U's bid for another win at Hillsborough

EVERY club has a bogey team, and Colchester United have been the scourge of Sheffield Wednesday in recent times.You have to look back to 1980 to find the last time that the Owls tasted victory over the U's.

By Carl Marston

EVERY club has a bogey team, and Colchester United have been the scourge of Sheffield Wednesday in recent times.

You have to look back to 1980 to find the last time that the Owls tasted victory over the U's. Of course, the two clubs have spent a lot of time apart in the intervening years, but United have still won four and drawn the other of their last five encounters.

Wednesday have never won at Layer Road, while Hillsborough has also proved a happy hunting ground. Joe Keith netted the winner in south Yorkshire on April 24, 2004, and just over three months later Keith was on target again in a remarkable 3-0 victory on the opening day of the 2004-05 campaign.

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Craig Fagan and Sam Stockley were the other goalscorers that day, as the U's netted all three of their goals inside the last four minutes to silence a Hillsborough crowd of more than 24,000.

People move on. Fagan is now at promotion-chasing Derby County, following a spell at Hull, while left-footed specialist Keith is plying his trade at League One strugglers Brentford, after a stint at Leyton Orient. Full-back Stockley is hoping to win promotion with League Two play-off hopefuls Wycombe.

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“Hillsborough is a fantastic place to play football. It's a great stadium, and has staged many FA Cup semi-finals,” explained U's boss Geraint Williams last night.

“We might be their bogey team, but I don't take much notice about the history. It's all about the 11 players on the pitch, not about previous games.”

Williams is set to make some changes tonight, especially as this is the second game in a three-match sequence inside six days.

It began with a gritty goal-less draw against mid-table Coventry City last Saturday, and ends with another outing in front of the Sky TV cameras at Southampton on Friday night.

There are four youngsters pushing for a start tonight. West Ham loanee Hogan Ephraim and 19-year-old Jamie Guy could well feature in attack, while defenders George Elokobi and John White are also hoping to get the nod.

It is also likely that Johnnie Jackson will get a chance to shine in midfield - the former Tottenham man has only started six games since the middle of December.

“I might make some changes, but that's not with a view towards looking at next season. It's all about this season,” insisted Williams.

“We have three games in six days. I tried to keep a settled side during a similar packed schedule over the Christmas period, but a lot of my players have now played a lot of games this season.

“We always knew that we had the nucleus of a good side, who could compete at this level, but squad-wise we don't have the quantity of players to match the likes of Derby, West Brom and Birmingham.”

The U's boss has refrained from setting targets all season. The Essex club will no doubt just be delighted to guarantee their Championship status for a second campaign.

However, there are some targets to aim for - a top-10 place, or at least a top-half-of-the-table finish, and the challenge of trying to finish as the top team in the Eastern region, above the likes of Ipswich, Norwich, Luton and Southend.

It will not be easy to achieve any of these goals. Five of the U's remaining nine games are away from home, and the team has struggled away from Layer Road all term - only bottom-three clubs Leeds and Luton have collected fewer points on their travels.

Yet the run-in is not too daunting. With the exception of the home game against in-form Sunderland on April 21, Williams' men have already played the top seven teams twice.

But to consolidate their position, they will certainly have to regain their scoring touch. And what better place to do it than the home of their bogey team!

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