U’s and me: My verdict on Colchester United’s likely fate this season

U's boss Tony Humes

U's boss Tony Humes - Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd

This won’t make for pleasant reading, for any Colchester United supporter, but I do confess that relegation is now the likely outcome of this 2014-15 season.

Chris Porter celebrates his goal at Bradford

Chris Porter celebrates his goal at Bradford

I have listed the main points for the prosecution that the U’s will be relegated into League Two – and the main arguments for the defence, namely narrowly avoiding the drop for a third successive season.

Alas, my verdict is not a happy one....

POINTS FOR THE PROSECUTION

1 CURRENT MALAISE: The U’s are stuck in the bottom four, one point adrift of safety. In fact, they have been in the relegation zone since the middle of November, which is not a good sign.


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2 HOME FORM: For any club to avoid the drop, they need to click at home. The U’s have lost seven of their last eight home league games, and have taken only 11 points at home all campaign. Only bottom club Leyton Orient have a worse record.

3 WOBBLY DEFENCE: Manager Tony Humes admitted that his side were becoming a “soft touch” following the recent 4-1 defeat at Sheffield United. They are shipping goals left, right and centre. It’s not surprising that they have the third worst defensive record (51 goals) behind Crawley (55) and Crewe (53).

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4 LACK OF EXPERIENCE: The U’s are pursuing a policy of blooding the young talent emerging from their impressive Academy, which is fine in the long-term, but unfortunately it is contributing to their current precarious state. Too many young players in a squad is not a good recipe for League One survival. It is asking a lot for youngsters like Tom Lapslie and Sammie Szmodics to deliver top-notch, mature performances every week.

5 INJURIES: There is no doubt that the long-term injury to skipper Magnus Okuonghae, sidelined for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon last September, has been a big blow. But no team’s season should centre around just one player. Similarly, young winger Drey Wright’s absence for the season, with a knee injury, should not be seen as the difference between staying up and being relegated.

6 TOO MANY DEPARTURES: The U’s began this season with a weaker-looking squad, following the summer departures of full-backs Brian Wilson and Ryan Dickson, and they have continued to see experienced players leave during the course of the campaign, such as Marcus Bean, David Wright, Josh Thompson, Kaspars Gorkss and most recently Craig Eastmond.

7 GLARING OMISSIONS: There have been some strange selection issues this season, most notably Jabo Ibehre’s absence. He said that he wanted to leave the club, shortly after previous manager Joe Dunne’s departure, and went out on loan to Oldham, but he has been back for several weeks and has still not featured. Also, the likes of summer signing Dan Holman and Academy product Macauley Bonne have hardly had a look-in, nor did Marcus Bean before his exit.

8 NO CONSISTENCY: Manager Humes said, after the recent defeat at Bramall Lane, that despite the team’s lowly position, a run of three straight wins would see the team climbing the table. And yet, remarkably, the U’s have not won back-to-back games all season! The odd win, here and there, will not be enough to stave off relegation.

9 FORMATION: The U’s have a system of playing, that is engrained throughout all levels of the club. This 4-2-1-3 formation (or 4-3-3, or 4-2-3-1) has been effective at times, but sometimes you need to try different systems – like two up front?

10 UPCOMING FIXTURES: The U’s are still in touching distance of those teams just above them, but they have a tough end to February – with a home match against league leaders Bristol City on Saturday, and then an away game at Doncaster.

11 SALE OF FREDDIE SEARS: Any club is going to suffer from the loss of their leading scorer. Sears’ move to Ipswich has robbed the U’s of their most natural goalscorer.

POINTS FOR THE DEFENCE

1 DON’T GIVE UP: There are still 15 fixtures to play, which means there are 45 points up for grabs.

2 PERFORMANCES: The U’s actually played well for the vast majority of that recent defeat to Sheffield United, but without taking their chances. They won the corner count 10-0, so there is something to cling onto. They were good value for the 1-0 win at Oldham last weekend, and were unlucky to lose 1-0 at home to MK Dons on Tuesday night.

3 FIXTURES: Relegation rivals Notts County, Crawley and Yeovil still have to come to the Community Stadium during the month of March, while there are also key away games at the likes of Coventry and Gillingham. These are all six-pointers.

4 PORTER: The arrival of Chris Porter has given the U’s a new outlet up front. He has scored two goals in six appearances, and will hopefully get many more.

5 RETURNING PLAYERS: Over the next few weeks, the return of the likes of George Moncur, Alex Gilbey, Frankie Kent, Rhys Healey and Tosin Olufemi should increase options for manager Humes.

CARL’S VERDICT

In my opinion, the negatives outweigh the positives, which I’m afraid means relegation is the likely outcome. But we live in hope!

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