White hoping for Orient success

A YEAR ago, John White could not get a game in a Colchester United shirt, but now he is one of the first names on the team-sheet.

A YEAR ago, John White could not get a game in a Colchester United shirt, but now he is one of the first names on the team-sheet.

White has played more games than any other U's defender from the back-four this season, and today he plans to play his part in easing United through to the second round of the FA Cup, at the expense of visiting Leyton Orient.

Full-back White was shipped out on loan to Stevenage at this time a year ago. The 22-year-old had only made three appearances in the first three months of last season, but a two-month stint in the Conference gave him some much needed match-practise, and did wonders for his self-confidence.

White is now loving every minute of life under new boss Paul Lambert. There is a new spring in the step of every U's player.


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“Things couldn't be much better than this at the moment,” enthused White.

“It's been a great turn-a-round since the gaffer came in. I reckon that's been down to lots of things, rather than just one reason.

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“We are more organised as a team and a unit, particularly at the back. We are stronger than ever now, and everything is looking positive.

“Dropping down into this league (relegated from the Championship) has given us a little less time on the ball to play. But we knew that would be the case. It's more of a pressure game, and we have learnt the hard way before managing to adjust,” added White.

The U's have endured some humiliating Cup defeats, as well as some exciting Cup runs, since they returned to the Football League in 1992.

There have been devastating losses, to the likes of Bedlington Terriers and Sutton United, but also a couple of good runs during the Phil Parkinson era, culminating in trips to Sheffield United and Chelsea.

White is relieved, rather than frustrated, to be avoiding non-league opposition this afternoon.

“Playing Leyton Orient is less of a banana skin,” insisted White.

“The Cup has always had a big tradition of the small teams getting the better of the bigger clubs. At least we know all about Leyton Orient, because they are in the same league as us.

“They are all massive matches in the FA Cup. The rewards are to play some of the biggest teams in the world!”

The U's have only lost one of their last five games since Lambert took over the managerial reins. And the new steely determination in the team was reflected by the fine comeback at Southend last weekend, which saw the visitors turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead, before conceding a last gasp equaliser.

White admitted: “Three weeks or so ago, we would have probably lost that game. Our heads would have been down and Southend would probably have killed us off.

“They would have probably kicked us in the proverbials and scored a few more goals. But we worked so hard to get back in front, which was an achievement on its own.

“We look a lot stronger now than in previous games. The gaffer knows how to get the best out of each player. The training sessions are short and sharp, at a high intensity, and they are all match-related.

“It's more of a team effort, rather than just us looking for one individual spark,” added White.

The U's will be without skipper Dean Hammond, while Steve Gillespie, Paul Reid and Chris Coyne are all set to miss out again.

Midfielder Hammond serves a one-match suspension, for accruing five bookings, and Gillespie (hamstring), Reid (foot) and Coyne (calf) are very doubtful. But striker Clive Platt returns to the squad after missing the midweek victory at Bournemouth due to a dead leg.

Leyton Orient have a couple of former Colchester players on their books. Left-back Danny Granville made 19 appearances for the U's in the Championship last season, while former U's striker Dean Morgan is currently on loan at Brisbane Road from Luton.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, White, Baldwin, Heath, Jackson, Yeates, Izzet, Perkins, Wordsworth, Williams, Platt, Vernon, Wasiu, Ifil, Elito, J Hammond, Cousins.

LEYTON ORIENT: Morris, Purches, Mkandawire, Saah, Granville, Melligan, Chambers, Thornton, Demetriou, Morgan, Parkin, Boyd, Jones, Dawkins, Terry, Ashworth, Pires, Thelwell.

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