‘We have to be careful with Jabo’ – Colchester United boss Joe Dunne

Jabo Ibehre up against Crewe keeper Ben Garratt last weekend

Jabo Ibehre up against Crewe keeper Ben Garratt last weekend - Credit: Archant

Jabo Ibehre, such a key player for Colchester United, is struggling to get through more than half a game at the moment.

Ibehre has continued to lead the U’s front-line superbly in recent weeks, despite a long-term hip injury that has had a knock-on effect on his overall fitness.

The 30-year-old centre forward is hoping to be fit to play away at his old club MK Dons, tomorrow afternoon (kick-off 3pm).

But even if he starts, Ibehre is unlikely to play the whole game – he was substituted after 67 minutes of Sunday’s disappointing 2-1 home defeat to lowly Crewe Alexandra.

“Jabo (Ibehre) was struggling at half-time. He was sore,” explained U’s boss Joe Dunne, with reference to the Crewe defeat.

“We have got to be careful with Jabo, because there is another half of the season to go.

“He did play well for us, but there was a real serious risk if he continued, and I just thought there was no point.

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“It’s at half-time, when he stops playing, that it stiffens up.

“Jabo hasn’t trained with us for a week now. So that’s the way we have been nursing him through it.

“We have to be careful, and we will see how he is, and everyone else is, ahead of the MK Dons game.”

Leading scorer Ibehre, who netted in the previous outings at Oldham Athletic (2-0) and against Stevenage (4-0) on Boxing Day, has not played a full 90 minutes since the 4-0 home defeat to fellow strugglers Notts County on December 14.

But despite not being fully fit for much of this campaign, he has still played in 20 of the U’s 23 league games.

Dunne will certainly not want to risk being without Ibehre for any great length of time, although the U’s do have a 10-day break with no game after the visit to MK Dons.

Fellow front-runner Freddie Sears is also set to return to the squad tomorrow, after his own struggle to overcome a hamstring injury.

Meanwhile, Dunne admitted that his side’s surprise defeat to then-bottom club Crewe, after leading 1-0 at half-time, was down to a negative “mind-set.”

“The Dubliner explained: “We got a bit edgy. We dropped too deep.

“We needed some big, strong characters to stand up there.

“We did it in the previous two games, but not against Crewe.

“It’s not even gradual, it’s a sheer drop, which as a manager is so frustrating.

“That’s us, that’s where we are at the moment as a team.

“We are just coming up short, and it’s the mind-set that we need to work on.

“Maybe we thought we had won the game at half-time? But we didn’t stand up to any kind of pressure in the second half, against a team playing with no fear because they were at the bottom.

“What we don’t want to be is a team that kick-starts other teams’ seasons.

Luke Garbutt’s first-half free-kick was cancelled out by second-half goals from Chucks Aneke and Tom Hitchcock as Crewe clambered off the foot of League One.

The U’s are in 14th spot, three places and four points behind tomorrow’s hosts, MK Dons, who lost at new leaders Brentford on Sunday.

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