U's have options

COLCHESTER United's stand-in keeper Dean Gerken looks set to retain his place at Crystal Palace tomorrow.Aidan Davison is still receiving treatment on his injured chest, but there is a strong case for Gerken deserving to keep his place on merit, after a flawless display in the goalless draw at Cardiff City last weekend.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's stand-in keeper Dean Gerken looks set to retain his place at Crystal Palace tomorrow.

Aidan Davison is still receiving treatment on his injured chest, but there is a strong case for Gerken deserving to keep his place on merit, after a flawless display in the goalless draw at Cardiff City last weekend.

Recalled for only his second league outing of the season, 20-year-old Gerken caught the eye with three quality saves, as well as coping well with crosses and kicking with confidence.


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“Dean (Gerken) is a very good young keeper. He came in and did a good job whenever called upon last season, and he did the same at Cardiff,” explained manager Geraint Williams last night.

“We want him to be pushing for the No. 1 spot. Aidan (Davison) has said that this season will be his last, but then he said that last season as well! He's had more swansongs than Frank Sinatra!

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“Dean has every respect for Aidan, and for what he's done. He's a level-headed young lad.”

U's boss Williams has a number of selection headaches, but all of them welcome, for the U's first trip to Selhurst Park in more than seven years.

Chris Barker has missed the last two games, due to suspension against Hull City, and then ineligibility against his parent club, Cardiff.

The Cardiff loanee could return to the left-back role tomorrow, although his replacement, George Elokobi, is another youngster to have taken his chance with both hands. It will be a difficult choice between the experienced Barker and 20-year-old Elokobi.

Williams confirmed: “I have some awkward choices to make, not only at left-back, but all over the pitch. Competition for places is strong, for the squad as well as the starting XI. Someone will be disappointed.

“I was told earlier in the season that the squad was too small, and that we needed new players coming in. Well, the squad hasn't really changed. It's just been a case of several of the younger players coming in and doing an excellent job.

“Players like George (Elokobi) and Jamie (Guy) have done well. Ritchie (Jones) added to the squad during his loan spell with us, and now Hogan (Ephraim) is doing the same.”

Both Guy and West Ham loanee Ephraim scored in the U's Reserves' 3-0 win over Norwich City's second string in Tuesday afternoon's Combination fixture. They were both on the substitutes' bench at Cardiff, and that is probably the best they can hope for tomorrow as well - the regular strike-force of Jamie Cureton and Chris Iwelumo have scored a total of 19 goals between them in 21 league games this season.

To add to the U's strength in depth, Richard Garcia is also pushing for a return to the 16-man squad. The Australian attacker has missed the last eight games with an ankle injury.

He travelled to South Wales last weekend, but was given more time to regain full fitness. However, he is champing at the bit to play again, after also scoring for the reserves in midweek. The U's are 10th in the Championship table, five points clear of tomorrow's hosts, Crystal Palace. But Peter Taylor's men are beginning to climb the table, on the back of a four-match unbeaten run.

Former Ipswich strikers Shefki Kuqi and James Scowcroft will both be in the Eagles squad. Scowcroft returns after a one-match suspension, which caused him to miss last weekend's 3-0 home win over QPR.

Kuqi was on target in that game, as were fellow front-runners Dougie Freedman and Clinton Morrison, so Taylor has a number of options in attack.

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