Talking Points, including U's injury plight, after defeat to Bury
PUBLISHED: 12:00 30 September 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
The injury curse struck Colchester United again, as it has done with depressing regularity in recent seasons.
The U’s began the day in fourth slot, with just one defeat, having scored more goals than any other League Two team and, albeit for the odd exception, with a miserly defence to boot.
Alas, nothing went according to plan against impressive Bury, not least the unwelcome intrusion of injuries to not one, but two, centre-halves.
Frankie Kent limped off after just nine minutes, having turned his ankle, while replacement centre-back Tom Eastman only lasted until half-time, having felt queasy following a collision of heads with Chris Dagnall.
It meant skipper Luke Prosser ended up having five centre-back partners during the afternoon – Kent, Eastman, Kane Vincent-Young, Brandon Comley and Ryan Jackson.
This disruption obviously hampered the U’s, and goals from Byron Moore (35 minutes) and his strike-force partner Dagnall (52) were enough to earn the Shakers a fifth win of the season, despite a late penalty by Luke Norris.
It was a day to forget, and not a game to dwell upon.
Kent and Prosser have formed a good understanding as the No. 1 centre-half partnership for the first two months of this season, so Kent’s early exit was a setback.
However, with a centre-half of Eastman’s calibre on the bench, it was certainly not a disaster, and the ex-Ipswich defender played well up until the point when he suffered a head injury.
This was Eastman’s 289th first-team appearance for the U’s, and it was a chance for him to stake a claim to regain his regular spot in the starting XI. However, the 26-year-old felt sick in the dressing room at half-time, and so could not continue.
Eastman’s absence was a body-blow.
John McGreal tried to patch up his defence by employing Prosser as a sweeper, flanked by Kane Vincent-Young and Brandon Comley, but the latter never looked comfortable, perhaps not surprising for a specialist midfielder.
Makeshift centre-back Comley failed to close down Dagnall, allowing the Shakers striker too much space to his left to get in a telling shot that flew past Dillon Barnes and into the opposite corner of the net.
From 2-0 down, it was always going to be difficult to mount a successful rally.
Comley was relieved of his centre-half duties soon afterwards, with Jackson taking up that mantle, which he might have to do again against Yeovil on Tuesday evening.
Suddenly, the U’s squad is being seriously stretched.
Despite Saturday’s defeat, the U’s remain well placed in fifth slot after 10 games.
However, a closer look reveals that only two points separate the U’s from 16th-placed Port Vale, meaning that just two points span a dozen teams.
So another defeat on Tuesday could conceivably see the U’s not only drop out of the top seven, but also perhaps the top half of the table.
At the moment, a healthy goal difference (plus 11) is keeping them in the top 10.
Just two months gone and already Norris is looking like an inspired signing.
When considered that he began the season struggling for fitness, due to a delayed pre-season and then a niggling injury, Norris has been nothing short of sensational for his new club.
He has started just five league games, but has plundered seven goals (six in the league) in his total of nine appearances.
Following on from his brace in the previous weekend’s 3-3 draw at Oldham, Norris kept Bury’s defenders on their toes and eventually got his reward when earning a penalty, which he duly converted.
Now, only James Norwood (seven goals) has scored more goals in League Two. And while Norwood has played every minute for Tranmere Rovers (900 minutes), Norris has played only just over half that amount (460 minutes), so his strike-rate is very impressive.
The U’s host Yeovil tomorrow evening, and clearly McGreal has a defensive headache. Kent and Eastman are unlikely to be available, and back-up Ollie Kensdale has yet to make his first-team debut. The answer might be another makeshift back three, with Prosser at its heart.