U’s set to sign Ipswich defender Tommy Smith on loan

COLCHESTER United are set to sign New Zealand international defender Tommy Smith on loan from Suffolk neighbours Ipswich Town until the end-of-the-season.

The left-footed centre-back, who turns 21 at the end of the month, hasn’t featured for Ipswich since manager Paul Jewell succeeded Roy Keane at the Championship club in January.

Ipswich have requested a 24-hour recall option on Smith who trained with his new Colchester team mates this morning and is set to complete all the necessary paperwork this afternoon.

He will be part of the Colchester squad which travels to Tranmere on Saturday, but is then set to fly out to China to play for New Zealand in a friendly match next Friday.

The All Whites – for whom Smith featured at last summer’s World Cup – were also set to play Japan on March 29, but that game has now been cancelled due to the nuclear crisis currently facing the country.

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It means that Smith is set to be unavailable for Colchester for next week’s home games against Oldham (Tuesday) and Exeter (Saturday), before returning for the trip to Sheffield Wednesday.

Smith brings much-needed cover at centre-half, with just Nathan Clarke and Matt Heath the only available players in that position due to the fact that Pat Baldwin (Achilles) and Magnus Okuonghae (foot) are both injured.

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“He (Smith) will be with us for seven or eight of the last 10 games and we’re pleased to bring him in,” said Ward. “He is a good player with international pedigree.

“We saw him in the recent reserve team game against us and he played very well. Paul Jewell has been brilliant – we have had lots of conversations about Tommy and they have been good to let him join us.

“We have tried to get striker in and that hasn’t happened yet, but this is a fresh face to come and strengthen the squad and it keeps everyone on their toes because I think the lads were pleasantly surprised to see a new face joining us.”

Town manager Jewell said: “He’s frustrated as he’s not getting games. I’ve seen him play in training and for the reserves but I’d like to see him play in a competitive football match.”

The loan deadline is 5pm this afternoon and, at this morning’s press conference, U’s boss Ward revealed that he’d had four deals fall through this week.

The Colchester manager has been frantically searching for a striker to help boost his side’s low goals tally.

“On Friday last week I had four promises on players coming in and when you get that you think you might get two or three of them,” said the U’s boss, whose side are now nearer the bottom four than the top six following three successive defeats.

“As it happens I got none of them. Two players have chosen other options to Colchester, one manager changed his mind and said no he didn’t want to let the player go out on Monday and the fourth player got injured in training!”

– All the latest U’s news in tomorrow’s EADT.

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