to be a very strong team, and yet Scunthorpe were unlucky not to win in the end. They changed their system to 4-3-3 during the game, and it worked.
“But we are in thick of the promotion race and the lads have been tremendous in recent months, both home and away,” concluded Parkinson.
United's rich vein of form, since October, can be illustrated by more just a reference to that 12-game unbeaten run.
The Boxing Day blank at Swindon was the first time that Parkinson's side had failed to score in 11 matches, harping back to the goalless draw at Tranmere, which kick-started their great sequence of results.
The last six Layer Road encounters have all ended in victories, over Yeovil, Leamington, Blackpool, Northampton, Gillingham and MK Dons. They scored 25 goals in those six home contests.
The U's are in the middle of a busy festive period of four games in eight days.
They are at league leaders Brentford on New Year's Eve, before entertaining Nottingham Forest next Monday.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Davison, Stockley, Chilvers, Brown, White, Halford, Watson, Danns, Yeates, Iwelumo, Cureton, Garcia, Izzet, Duguid, Baldwin, Williams, Elokobi, Richards, Gerken.
SCUNTHORPE UNITED: Evans, Byrne, Crosby, Hinds, Baraclough, Taylor, Goodwin, MacKenzie, Beagrie, Sharp, Keogh, Torpey, Sparrow, Johnson, Musselwhite, Ryan, Corden, Till.