“We CAN best Preston!” – insists Colchester United boss Tony Humes

Tony Humes bellows out instructions, alongside assistant Richard Hall

Tony Humes bellows out instructions, alongside assistant Richard Hall - Credit: Su Anderson

Colchester United might be stuck in the relegation zone, with their fate out of their own hands, but manager Tony Humes insists that his team can still escape the dreaded drop into League Two.

The U’s must beat second-placed Preston on Sunday, who themselves need a win to ensure automatic promotion to the Championship, and then hope that both Crawley and Notts County slip up.

If Humes’ men do pull out all the stops to beat the Lilywhites, and Crawley fail to beat Coventry at home, while the Magpies also fail to win at Gillingham, then the dream will become a reality.

The only other scenario, which would keep the U’s in League One for an eighth successive season, would be for one of Crawley or Notts County to fail to win, with Crewe being beaten at home by Phil Parkinson’s Bradford City.

It is not impossible, but it is unlikely.

However, Humes is staying positive. “It’s not over yet,” insisted the U’s boss.

“It’s the last game of the season, and the place should be almost full.

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“If the players repeat the performance that they gave against Swindon (on Tuesday night), then they can look back and say that they gave it everything.

“But firstly, we have to beat Preston.

“We have got to go out now and prepare for Sunday, and approach it in the same way.

“The players are disappointed in not winning the game (against Swindon), but we are still in it.

“We know that if we beat Preston on Sunday, then we’ve got an opportunity. That’s all we can look at.

“We need as much commitment, as much hunger, and as much desire to go and play the game in the same way. We’ve got to believe we can win the game.

“It’s going to be a different sort of game this weekend. Preston aren’t as football-orientated as Swindon, they are a little bit more direct and a little bit more physical. So it will be a different sort of challenge, that we need to stand up to.

“If we have the confidence to go and play, like we did against Swindon, then we’ve got a chance,” added Humes.

Asked whether he thought his team could truly beat Preston – they have only lost six of their 45 league games – Humes gave an emphatic response.

“We CAN beat Preston, of course we can,” continued Humes.

“They haven’t won every game this season, they are not invincible.

“They will also be nervy, because they have to win the game as well, to make the top two, because MK Dons are breathing right down their necks.

“You don’t know how pressure affects teams. We’ve just got to go and approach it in the same way, and see what happens.

“Personally, I was not involved in this situation as a player, though I was involved in the (race for) the play-offs on the final day.

“It affects you in different ways. It’s one game now, that’s what it comes down.

“We’ve got to pick the players up, and keep that belief going, which they’ve had all season,” added Humes.