U's can set up mouthwatering derbies

COLCHESTER United will probably never have a better chance of winning promotion to the Championship, and so setting up mouth-watering East Anglian derbies against Ipswich Town next season.

COLCHESTER United will probably never have a better chance of winning promotion to the Championship, and so setting up mouth-watering East Anglian derbies against Ipswich Town next season, writes Carl Marston.

The U's are not quite in control of their own destiny, but Phil Parkinson's men are nibbling at the heels of second-placed Brentford, following Tuesday night's exciting victory over relegation-threatened Hartlepool.

Neil Danns' brace in the last seven minutes secured a 2-0 win for the U's, inching them to within one point of the Bees, with five matches remaining.

And a glance at the run-ins of the promotion contenders suggests that the U's have a superb opportunity of grabbing the all-important second automatic promotion slot.

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The Layer Road club will face opposition from the lower half of the table for each of their final five fixtures, beginning with Saturday's visit to Chesterfield.

They then have home games against Tranmere and relegation-haunted Rotherham, and away trips to mid-table Bournemouth and Yeovil.

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The U's will be trying to win each of these five contests.

If they were to achieve that feat, then the odds are in favour of them clinching promotion - and so setting up the chance of entertaining Joe Royle's Ipswich at Layer Road next term: The U's and Town have not been in the same division since 1956-57, when Town won the old Third Division South title.

“We have five games left, and it's a good run-in,” explained Parkinson yesterday. “It's down to us. I know that it's not quite in our own hands, but we are thinking very positively. We are going to give it a real go.

“The lads are very excited. We will be going out to try and win every game, and we have the quality attacking players to achieve this.

“It was good to finally get back to scoring goals again. Our performances have continued to be excellent, but I was just waiting for someone to give us that bit of inspiration. I had been waiting for four weeks, and I told the lads on Monday that I couldn't wait any longer.

“I knew that it couldn't go on, with us missing chances and failing to score. There is too much quality at the club.

“We always kept believing, although I did detect at half-time against Hartlepool that one or two heads were beginning to drop. They couldn't believe that it was happening again, and you could sense that feeling in the crowd as well. It was almost surreal,” added Parkinson.

The U's had only scored two goals in their previous 10 league fixtures, before Danns struck by heading home Mark Yeates' cross, and then sweeping home Billy Clarke's low delivery in the final minute of injury-time.

And Parkinson gave a special mention for Ipswich Town loanee Clarke, who impressed on his first start for the U's. The Irish teenager had previously made three appearances as a substitute since his temporary move from Portman Road.

“Billy (Clarke) was inspirational for us. He did so well on the big stage. It's all new to him, but he gave us a spark.

“We decided to keep him on for the whole match because he was causing their defenders so many problems,” continued Parkinson.

“He set up Danns' second goal, and in previous matches he had set up a chance for Greg (Halford), had a goal disallowed at Scunthorpe and earned a dangerous free-kick in the last minute at Nottingham Forest (1-0 defeat).

“Billy has made things happen for us. He is so effective in the final third of the pitch. Tuesday night's win could be pivotal for our whole season. We are now only one point shy of the second spot,” concluded Parkinson.

Bournemouth could have a big say in the final promotion situation - they still have to play Huddersfield, Colchester, Nottingham Forest and Brentford.

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