Ward knows importance of good start

NEW Colchester United manager John Ward wants to hit the ground running at Exeter today.

NEW Colchester United manager John Ward wants to hit the ground running at Exeter today.

The League One opener will be the first competitive game the 59-year-old has taken sole charge of since November 2008.

And having spent the summer cutting back his squad’s wage bill and barely spending a penny in transfer fees, Ward knows that he can ill afford a bad start if he is to win over the fans.

“It’s important to get off to a good start,” said Ward. “But it’s going to be tough with three of our first four fixtures away from home.


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“It won’t be easy, but I’m sure if you speak to every manager in the land at the moment they are all talking about tough games of football.

“It’s going to be a big, big test, but I don’t mind that – it keeps everybody on their toes.”

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Colchester are likely to start with the 4-3-3 formation that Ward has utilised throughout pre-season.

Goalkeeper Mark Cousins will be handed his first start since September last year due to the fact that Ben Williams is out for two weeks with an ankle injury, with new addition Carl Pentney acting as back-up on the bench.

If recent friendlies are anything to go by, new signing Brian Wilson looks set to get the nod over John White at right-back, with Magnus Okuonghae and Pat Baldwin vying for the right to partner Paul Reid at centre-back.

Five players appear to be fighting for the three midfield places, with new boys Lloyd James and Andy Bond, back-in-favour David Perkins, fit again Lee Beevers and long-serving Kemi Izzet all rotated in pre-season.

Ian Henderson could just get in ahead of Ashley Vincent in the wide right striker role after an impressive pre-season, with Anthony Wordsworth likely to take up that position on the left.

Meanwhile, Ward has a big decision to make as to whether he throws new loan striker David Mooney – who only arrived at the club on Thursday – straight into the starting line-up.

“There are going to be some good players on the bench or not even doing that,” admitted Ward.

“Some heads will lift and some will drop when I announce the team, but they will all be required as the season goes on.”

Exeter may have only just escaped relegation last season, but manager Paul Tisdale – who has led the Devon side up the ladder from non-league – earned praise along the way for their attractive brand of football.

The Grecians have released numerous players this summer, but have brought in the likes of former Manchester United striker Daniel Nardiello from Blackpool and defender Billy Jones from Crewe.

There had been a question mark over the fitness of defenders Richard Duffy (knee) and Matthew Taylor (back) this week, but both have been deemed fit to play.

One player Colchester fans will be well aware of is forward Jamie Cureton – the man who left the U’s under a cloud for Norwich in 2007. He was released by the Canaries this summer and, having signed non-contract terms at Exeter, could play a part today.

“There was a lot of talk that Paul (Tisdale) would get a Championship job this summer and that would have been well-deserved,” said Ward.

“I was with his assistant Andy Tilson at Bristol Rovers and they get big respect from me.

“We’ve seen most of their friendly games though – we even went to Forest Green on Tuesday – so there will be one or two things I’ll be pushing on our players that we’ve learnt about them.”

Exeter: Jones, Krysiak; Duffy, Taylor, Jones, Edwards, Tully, Golbourne, Noble, Harley, Sercombe, Thompson, Cozic, Dunne; Nardiello, O’Flynn, Cureton, Stewart, Logan.

Colchester: Cousins, Pentney; Wilson, Tierney, Okuonghae, Reid, White, Baldwin; Bond, Izzet, Perkins, Henderson, Wordsworth, James, Vincent; Mooney, Odejayi, Gillespie.

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