U's now facing '14 cup finals'

COLCHESTER United's memories of this year's FA Cup campaign will live forever. But they cannot dwell on Sunday's titanic fifth-round tussle at Chelsea.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's memories of this year's FA Cup campaign will live forever. But they cannot dwell on Sunday's titanic fifth-round tussle at Chelsea.

Instead, Phil Parkinson's brave squad will have to push all thoughts of the electric atmosphere at Stamford Bridge, when they were under the spotlight of a nation, to the back of their minds.

The U's need to re-focus on the main job - promotion from League One into the Championship, the second tier of the English game, for the first time in the club's history.

United were unlucky to lose 3-1 at Premiership champions Chelsea, having taken the lead via an own goal from Ricardo Carvalho on 28 minutes.

A crowd of 41,810 witnessed a pulsating game, and Sky's TV cameras were rolling to ensure that the game was beamed into living rooms up and down the land.

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The interest will not be so intense this Saturday, but the game at Barnsley is just as big.

Indeed, looking at the bigger picture, the result will be even more important at Oakwell than it was in west London.

Colchester will perhaps never get a better chance to win promotion into the Championship, and so set up mouth-watering East Anglian derbies against the likes of Ipswich and Norwich next season.

“We have 14 cup finals between now and the end of the season. The lads know this. The business end of the season starts now,” confirmed Parkinson.

Attacking midfielder Neil Danns agreed with his manager. Promotion is the main aim.

“We just have to concentrate on the league now and get ourselves promoted,” insisted Danns.

“We were looking at the other results in our division, but not worrying about it too much, because we were focused on Chelsea.

“We have games in hand, so the league is in our hands. If we win these games, then we'll go back to the top of the league.

“The Cup game was a great day for the players, and we all did ourselves proud, but we have to put that behind us and get back to the bread-and-butter of League One. We also have the LDV (Vans Trophy) area finals, and if we get through that, then it could be another big day for us.

“We know we have it in us to be promoted,” added Danns.

Midfielder Danns played the full 90 minutes at Stamford Bridge. The 23-year-old has played in the Premiership before, at his former club Blackburn, and he would love to return to that level one day.

Danns continued: “The Chelsea game gave us some belief. We were up against great players, and for me personally playing against (Frank) Lampard, (Joe) Cole and (Michael) Essien all at once was some test. But hopefully, one day I can be playing at that level all the time.

“Lampard and Cole are unbelievable players and that just made it even harder for us. It wasn't to be at Chelsea, but all the boys can be proud of themselves.

“The league it still our priority, and if we can put in performances like that, week in, and week out, then there is no reason why we can't go on to be promoted,” added Danns.

Colchester are currently in second spot in League One, although they will slip out of the top two before Saturday's trip to Barnsley.

Third and fourth-placed teams Huddersfield and Swansea meet on Friday night, so one of them is certain to clamber above the U's into second position. However, United currently have two games in hand over both these clubs, as they do over leaders Southend, who are four points clear at the top.

Barnsley are having a good season. They currently occupy the sixth and last play-off berth, and are only four points adrift of the U's. It promises to be a key clash at Oakwell.

Meanwhile Wayne Brown, the man-of-the-match at Stamford Bridge, has been nominated for the FA Cup Player of the Round. U's fans have a chance to vote for their star defender at the website TheFa.com

The former Ipswich Town and Watford centre-half has been short-listed with Liverpool's Jamie Carragher, Manchester City's Micah Richards, Birmingham keeper Maik Taylor and Middlesbrough's double goalscorer Yakubu.

Sir Trevor Brooking, the FA's Director of Football Development, said: “Wayne (Brown) thoroughly deserves to be nominated for the Player of the Round award after his commanding performance at the heart of Colchester's defence.

“Many regarded this as the highlight of a superb FA Cup tie against the Premiership champions.”

U's stalwart Brown, who after Sunday's match revealed to the EADT that he had recently survived a cancer scare, after undergoing two operations on a malignant mole on his head, has every incentive to win this FA award.

He would be presented with £1,000 worth of UMBRO football kit for a local school, club or organisation of his choice, as well as receiving VIP treatment at the 125th FA Cup final.

U's fans have until next Monday, February 27 (9am deadline) to vote.

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