Williams up for the Cup

COLCHESTER United boss, Geraint Williams, always looks forward to the televised draw for the FA Cup.

By Carl Marston

Colchester soccer preview, part one

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United boss, Geraint Williams, always looks forward to the televised draw for the FA Cup.

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So the Welshman will be hoping that his high-flying Championship outfit do not become the victim of a mini-shock this afternoon, at League Two hosts Barnet.

For the first time in their 70-year history, the U's have enjoyed a bye through to the third round of the world's oldest cup competition, a result of their promotion to the second tier of the League last summer.

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Previous manager Phil Parkinson masterminded three good cup runs during his tenure at Layer Road, following a lean spell spanning a decade. Now his successor, Williams, is looking to continue the good recent trend.

Skipper Karl Duguid is a definite non-starter, due to a chest injury. He called off just 30 minutes before the start of the game at QPR on New Year's Day, due to breathing problems, and a scan has since revealed some bruising rather than a cracked rib.

Duguid hopes to be back in contention for the following weekend's home league match against Leicester City, when the U's will be striving for a 12th successive Layer Road victory.

But for the moment, all focus is on the U's cup visit to Barnet. History will certainly be on their side, because the only previous occasion that the two clubs faced each other in the FA Cup was in the 1970-71 campaign, when Dick Graham's men progressed all the way to the quarter-finals.

Mick Mahon scored in a 1-0 win at Underhill in a third round tie on January 5, 1971. The following month, history was indeed made when the Fourth Division minnows toppled mighty Leeds United 3-2 in a fifth round tie at Layer Road. The U's eventually bowed out 5-0 at Everton.

Barnet have not actually been beyond the third round, so Paul Fairclough's men have everything to play for this afternoon.

Williams is anticipating a hard afternoon: “I've always liked sitting around the TV with the family at Sunday tea-time, waiting to watch the draw for the next round of the FA Cup.

“So it will be a bit depressing if we're not in it this Sunday! We've had Barnet watched, and they have a couple of quick lads up front (Jason Puncheon and Adam Birchall), so we will have to be on our toes.

“Unfortunately, we haven't heard anything from West Ham about Hogan Ephraim (loanee) having permission to play. The lad's disappointed not to be involved, especially after he came on and did well at QPR. Still, young Craig Hughes will get a chance in the squad,” added Williams.

Barnet were looking like relegation candidates when they were paired with Colchester in the third round draw before Christmas, but since then they have won four games on the bounce, although that was halted by a 2-1 defeat at Boston last weekend.

The Bees were down in 19th spot, just two points clear of the relegation zone, until victories over Mansfield, Shrewsbury, Peterborough and Bury pushed them up to 11th position. They are now in 13th, eight points clear of the bottom two.

Their leading scorer for the season, Tresor Kandol, signed for Leeds United this week. The 25-year-old former Dagenham & Redbridge striker had been on loan at Elland Road since November. He had been recruited by the Bees for £50,000, and sold for £200,000 just under a year later. Not a bad profit!

Former Norwich City trainee Dean Sinclair returns after a one-match suspension, and could replace 41-year-old ex-Gillingham stalwart Andy Hessenthaler in central midfield, while keeper Lee Harrison is available again after a three-match absence with a thigh injury.

Bees boss Fairclough paid tribute to the over-achieving U's yesterday. He said: “Colchester are a shining light to everyone in football.

“I've got every respect for Colchester They have shown that it can be done.”

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