U’s want to keep the feel-good factor going

IT may only be the club’s seventh game of the season, but Colchester United boss John Ward knows today’s result at Walsall could be a defining one.

The 59-year-old has made a promising start to life in the hotseat, his side undefeated in League One so far and playing some entertaining football.

Indeed, it could well have been a sensational return of maximum points. However, late equalisers conceded in three of their four league games means they have the same six point return as today’s more erratic hosts.

“This result could effect how people think about how people view our start to the season,” said Ward.

“I’m happy to have got through August with all the travel we had still unbeaten in the league, but we have got to work very hard on keeping the feeling right at the club – not just in the dressing room, but for everyone looking in as well.”

The U’s are likely to start with an unchanged side from that which drew 1-1 at home against Carlisle last Friday.

Keeper Ben Williams has returned to full training following an ankle injury, but while he may make the bench he definately won’t start.

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Centre-back Paul Reid won’t be rushed back into the side as he recovers from a groin problem, so Pat Baldwin is likely to retain his place.

Left-sided summer signing Ben Coker is in the squad after a quicker than expected recovery from his ankle injury, but Steven Gillespie (ankle) and Simon Hackney (back) are both struggling.

Chris Hutchings’ Walsall finished 10th in the League One table last season, 10 points and two places behind Colchester.

The Saddlers have had a mixed start to the new campaign, beginning with back-to-back home defeats against MK Dons (2-1 in the league) and Tranmere (1-0 in Carling Cup), before recovering to record impressive league wins over Brentford (2-1 away) and Plymouth (2-1 home).

They come into this afternoon’s game off the back of two losses though, having gone down 2-1 at Brighton last Saturday before exiting the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy 2-1 at home against League Two side Chesterfield on Tuesday night.

“We have to give them every respect they deserve,” said Ward.

“They have a super pitch, they beat us there last season and they’ve got some force at the front of their team.

“They are coming off the back of defeat on Tuesday so we have got to make sure we don’t end up on the end of a backlash.

“I want us to play with flair when the time is right, but we will also have to show some of that resilience we showed at Rochdale.”

Walsall could be without six first choice players today. Striker Alex Nicholls is suspended, Manchester City loan forward Ryan McGivern and defender Will Grigg are on Northern Ireland Under-21 duty, while striker Steve Jones is definitely out with an ankle injury.

Key midfield man Richard Taundry faces a late fitness test on his knee after limping off in midweek, while captain Darren Byfield only returned to training on Thursday following an achilles injury.

The hosts – who saw 13 players leave the club this summer and six fresh faces arrive – will still be packed with plenty of experience though, with former Crystal Palace left-winger Julian Gray, ex-Ipswich man Matt Richards and the much-travelled Jon Macken all set to start.

And the latter is likely to be partnered up front by Reuben Reid, the young striker having scored twice in three appearances since joining the club on loan from Premier League club West Brom.

– Full match preview in today’s EADT. For live match update from this afternoon’s game follow Stuart_Watson on www.twitter.com.

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