Youths look forward to cup tie

COLCHESTER United Youths are looking forward to their biggest game of the season at Crystal Palace tonight, although they are not going along just to make up the numbers.

By Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United Youths are looking forward to their biggest game of the season at Crystal Palace tonight, although they are not going along just to make up the numbers.

Joe Dunne's young side take on the Eagles in an FA Youth Cup third-round tie in south London (kick-off 7pm), hoping to spring a surprise on their more illustrious opponents. They genuinely believe that they can make further progress in this competition.

“The lads are raring to go. We have prepared well for this match, and we believe that we can win,” insisted youth team manager Dunne last night.

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“We made it all the way through to the quarter-finals last season, but we never got to visit any big stadiums. This year, the lads told themselves that they wanted another good run in the FA Youth Cup, to give themselves a chance of playing at some big grounds.

“Selhurst Park will be the biggest stadium that most of my lads have played in,” added Dunne.

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The U's are going great guns this season. In fact, they have only lost one of their last 14 league and cup games, and that defeat came at South-East Conference leaders Brighton earlier in the month.

They bounced back impressively last weekend, recording a 3-0 win over Brentford. David Wareham and Tom Webb were on target against the Bees, added to an own goal.

The U's have had a good Cup tradition in recent seasons. In fact, they have enjoyed some glamorous trips in the past, playing at such grounds as Villa Park, Elland Road and Highbury. They have also taken on Blackburn, and beaten Chelsea!

The Layer Road club booked their place in the third round with a 3-2 victory over Barking & East Ham in round two. Manager Dunne was disappointed with the number of chances his team missed in that game.

Craig Hughes will be leading the front line tonight. Last month, he was awarded his first-team squad number (No. 27).

Hughes will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of several other Colchester youth players who have gone on to make the grade in the Football League. These include the likes of Karl Duguid, Greg Halford, Dean Gerken, John White and Jamie Guy.

Webb will play in a withdrawn role just behind Hughes, with Medi Elito, a 15-year-old London schoolboy, and Wareham on the flanks. Darren O'Connor and Anthony Wordsworth will occupy central midfield.

Dunne actually named his team on Tuesday. Matt Paine and Liam Bailey form the centre-half partnership, with Dean Cross at right-back and Curtis Haynes-Brown at left-back. Anthony Hughes will be in goal.

Youth team manager Dunne filled the right-back role for the senior side for many years, until his playing career was cut short by a knee injury. He is relishing his current role.

Colchester United Youths: Anthony Hughes, Dean Cross, Matt Paine, Liam Bailey, Curtis Haynes-Brown, Medi Elito, Darren O'Connor, Anthony Wordsworth, Dave Wareham, Tom Webb, Craig Hughes, Steve Opaka, Arron Best, Jamie Petts, Tom Devaux, Tom Ross.

Meanwhile, Colchester's senior fringe players gave manager Phil Parkinson a timely reminder of their ability by helping the U's Reserves to a 4-0 win over Leyton Orient's second string yesterday afternoon.

Midfielder Kem Izzet, who has been battling to get back into the starting line-up in recent weeks, netted with a 25-yard shot, while fellow first-team substitute Karl Duguid was also on target.

The other goals came from striker Gareth Williams, who has not even been in the final 16-man squad for recent games, and young midfielder Robbie King.

The U's first team entertain MK Dons in a League One match at Layer Road this Saturday.

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