“We are now in touching distance” – Colchester United teenager Tom Lapslie
Before the turn of this year, Tom Lapslie had never even made a senior appearance for Colchester United.
But in a dramatic turn of events, teenage rookie Lapslie has suddenly become a mainstay of the U’s central midfield.
The 19-year-old pocket dynamo is set to chalk up his 10th league start, at relegation rivals Coventry City this afternoon, hoping to continue his role as a lucky charm for the Essex club.
While the U’s have been wallowing in the bottom four, for most of this season, Lapslie has been on the winning side in five of his first nine league games, an impressive ratio.
“I couldn’t have imagined playing so many games, before this season started,” enthused Lapslie.
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“Last year, I only had a handful of games for the under-21s, because of injury, so I’ve probably played more games for the first team this season than I did for the under-21s last year.
“It’s therefore been a successful season for me, on a personal level, but I’d much rather the club were successful, by staying up.”
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After seven league appearances on the bounce, from the end of January, Lapslie was sidelined by an ankle injury that kept him out of action for six weeks.
But he returned to the team, for the 2-1 victory at Port Vale on Good Friday, and followed that up with another typically gritty performance in the last outing, a 3-1 win over play-off chasing Barnsley on Easter Monday.
“It’s nice to come back in, when the team is winning games,” continued Lapslie.
“It’s not good when you get in and the team starts losing lots of games, because then it looks bad on you. But it’s the team performance that matters, and all the boys have been doing well.
“I’m not quite 100% (after the ankle injury), but I’m feeling better than what I was. I’m more than match-ready to play, it doesn’t hold me back during the game.
“I did lose a lot of fitness during my time out. When I came back, I played against Bristol City under-21s, and I was so far off the pace that I couldn’t believe it!
“I was surprised that I lost so much fitness in just three or four weeks, despite doing a lot of running and cycling. But I had to let my ankle get better.
“During that time I did reflect on what I’ve done so far, after the Bristol City game, when I had a few weeks out.
“Of course I’d much rather have been fit and available for selection, but it did give me time to look back on and appreciate what has happened to me this season, and where I was.
“However, there will be plenty of time at the end of the season to reflect on it all.
“As a club, we are now in touching distance (just two points adrift of safety). We believed it before we had this good run (four matches unbeaten), but now we are a lot closer to achieving it.
“We are all buzzing at the moment, on the back of those four good results. Now we are looking to carry on that good form, into this weekend and then again next Tuesday evening (at Chesterfield).
“Coventry is just another game that we need to win. A victory would give us a good chance, especially as we are only four points off 15th place. It is so tight down the bottom, “ added Lapslie.