Ward extra satisfied with late winner after tactical battle

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward took extra satisfaction from his side’s late winner against Rochdale this afternoon following an engaging tactical battle with opposition boss Keith Hill.

The in-form visitors came into the match having won four of their last five and with the second best defensive away record in the league.

And you could see why as their well-drilled side – unchanged for the fifth successive game and playing in a disciplined 4-1-4-1 formation – proved hard to break down.

Colchester remained patient though and after Ward shuffled his pack at the break – Kayode Odejayi coming on to provide some physical presence up front, with the home formation changing slightly to match that of the visitors – both teams had chances.

The game could have gone either way, but it was the U’s who were able to find a winner three minutes from time as substitute Ian Henderson clipped a shot beyond on-rushing keeper Owain Fon Williams with the ball trickling past defender Craig Dawson on the line.

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“It’s taken us 87 minutes of really hard work, of tactical awareness and discipline to find that opening,” said Ward, who celebrated his 60th birthday earlier this week.

“I’ve been saying all week that we’d have to be patient and organised.

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“I’ve really enjoyed the tactical battle with Keith (Hill). It was an afternoon where I’ve had to do a lot of thinking to win the game so for us to get the break at the end was satisfying.

“It could have gone either way, but our keeper’s made some really good saves and we’ve been the one to get the break.

“We’ve had a number of games where we didn’t get the break but today we did and I’m delighted because we’ve beaten a really good side.”

He cointinued: “They have the second best defensive record away from home in the division. They’ve only conceded 20 – it’s 21 now – and only Brighton (league-leaders) have done better than that.

“It’s harsh on them, it would have been harsh on us had we lost the game too. I thought we were going to see a draw but obviously for us to get the break at the end I’m delighted.

“I saw them against Notts County on Tuesday so I knew what we were up against, it was just a case of convincing my side that this was the right way to go about it.

“We weren’t going to overrun this side, we were going to have to break them down one way or another.”

A third successive home win leaves Colchester six points off the top six with five games to play.

Ward added: “I’ve got a very professional and thorough group of people here and there was never any chance of us drifting off and thinking of our holidays.

“I don’t know where this leaves us in the table yet, but if it keeps our season alive for another two or three more games then great.

“We’ve not been consistent enough to be in the top six for any length of time but we’ve always tried our hardest and that was the same today.”

– Full report and reaction in Monday’s EADT.

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