U’s bid to end hoodoo against top nine clubs

COLCHESTER United have yet to taste victory against any of the top nine clubs in League One, a disappointing record, and one they will look to put straight against visiting Brentford tonight.

It is all the more remarkable that John Ward’s men are well established in mid-table, despite gathering a mere two points from 10 games against those leading nine clubs.

One of those two points came against Brentford, courtesy of Anthony Wordsworth’s marvellous injury-time free-kick in a 1-1 draw at Griffin Park in mid-September.

Uwe Rosler’s Bees were in the thick of the promotion race, until a dismal run of no wins in seven games was finally ended by a 5-2 victory in their last outing, against Wycombe.

They will provide strong opposition tonight, especially as they are blessed with an impressive away record. Only high-flying Charlton, Sheffield United and Huddersfield have beaten Brentford on their league travels.

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Gary Alexander is a striker in form, having plundered five goals in the Bees’ last two games, and 10 goals in his last nine appearances. He bagged a hat-trick against Wycombe.

Winger Ashley Vincent and centre-half Matt Heath are back in training, after their respective hamstring and groin injuries.

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However, neither are expected to feature tonight. Vincent has not played since damaging his hamstring during the FA Cup defeat to Swindon in early December, so he is well short of match fitness.

Heath has sat out the last four games, and will have to stay patient due to the form of fellow defenders Magnus Okuonghae and Tom Eastman. There is an outside chance of him being on the bench.

Manager John Ward might be reluctant to change a winning team, following the 1-0 success at Leyton Orient, although he could be tempted to give Martin Rowlands a full debut.

Rowlands, snapped up on a four-month deal before the postponed game against Sheffield United, could be handed a start in central midfield. Otherwise, the 33-year-old will be amongst the substitutes.

Fellow midfielder John-Joe O’Toole will continue to miss out, due to a groin injury.

Brentford have signed striker Saido Berahino, on loan from West Brom, since their last outing. Berundian-born Berahino scored six goals in 15 games during a loan spell at Northampton earlier this season.

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