U’s need to feel ‘at home’ this season

Sammie Szmodics, who bagged a 95th minute equaliser for the U's at Mansfield in a 1-1 draw. Picture:

Sammie Szmodics, who bagged a 95th minute equaliser for the U's at Mansfield in a 1-1 draw. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United kick off their home campaign, of the new season, with an awkward test against a potentially dangerous Port Vale side this afternoon.

While the U’s began their 2018-19 term with a gritty goalless draw at Notts County last weekend, the free-scoring Valiants put visiting Cambridge United to the sword at Vale Park.

Target man Tom Pope, always a handful for any opposing defence, bagged a brace after summer signing Ricky Miller had broken the deadlock to sink former U’s manager Joe Dunne’s Cambridge side.

While Port Vale clearly have a goal threat, U’s boss John McGreal is banking on his side to take the initiative and get supporters off their seats with a positive, on-the-front-foot display, to lay down a marker for the season.

Certainly, the U’s will need to improve on their mediocre home record from 2017-18, which yielded just nine wins from 23 home league fixtures, with 34 points accrued. It was only the 12th best in the division, and a prime reason why John McGreal’s men missed out on the League Two play-offs by the wide margin on 13 points and six places.

Instead, the Essex club need to get back to the sort of form that graced the Community Stadium in 2016-17, when an impressive 14 home wins and a big haul of 46 points took them to within one point and one place of the play-offs.

In fact, only promoted Doncaster had a better home record in the fourth tier two years ago, the U’s finishing joint second in the ‘home table’ with Portsmouth, another club who were promoted. A dismal away record cost the U’s a possible promotion that season.

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“Home form is crucial for every team, at any level, and that goes for Manchester City as well,” insisted McGreal.

“The onus will be on us, as the home team, and a good home record is vital if you want to have a successful season.

“We’ve got to get our fans on their feet in the South Stand as soon as we can, to get the atmosphere going, by putting in a good performance.

“We’re all looking forward to the game, and we’re hoping for a big crowd as well.

“Port Vale will be a real test for us, because Neil (Aspin) will be disappointed with how last season panned out. They started so well, but then fell away, a bit like we did,” added McGreal.

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