U's ready to ring changes

FOUR games in just eight days will seriously test the promotion credentials of super-confident Colchester United over the holiday period.The U's are currently embarking on the most successful run in the club's history, and they would love to extend their amazing sequence of results beyond today's visit to basement side Swindon Town.

By Carl Marston

FOUR games in just eight days will seriously test the promotion credentials of super-confident Colchester United over the holiday period.

The U's are currently embarking on the most successful run in the club's history, and they would love to extend their amazing sequence of results beyond today's visit to basement side Swindon Town.

Phil Parkinson's side equalled their club record of eight straight victories earlier in the month, thanks to a battling 1-0 win at Hartlepool, achieved after a tiring midweek journey to the north-east.


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They didn't manage to break the old record (from 1987) outright, although they came desperately close - Neil Danns missed an 85th minute penalty in a 1-1 draw at pace-setters Swansea City.

United have set such high standards that they were genuinely dismayed to only take a point from their first-ever visit to the Liberty Stadium.

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But it's been full steam ahead since then, with back-to-back wins over MK Dons, firstly in the league, and then in the LDV Vans Trophy.

They have won 10 of their last 11 games, and are unbeaten in 12. The class of 1987 could not even match that, following up eight victories on the bounce with a defeat by Wolves.

There is so much to look forward to over the festive period, and into next year. Can the U's stay the course, and post a top-six finish in League One? Can Parkinson's men gain revenge for their defeat by Sheffield United in the last 16 of the FA Cup two years ago, by springing a surprise in the same competition at Bramall Lane on January 7; and can the Essex club repeat their achievements of 1997 to reach the final of the LDV Vans Trophy?

To pursue an interest on three fronts, any club needs a big squad. Colchester have already proved that they have enough back-up, all over the pitch, by employing two completely different teams in their recent victories over MK Dons.

Having made 10 changes for the 2-1 win at the National Hockey Stadium last Tuesday night, Parkinson could make just as many changes for today's clash at Swindon.

Right-back Sam Stockley seems certain to retain his place, but otherwise the team will bare little resemblance to the LDV Vans Trophy outfit.

Front-runner Jamie Cureton was cup-tied for the Trophy fixture, and he will have to sit out today's encounter at his current employers Swindon. Cureton's loan spell from the Robins is due to expire after the New Year's Eve trip to Brentford.

Parkinson said: “I can't remember a Christmas like it, with so many games in such a short space of time. It must be the most hectic Christmas ever, with the games coming so quickly.

“But we have already proved that we have a decent squad, and we should be able to get through it. I can't see many of the players starting all four matches.

“The team that starts at Swindon will probably not be the same that plays against Scunthorpe (December 28). I'd imagine that there would be a few changes.

“We just want to get through this busy period without many injuries, and still be firmly entrenched in the top six. The win at MK Dons showed me that there are several players waiting to step in and do a good job. Pat Baldwin is one such player, who is fresh and ready to play a part over the coming weeks,” added Parkinson.

Following the quickfire games at Swindon and against Scunthorpe, the U's take on promotion rivals Brentford (December 31) and then entertain Nottingham Forest (January 2).

Striker Marino Keith and left-back Stephen Hunt remain the only long-term casualties. Neither has started a game this season. But a few of the regulars are nursing slight injuries.

“Neil (Danns) has been icing his calf, after scoring the winner at MK Dons, and he has since missed training,” revealed Parkinson.

“A few others have some niggles, like Mark Yeates, who has not trained this week. But we can't complain. These are exciting times at the club. We want to consolidate in the top six, and then look forward to the FA Cup tie at Sheffield United.”

Hosts Swindon are rock bottom of League One, but their results have improved of late. They are unbeaten in three matches, following a 1-0 win at Rotherham and draws against Oldham and Blackpool.

Parkinson said: “Swindon are one of those teams who are playing better than their position suggests. They have several decent players, like Rory Fallon up front and the talented Petr Miglioranzi in midfield.”

Today's squads

SWINDON: Evans, Smith, Nicholas, O'Hanlon, Ifil, McDermott, Miglioranzi, Pook, Fallon, Mikolanda, Bouazza, Shakes, Brown, Holgate, Heaton, Jenkins, Whalley, Roberts, Nicolau.

COLCHESTER: Davison, Stockley, Chilvers, Brown, White, Halford, Watson, Danns, Yeates, Iwelumo, Izzet, Duguid, Garcia, Williams, Baldwin, Richards, Elokobi, Guy, King, Gerken.

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