Williams eyes up top-two finish

COLCHESTER United's back-up striker Gareth Williams is not interested in the play-offs. He wants the U's to bypass that lottery by finishing in the top two in League One.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United's back-up striker Gareth Williams is not interested in the play-offs. He wants the U's to bypass that lottery by finishing in the top two in League One.

Williams is hoping to play a big part in the U's run-in, having played second fiddle to fellow strikers Chris Iwelumo and Richard Garcia in recent months.

The ex-Crystal Palace front-runner is certainly bang in form, as was confirmed by his hat-trick for the Reserves in their 5-2 demolition of Barnet's second string on Wednesday afternoon.


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And next week will be the third anniversary of Williams' first-ever senior hat-trick, when he marked manager Phil Parkinson's first match in charge with three goals in the 4-1 defeat of Port Vale on March 1, 2003.

The U's travel to promotion rivals Barnsley tomorrow, hoping to reclaim the second spot in League One that they will relinquish this evening - third-placed Huddersfield are at fourth-placed Swansea tonight, with one of them certain to leapfrog United.

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“It's time for us to kick-on now. We want to sustain our promotion push,” insisted Williams.

“Last Sunday's Cup game at Chelsea was a great day out, and the boys played very well. It was a great experience, but winning promotion remains the most important thing.

“Like the other lads on the bench, I want to put pressure on those currently in the team. I want to play my part, and ensure that we score enough goals to get promoted.

“We have 14 league games left, and we are going to try and win them all. I want us to win automatic promotion. I don't just want us to finish in the top six,” added Williams.

A goal-hungry Williams has spent the bulk of this campaign on the bench. In fact, the 23-year-old has only started nine games, and three of these were in the LDV Vans Trophy.

He was one of the substitutes at Stamford Bridge last Sunday, and at least enjoyed nine minutes of action as an 81st-minute replacement for Garcia in the 3-1 defeat to Premiership leaders Chelsea.

Williams explained: “I was glad to get on the pitch against Chelsea, though I didn't really have enough time to make an impact. There was not long left.

“It was only when Chelsea brought on their three big hitters (substitutes Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and Hernan Crespo), that the game changed. Before that, they had not looked like winning it.

“I know that Joe Cole scored the two goals, but I thought that Frank Lampard was the main reason for the turnaround. He took the game up another level. I wasn't too disappointed by the end result. It was the perfect cup run for us, with some good wins and then a big pay-day for the club.

“It was good to get amongst the goals again for the Reserves this week. It just shows that the lads in the first team cannot rest on their laurels.

“It's good for the whole squad that everyone is eager to break into the side. The Reserves team this week was very strong, and the LDV Vans Trophy team has been very successful.

“I find it amazing that nearly three years has passed since I scored that hat-trick against Port Vale. So much has happened since then.

“The time has flown by, and of course I'd love to get another hat-trick. I was on loan three years ago, and it was the gaffer's (Phil Parkinson's) first match in charge. The squad is stronger now than it's ever been.

“All the remaining games are important, but this weekend at Barnsley is especially so. Barnsley are one of the in-form teams in our division.

“Then of course there's Southend at home the following weekend. It's imperative that we do well in these games,” concluded Williams.

Barnsley have received a double boost ahead of tomorrow's crunch game at Oakwell. Skipper Paul Reid is set to start, after missing the last two matches with a strained hamstring, as is defender Matt Carbon following a groin problem.

U's boss Parkinson has no new injury concerns. He looks set to name the same 16-man squad from last Sunday's trip to Chelsea, with perhaps the addition of Garry Richards, Tony Thorpe and Sam Stockley.

Colchester's next home game, against league leaders and Essex rivals Southend on Saturday, March 4, is already a sell-out.

The U's then have a rearranged LDV Vans Trophy southern area final first leg tie at Swansea City, on Tuesday, March 7, with the second leg taking place at Layer Road the following week.

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