U's to try again tomorrow

GREG Halford would have played against Barnet on Saturday, even though Charlton Athletic and Reading are reported to have made offers for Colchester United's much-prized defender.

By Carl Marston

GREG Halford would have played against Barnet on Saturday, even though Charlton Athletic and Reading are reported to have made offers for Colchester United's much-prized defender.

Halford has been attracting interest from bigger clubs for the past couple of years, and speculation about his future has grown since the transfer window reopened this month.

However, Halford was in the starting line-up for Saturday's scheduled FA Cup third round tie at Barnet, which was called off because of a waterlogged pitch less than two hours before kick-off.

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The 22-year-old has only missed one game this season, and Mick Harford, the U's assistant manager, confirmed that Halford would have again started against Barnet.

“Greg (Halford) was going to play. He would have started today,” explained Harford. “He is still a Colchester United player at the moment. Of course there has been a lot of interest in him, and there will always be a lot of interest in him.

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“But we will continue to pick Greg in the games coming up, if he is available.”

Charlton and Reading, who have bid £1.5million, are the latest in a long line of clubs to have expressed an interest in snapping up 6ft 4in Halford. Sheffield United were reported to have made an unsuccessful bid of just over £2m to sign the U's right-back in August.

Other Premiership clubs to have had scouts watching Halford over the past year have also included West Ham, Newcastle and even Manchester United.

Former Colchester manager, Phil Parkinson, was appointed the assistant manager to Alan Pardew at Charlton on Friday, and his presence might strengthen Halford's chances of securing a move to the Valley.

Halford was a key man during Parkinson's successful stay of more than three years at Layer Road, playing mostly as a right-back or a right-midfielder, although he also operated on occasions as a target man.

Charlton are currently floundering at the foot of the Premiership. They are six points adrift of safety, and on Saturday they tumbled to a 2-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in the third round of the FA Cup.

The Addicks certainly had a problem in filling Halford's preferred role of right-back at the City Ground. Both Radostin Kishishev and Tatel El Karkouri had spells in that position, but to no great effect against Forest dangerman Nathan Tyson.

However, the U's are in no desperate need to sell star man Halford, as chairman Peter Heard has stressed in the past. The Essex club are not in debt, and are currently a candidate (admittedly an unlikely one!) for the Championship play-offs.

Meanwhile, the U's team coach had already pulled up outside Underhill on Saturday, when referee Trevor Kettle passed the pitch unfit for play, just after 1pm. The game has been rearranged for tomorrow (kick-off 7.45pm).

Heavy rain had fallen in Hertfordshire throughout the morning, and although it was not actually raining when the team coach turned around to leave the ground at 2pm, the forecast was not encouraging - it was indeed raining heavily again an hour later.

Harford explained: “It would have been nice for the game not to be called off. Every player loves to be playing on the day of the third round of the Cup.”

“It's a kick in the teeth for the lads, because they'd love to have played. We had done all the preparations and travelled as well, but I think that the referee made the right decision.

“There were little patches of water on the pitch, and it was only going to get worse. The ball was not rolling properly on the pitch, so it was not likely to be playable.

“We certainly didn't want it to be a lottery. There were a few puddles around, and the forecast was for persistent rain. It could have been a real leveller.”

Any U's supporters who had tickets for Saturday's game, but cannot make tomorrow's rearranged date, will be able to obtain a refund at the Layer Road ticket office. The office will stay open until 7pm today.

n U's skipper Karl Duguid has been linked with a move away from Layer Road at the end of the season after turning down a new contract. MK Dons are one of several clubs believed to be interesting in luring the 28-year-old player away from Colchester.

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