Ward has got rugby on the mind

COLCHESTER United manager John Ward has got rugby on his mind.

It’s not the Six Nations that he’s concerned about though (the 59-year-old is more a cricket man as it goes), but more how the egg-shaped game has left the state of the Meadow Lane pitch ahead of his side’s game at Notts County tonight.

Ward conceded that his side did not adapt to a poor pitch at Hartlepool just over a week ago when Mick Wadsworth’s side secured their first win in eight thanks to a late winner on an uneven Victoria Park surface.

And after the U’s reduced the gap between themselves and the play-off places to four points on Saturday with a last-gasp winner of their own at home against lowly Swindon, Ward says he has learnt lessons from their recent defeat in the north east.

“I saw their (Notts County’s) game against Manchester City on television recently and the pitch looked a wee bit bobbly too,” he said.


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“I think they play rugby on it so we might have to pick a team accordingly.

“We want to pass, we want to play and I won’t sway from that, but sometimes you have to deal with the conditions that face you. We’ll try very hard to scrap out a win if we can.”

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For the third game running, Colchester face a side that are desperately out-of-form. The Magpies – who were promoted as League Two champions last summer – are now just one point off of the relegation zone following a 2-0 home defeat to Exeter on Saturday.

Manager Paul Ince has taken just 16 points from his first 13 league games as manager, the exact same total Craig Short had acquired when he was sacked by the club last October after his side were somewhat unfortunate to lose 2-1 at The Weston Homes Community Stadium.

However, a run of six games without victory doesn’t quite tell the full story of County’s start to the New Year. They have only lost two of those matches, drawing the other four, including a fantastic 1-1 against Premier League side Manchester City last month in the FA Cup fourth round, the big-spending visitors requiring a late equaliser from �27m signing Edin Dzeko to force a replay. Ince’s side head to Eastlands on Sunday for that second meeting.

Colchester could have Huddersfield loanee Nathan Clarke back today after the central defender was rested for Saturday’s game after sustaining bad bruising to his ankle at Hartlepool.

Keeper Ben Williams is getting fitter by the day following a back injury, but deputy Mark Cousins will surely keep his place after another fine display against Swindon.

Notts County have been left short in the midfield department following injuries to Lewis Gobern (thigh), Alan Judge (foot) and David Martin (groin). They have signed Kevin McDonald and Conor Clifford on loan from Burnley and Chelsea respectively but both are likely to be only fit enough for the bench.

– For live updates on tonight’s match, follow Stuart_Watson on www.twitter.com.

NOTTS COUNTY: Nelson, Burch; Darby, Edwards, Pearce, Harley, Lee, Thompson; Westcarr, Ravenhill, Bishop, Hawley, Clifford, McDonald, Spicer; Hughes, Gow and Burgess.

COLCHESTER: Cousins, Williams; Beevers, Heath, Clarke, Coker, White, Baldwin; Vincent, Izzet, Perkins, Wordsworth, Bond, James, Henderson; Gillespie, Mooney and Odejayi.

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