U’s and me: the chances of Colchester United’s latest relegation escape act coming off
- Credit: Archant
At the half-way point of this season, it’s time for some home truths!
Colchester United have not played in the fourth tier since 1998, but they will have to mastermind their biggest escape act for 17 years if they are to avoid dropping back into League Two at the end of this season.
The U’s are facing up to their third relegation struggle on the bounce, following a dreadfully disappointing first half of 2014-15.
But this time around, the Essex club find themselves in a worse position, points-wise, than any of their last seven years in League One, since they were relegated after two glorious seasons in the Championship.
Manager Tony Humes faces a huge task to drag his young guns away from the bottom four, during the last 23 games of the campaign. The odds, at this moment in time, are against them.
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Just five games have been won, two at home and three away, in the first 23 fixtures, with six drawn and the other 12 lost.
They have accrued only 21 points, and are second from bottom, only kept off the basement by a one-point margin from Yeovil.
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Looking back over the previous two years, both regarded as titanic relegation struggles, the U’s were faring far better at the half-way stage.
Joe Dunne’s men escaped relegation by the skin of their teeth, on the final day of the 2012-13 campaign, thanks to a 2-0 win at Carlisle.
At the half-way point, just before Christmas, the U’s had taken 23 points from their first 23 games. They went on to accumulate 28 points during the last 23 games to finish in 20th spot with 51 points, one place and three points above the drop zone.
Last season, Dunne’s side effectively secured their League One status a week earlier, following a 4-1 home win over Brentford on the penultimate weekend.
At the half-way mark last year, the U’s had already secured 27 points in the bag – six points more than this season – interestingly due to a proliferation of draws rather than wins.
While the class of 2013-14 had only claimed six wins from 23, they had drawn nine and only lost eight.
There is a general consensus of opinion that a club needs 51 or 52 points to be guaranteed their League One status for another season.
That means Humnes’ side will have to up their game considerably. They will need to find another 30 or 31 points from somewhere, and that is a big ask.
One thing is for sure – to stand a chance of avoiding relegation, they will have to improve their home form, and dramatically!
But if they do manage to rediscover their winning touch, at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, then there will be light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s because all but one of the bottom eight clubs still have to play at Colchester over the next four months.
Leyton Orient (19th) are due at the Community Stadium on January 24, while Crewe (22nd) are due in February. The U’s will then be hosting Crawley (21st) and Yeovil (24th) in March, and Barnsley (17th) and Scunthorpe (18th) in April.
In fact, only Gillingham (20th) of those bottom eight clubs (of which the U’s of course are one) have so far played away at United.
That must bring encouragement to U’s fans. Transform the Community Stadium into a Garrison, and relegation could be cheated for yet another year.
But if they continue to toil on home turf then, I’m afraid, fourth tier football will be a reality for the first time since 1997-98, and the days of manager Steve Wignall, keeper Carl Emberson, defender Peter Cawley, and striker Tony Adcock!