U's facing a massive week

COLCHESTER United are facing up to a massive week, including two chances of cup glory, but red-hot striker Gareth Williams rates tomorrow's league clash with Port Vale as the most important of the fixture trio.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United are facing up to a massive week, including two chances of cup glory, but red-hot striker Gareth Williams rates tomorrow's league clash with Port Vale as the most important of the fixture trio.

The U's will move to within one step of Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, if they can win at Cheltenham in the LDV Vans Trophy next Tuesday night, and they have a glamorous FA Cup fourth round tie at home to Championship outfit Derby County next weekend.

But first, the U's take on Port Vale in a League One match at Layer Road tomorrow. Phil Parkinson's men have won 15 of their last 17 matches, and a continuation of that run could propel United to the top of the table by tomorrow evening.

“We don't want to blow it, because we have worked so hard as a squad to get into our current position,” insisted Williams last night.

“It's a big next week for the club, and we have to look at all three as being winnable games. There's no reason why we can't keep our great run going.

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“Derby will supposedly be the toughest challenge, and yet we beat Sheffield United, who are second in the same division, at their own place in the previous round!

“The cup games are always great to play in, but it's the league that remains the priority. We don't want our performances to drop now. We did well to get into the play-off zone, and now we're in the top two, which is where we want to stay,” added Williams.

Ex-Crystal Palace striker Williams had gone nearly a year without scoring a goal. But, a bit like London buses, when the first finally arrived, the next was quick to follow.

The 23-year-old netted the winner at Sheffield United, in the third round of the FA Cup, and he doubled his goal-tally for the season with a cracking equaliser in the 3-2 victory over Bristol City on Tuesday night.

Suddenly, a huge weight has been lifted off Williams' shoulders. Having scored in the 5-0 demolition of Walsall on January 25, 2005, the Welshman had waited 347 days to hit the target again, in the 2-1 triumph at Bramall Lane.

“I've found my scoring boots again. I've got two goals in three games, and my confidence is high,” continued Williams.

“It had been such a frustrating time for me. The first one at Sheffield United was the important goal, because that has set me off.

“Beforehand, I felt that I had been unlucky in the few games that I had played this season. I hit the woodwork a lot of times, earlier in the campaign, and in other instances the keeper would make a great save.

“In fact, the gaffer told me that I was in the league's top 10 for shots on target, for players without a goal.

“It's been so difficult trying to get into the team, especially over the Christmas period with the lads doing so well. I never had much chance, which didn't really matter because the team was still winning.

“Pat (Baldwin) and I were both in the same position. There were some weekends when neither of us could even get on the bench, but now we've both broken into the team. We have managed to come in and keep the run going,” added Williams.

Cardiff-born Williams scored with a rare header against Sheffield United, but his effort against Bristol City was a trademark shot from the edge of the box. Neil Danns then weighed in with a brace to see off the Robins.

“I probably would have snatched at that shot earlier in the season, but my confidence is higher now. I placed it well,” continued Williams, who was starting his first league game since the home defeat by Chesterfield on October 1.

“Neil (Danns) scored a cracking goal just before half-time, which was the perfect time to score. It had taken us time to get level, but to go in at half-time with a 2-1 lead was a real boost. I'd like a run in the team now. I love playing alongside Chris (Iwelumo). A lot is said about the big guy, little guy, combination. Chris has such tremendous ability in the air and his hold-up play is excellent.

“I don't have to worry about whether Chris will win the ball or not. I just have to concern myself with timing my run behind him, because he usually wins the flick-ons.

“Having said all this, it is the solid back four and our keeper who have given us the platform for our success this season. We have the best defensive record in the division (just 26 goals conceded from 27 league games).

“The defence has been fabulous, and that's enabled us to attack teams at the other end. We have been involved in some thrilling games, and it's good to see the crowds improving and the fans coming out to watch us.

“Hopefully, the supporters will stay with us for the whole season. We might even go top this weekend!” concluded Williams.

The U's will indeed take over top spot, if they manage to beat Port Vale, and current leaders Southend fail to win at Tranmere.

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