Ward apologies to U’s travelling fans

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward apologised to the 100 or so U’s fans that are completing their 700-mile round trip back from Carlisle today bitterly disappointed by a lacklustre 4-1 defeat.

The U’s boss admitted his team – who travelled up to Cumbria on Thursday in order to get their preparations right – looked lethargic and conceded that his change of formation and team selection didn’t work.

The result not only equalled Colchester’s biggest league defeat of the season (3-0 home loss to Huddersfield), but is their biggest loss on their travels in the league.

The Essex side have now lost 11 of their last 14 away league games, with any lingering hopes of mounting a late play-off challenge now completely dead in the water.

“I can’t defend my team today,” said the 60-year-old. “I feel very much for the supporters who have made a massive journey at great expense. We’ve not given them anything to smile about and I’m sorry for them just as much as I’m annoyed at what I’ve seen on the pitch.”

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Ward switched back to his early season 4-3-3 formation and dropped leading scorer David Mooney – who hasn’t scored an away league goal this season – as well as Ashley Vincent, replacing them with the energetic Ian Henderson and powerful Kayode Odejayi in an attempt to find a winning formula away from The Weston Homes Community Stadium.

“It just didn’t work,” he conceded. ““I picked the team to harass the opposition, there was some power and strength, but we didn’t use that very well.”

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Much was made of the fact that Ward didn’t shake hands with his Carlisle counterpart Greg Abbott following the Cumbrians’ late equaliser in the reverse fixture last August.

Abbott had been Ward’s No.2 at Brunton Park in 2008, but replaced him in the hotseat after the board sacked Ward for a poor start to the season, just months after guiding them to the play-off semi-finals.

This time the pair shook hands before and after the game, although Ward’s post-match comments didn’t entirely put rumours of a rift to bed.

Asked what he said to Abbott at the end, he replied curtly: “Well played,” before adding:

“You’ve got to keep your dignity and keep going with it. There were a lot of people here that I was pleased to see and they were pleased to see me.

“And there were probably some partisan Carlisle supporters that might have wished me a little better.”

Reflecting further on the match, Ward said: “The better side won.

“I warned my side before the game that if we allowed Carlisle to pass the ball they could hurt us.

“We now have to have a serious look at it and think why didn’t we compete as well as we have been in the first 40-odd games of the season.

“I read this morning in the national press that Neil Warnock said ‘a 4-1 defeat is only one game away’ (following their surprise defeat by that scoreline to struggling Scunthorpe) and I thought to myself ‘that’s not happened to me yet’ and here I am stood here a few ours later having lost by that exact scoreline.

“It can happen to a team at the top of the league like he’s got and it can happen to a team like ours, but that doesn’t make it any better and I don’t feel very good about it at all.

“My captain (Kemi Izzet) has just told you we looked lethargic and I agree with him. Too many of our players looked a little bit tired today when yesterday training was bright.

“They got on the ball better than us, passed it better and hurt us more than we did them.

“They played well, but we’ve certainly contributed to our own downfall.

“In previous away defeats I’ve been able to defend my team’s work rate and approach but this time I can’t and I won’t do.

“I’m not a fool and I know it was a poor performance today.”

– Full report and reaction in Monday’s EADT.

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