BWB

As published in the Essex County Standard

"Banter with Burns" as scribed by CUSA Chairman Jon Burns

11 May 2018

The curtain falls on another U’s season and sadly there will be no encore of the play offs, and the critics will no doubt be harsh in their view of what they’ve seen on stage.

In my very humble opinion, I am certainly disappointed not to have finished in the top 7 and really upset that we fell away to the bottom half of the table. The U’s had their problems on and off the pitch, but only a few opposition teams really impressed me during the season. A decent opportunity lost and if it requires a player shake up, as we’ve already seen this week, then so be it. A freshening squad re-boot will hopefully be the answer come August.

Highlights were few and game wise, the pre Christmas Friday night win at Swindon was my particular favourite. The U’s were in 5th place that night. Player wise, I joined in the lyrical waxing of Sammie’s performances and goals. He was excellent and still is in my opinion, but I would really like to know the reasons behind post January slump. It may be a team game but it really cost us.

Multi trophy winning Tom Eastman obviously deserves a mention. With him, our defence has been solid this season with the issues being in other areas of the pitch. Add Prosser, Kent and Kane to the list of top performers at the back. Final one from me is Tom Lapslie. I’ll always be a fan because he does the hard miles and strong tackling that often eludes some of his team mates. Much like we used to herald Joe Dunne as a player, Tom is in the same mould.

It is going to be hard to put the Oxford City game, the other dismal home defeats, the largely ineffective  loanees, the lack of goals, and indeed the lack of creativity behind us, but we must. Appreciate that this list is long, but the management structure and powers that be will need to seek the answers to these problems whilst building a squad to do the business next time.

Let us hope that John McGreal and co have a restful, yet resourceful and lucky summer break. Let us hope that this brings with it a renewed optimism amongst the supporters, especially if these and other football club moves, look to find a way to interest more new bums on seats.

U’s banter over for this season. Please enjoy what summer break comes your way and I look forward to your company again next time around

4 May 2018

It’s hard to find anything interesting to say about the game last week. When both sides have nothing to play for, it can make for a pretty awful game of football. Certainly not the way to end the season really and I’ll be hoping for much better at Exeter tomorrow. Pity I missed the U15 game afterwards because that sounded a whole lot better.

Great to Dillon Barnes do well on his league debut. I’ll think that he’ll be the first to admit that he had an easy ride, apart from his first shot which was not only deflected, but it also bounced in the muddy bit before reaching his welcoming arms. Bet the old heart was pounding.

With not much happening up front in a pretty conservative formation, it was good to see Junior and Gondoh come on to try and add some spark to proceedings. Still think that Senior is wasted out wide on the left. We’ve had good players in the past fall by the wayside by being asked to play out of position. Please not this time U’s.

Swindon weren’t up to much either and I did feel that an extra gear from the U’s would have seen us through. Another opportunity lost and if we can’t get past Exeter then there is real chance of even falling into the bottom half and that would be a dreadful result for a season of perceived promise.

Lots of Sam Walker talk this week. I’m a fan and I would have no issue if he chose to progress his career elsewhere. He’s a good guy who has give  his all for the team. His situation is not unique within the U’s and I predict plenty of churn within the current squad before pre-season hits us all. Some I would be happy to see go and some not if I’m honest.

Onto tomorrow and I’ll re-declare my hope from last Friday that the U’s can finish on a high and put a downer on Exeter’s play off party. We’ll need to be up for it at a ground that is always tough to visit. Then it’s the Awards Night on Tuesday and well done to the deserved winners. No doubt I’ll be mentioning their names in next weeks final banter of the season.

Best of luck tomorrow U’s and if you’re Devon bound, may I wish you a safe journey

Up the U’s!

27 April 2018

Tomorrow sees two teams come together knowing that they have blown their play off chances. It could have been and probably should have been better for the U’s, and that goes for Swindon too. Let’s not finish with a whimper though please. We want to see a cracking game of football, a U’s win, and again at Exeter next week, before the eventual analysis and hindsight begins.

It’s changed a bit around Lincoln’s ground since I was last there. Success has certainly increased the crowds and before they game they were very well looked after in terms of beer and sausage. They’re a friendly bunch too. The same perhaps cannot be said about their much prized management duo. Their brand obviously works but they are not the happiest of souls when things are going badly. John McGreal had his hands full on and off the pitch, and I lost count of the number of times a certain opposition manager was asked to get “off the pitch” by the powerless 4th official.

I thought that JM got the team just right. Packing the midfield brought the U’s a degree of control and it helped to muck up their long ball game plan. Soft penalty conceded was followed by an enlightened substitution courtesy of the Senior equaliser. What followed kind of summed up our season. Missed opportunities in front of goal when we were on top and the sucker punch (or missed Walker punch) to finish it.

Gutted, devastated and frustrated we departed for home, trying to politely acknowledge the Lincoln fans’ kind words about our team as we boarded the coach. We have heard them all before. “Best team they have seen” and “unlucky not to win” have been the favourites. Hard work needs a finishing product and that should have come from Mandron at least or anyone of the 5 forwards we had on the pitch at the final whistle. An opportunity lost again.

Hopefully not tomorrow and I wonder if JM will think about changes, especially if he’s already had a nod and a wink that a certain player won’t be signing on the dotted line. Hope that doesn’t also mean a hook for loanee  Stevenson who I think has been excellent and if ever there was a chance of having him back from Wolves next season, I would really want the U’s to only take a millisecond to decide.

Thanks for your support at Lincoln and at the Weston Homes tomorrow, and I hope you have a fantastic weekend

Up the U’s!

20 April 2018

The smart money would be on us having a thoroughly miserable journey home from Lincoln tomorrow. I certainly hope not of course. With Coventry playing tonight and having a great chance of pulling out of our reach, the U’s just need to go for the 3 points and see what happens.

There is a real desire from the fans to finish on a high. The players have tried these past 2 games, but Stanley were just infallible and although we played well against County, the lack of firepower and creativity up front cost us ultimately. Drey scored a well worked goal but there was little other real attacking joy.

That said, I think the end result would have been different had Eastman’s header not found the post, and of course if Ameobi had been shown the door in the 1st half. In my view, the referee missed a few incidents for both sides. McGreal is right though to be unhappy about the man in the middle because at the very least we needed the Ameobi elbow and the shirt pull on Junior to be seen and punished.

Are the players perhaps not demonstrative enough with bad decisions on the pitch? We don’t appear to be a team of moaners and I wonder if that hurts us a little with decisions. I’m all for Respect, but a bit of emotion when appropriate might work wonders.

Luke Prosser played well again with Tom at the back, and along with Drey, I thought Comley did his job pretty well. I was also pleased to see Junior and Courtney brought on and their pace and skill set should terrorise defenders with the right service. If not over the remainder of this season, then hopefully next.

Anyhow, the result all but sealed our fate and another season in League Two beckons. It’s a depressing thought and already minds are turning to who’ll be left from the current squad to take up the challenge. Numerous contracts are up this summer and if I am brutally honest I am expecting a fair degree of change. Might be time for the U’s player identification and recruitment people to earn their corn over the next few months.

A quick reminder to those Exeter bound for the final game of the season that U’s fans only have 300 tickets to play with. Good luck tomorrow U’s and a safe journey to all heading up the A1 to support them.

Up the U’s!

13 April 2018

The U’s will be on the hunt for revenge against the Magpies tomorrow. It really is a must win game for us and Monsieur Mandron must be the man who does it for us after his penalty dramas at Meadow Lane earlier in the season. Concede one, then miss one, he’ll be looking to make amends I’m sure. That said he did lay in a lovely pass for a certain Odelusi to score

4 games left and still to play for but as each game now approaches, the pressure gets stronger as the task ahead looks harder. I’m conffident we’ll win tomorrow. Notts County have had a sticky patch recently and after sliding out of the automatic places they’ll be desperate not to blow the play offs. A nice early goal will ruffle their feathers a bit, just as long as the U’s don’t then sit back for the remainder of the game.

Many people have been observing just how Accrington Stanley are where they are. Low home crowds, a prudent budget and interesting dietary rules post match. Joking aside, they have hugely effective and very well drilled team, which simply does not make mistakes. They back themselves to bag a goal or two, but every time the U’s looked to have found a chink in their armour, another Stanley was there in a flash. No superstars, just almost a perfect team for League Two and they will be worthy champions.

It also helps if they get referees who favour the Goliath’s over the David’s, as some lesser built U’s players found out last Saturday. Do feel that sometimes one or two of our players could do with a few pints of ale and a Desperate Dan cow pie on a regular basis.

Tom Eastman looks as if he could manage a cow pie or two. I’m a big fan of our centre half and to have over 250 appearances when only 26 years old is a tremendous record. He and Prosser have been immense these last few weeks and will need to be so again tomorrow especially against the combative Ameobi.

So what of the U’s at the other end of the pitch? Mandron needs “le vengeance” but what to do about Sammie? The fans favourite needs to get back to those winning runs off the last defender and equally importantly his team mates need to then play him in. Be so good to have him on fire these last 4 games. If not then I am firmly in the Junior over Mandeville camp to be honest.

Anyway, good luck U’s and please keep up your excellent support over these closing contests

6 April 2018

Quite the brilliant Easter weekend from the U’s! No sandpaper or ball tampering required to get past Luton and Forest Green after all, and over the last 3 games we are now only second in the form table behind tomorrow’s opponents so something will have to give.

Hopefully it’s Accrington of course and what a result that would be for us. We might also win some Luton or Wycombe friends for doing so. With sensible head on, to make the play offs now would still be monumental achievement especially with all of our remaining 5 games against teams currently above us.

Just got to go out there and do what we can, and see what develops. What is abundantly clear is that there is happier feel about the U’s recently. Could one departed player have made all of the difference?

I thought we played out of our skins against the Hatters. Dreadful conditions but we looked strong all over the pitch. Sad to lose Lapslie, and best wishes to their poor chap too, but Stevenson purred and all threats were well dealt with by Prosser and Eastman again. Match winners at both ends of the pitch.

Tom’s tackle in the closing minutes was amazing, and he followed it up with another on Monday – albeit he picked up a yellow in the process poor chap. I was pleased for Drey and his early goal. Sammie should have buried a volley to make it two to be fair, and Stevenson showed great composure for the winner in front of a strong contingent of travelling U’s.

I quite enjoyed the trip to the Cotswolds. Odd to see a football ground rise from such rural surroundings, and what a friendly bunch they are at FGR. Relaxed stewarding and open terracing brought back memories of the good old days. The Organic Ale went down a treat and I really regret not trying the onion bhaji wrap, although the combination of both might have lost me a few friends during the coach trip home!

It’s been tough for the fans since the turn of the year and so it’s important that we finish on a high. If we do fail to extend our season then it will be a very decent opportunity lost, but let’s concentrate on the here and now, and aim to win each and every tough game to come.

Please keep up your important support and let’s turn over the Stanley tomorrow – hang on a minute don’t they make sandpaper?

Up the U’s!

30 March 2018

Just how do the U’s stop the Hatters goal machine this afternoon? Is ball tampering allowed in football and if so will some sandpaper hidden in the old athletic support do the trick? Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos have ever managed reverse swing in my lifetime so I guess that one is out of the question.

One way to stop them is to have Luke Prosser playing. He is really showing us in heaps exactly what we all missed when he was injured for so long. He had a great game at Stevenage, adding to a list of recent top performances. Could we see fit again Frankie Kent joining him again in a 3 man defence? I’m not too sure and I would not be surprised if JM sticks to his guns and keeps everything as is. Luton have shown this season that they are very capable of imploding and I am hoping that the U’s take the game to them and pile on the pressure with 2 up top.

A big thank you to JM and the players for the win last Saturday. The fans needed that. It may not have been a rip roaring demolition of the opposition, but it was a controlled and deserved 3 points. Maybe we will finish this season with a bang after all, and that would be very warming news indeed.

Prosser was brilliant but in my opinion Mandron was equally so. He is never going to be the big bustling centre forward, bullying centre halves left, right and centre. Watch how much he works when we haven’t got the ball. Try to find the rare moment when he isn’t interested in challenging for a ball in the air. His massive work rate catches my eye and for that he does deserve more goals than he gets, so hopefully that will come his way soon.

I also hope that the U’s take confidence from last week. They need to shelve their recent nervousness when playing at home and have a really good go at the league leaders. Just like we used to do. I am really looking forward to the game, as I always do at the WHCS, and like all fans I really want to start my Easter weekend with a strong and winning U’s performance to look back on.

Good luck U’s and thanks to all those off to support them. Safe journey to Forest Green Rovers on Monday too. Open terrace plus poor weather forecast may well mean a wet day I’m afraid.

23 March 2018

Our season really should not be petering out in this fashion. Full of hope I was that last Saturday we would overcome lowly Yeovil and take that confidence into a Morecambe battle. That hope was all but lost when someone chose to ad lib rather than follow the script at the early penalty award. 

By his omission on Tuesday I think we all know which player had his own agenda. Penalty saved after the squabble, heads bowed and yet another goalless home defeat. Made all the tougher by the hard work put in clearing the pitch that morning to get the game on. Add to that the extreme cold sitting and watching the game, and it made for a very tough Saturday for the fans.

Morecambe was better from the U’s but the front 4 struggled to make any meaningful impact. It really needed an earlier stick or twist to bring on Murray or Stevenson and sacrifice one of our defensive midfielders if we were to increase our chances of winning the game. 52 disappointed U’s fans battling the M6 to arrive home just in time for work.

I suppose that it will be back to the drawing board in an effort for goals at Stevenage tomorrow. Please let it work because I long to put my hands together in a clapping motion again.

Like I said it really should not be like this. With our squad, and it’s not young anymore, the final 2 months of the season, with something to play for, should be full of passion and effort, and for an example I give you Tom Lapslie. Some of his team mates look flat and dejected, and many fans, who are really hurting at the moment, are asking why. Perhaps an answer or two will be revealed at the Season Ticket holders forum next Tuesday night?

We all want the football team we follow and support to work hard and win games. We’ve done it before this season and so let’s do it again. The play offs may well have sailed off into the distance,  but crikey let’s at least finish on a high. Our next 3 homes games are against the top 3 in the league. Can the U’s do what they always seem to do and that it play our best football against the higher placed teams? Let us all hope so.

Thanks to all those off to Stevenage tomorrow to support the U’s

16 March 2018

It’s an important week for our beloved U’s. Win at all costs tomorrow against Yeovil and then bust a gut for 3 points at Morecambe on Tuesday, followed by a similar result in our local derby at Stevenage next Saturday.

A better performance and a fighting point at Mansfield was good but what can we do to be good enough and savvy enough to go out and win games from now on in. I bantered a few weeks ago about having that winning mentality. I think that a positive and productive game against lowly Yeovil will be just what the doctor ordered for the next two games. It’s all about confidence for the U’s as we all know and they can’t afford to be fragile anymore.

An early goal will be crucial tomorrow. All the better if it’s from Guthrie because he thrives on his own self confidence and if he is buzzing then so too will the team. He was part of the promised and required changes at Mansfield along with Lapslie, Szmodics and Dickenson. Much praise this week has been heaped the way of Tom and rightly so in my opinion. Every team needs a player like Tom. When he goes in for a tackle he’s not worrying about getting injured and missing the next few games. Some of his team mates could do with following his lead in this regard.

Dickenson brings balance to the force on the left. An excellent player and it would be great if he could get back on the goalscorers list again. The U’s needs goals much as it also needs to find its’ best starting XI. A bit too close to the end of the season to still be juggling line ups so can last weeks’ team do the business against Yeovil and beyond? Fingers crossed and the required lucky hat, scarf and gloves will be out in force of course.

Teams scrapping to avoid relegation  are our current nemesis and although they are not exactly ripping up trees in front of goal, they did go to Exeter on Tuesday and take a point. They can’t be allowed to take anything tomorrow apart from a good hiding from our players.

Good luck tomorrow U’s and please keep up your great support during these final games. It is so important and finally from me, for all off to Morecambe on Tuesday, please have a safe journey there and back. Work the next day will be interesting!

Up the U’s!

 

9 March 2018

A weekend free of U’s football has its benefits. Not being stuck in a snow drift up North being one of them. Hopefully though the real benefit will be the extra time allowed for our players to re-group and re-focus on a winning run of games.

A nice Tuesday night away in the North West is the end result. Arriving home as the milkman delivers your gold tops is every football fans dream. Roll on Morecambe away!

It is play off placed Mansfield tomorrow. Quite bizarre the recent managerial merry go round they’ve had recently. Can the U’s take advantage of any lingering uncertainly there? The starting XI shake up that many of us wanted last Saturday will hopefully be deferred intact for tomorrow’s must win game, and it has to be must win, because our Achilles heel is trying play for draws. The equation must be something like winning 8 or 9 of the 11 games we have left to play this season. A tall order indeed but I still think we have the players to do it.

The remaining games will fly by and not to challenging this season, when I don’t think the standard of opposition has been high, would be a huge disappointment. It could be a whole lot worse of course, but we all know it could and should be a whole let better.

Be thankful I suppose that we don’t have the problems of VAR to contend with too. A proverbial plug that needs to be pulled if ever I saw one. Also, think about the unhappiness that Arsenal fans are contending with at the moment. That said they are through to the semis of the FA Youth Cup, but only after a battling performance from the young U’s team on Tuesday night. Brilliant effort from Chris Llewellyn and his players and let’s hope that a good few of them will continue to develop and do well for the U’s for many years to come.

Please remember that your support remains crucial over these last few games. Even more so when it’s been tough viewing. I appreciate it’s difficult at times but in my experience the U’s fans and team can do very well when they’re United so let’s keep on trying to do our bit.

Have a great weekend and good luck U’s!

2 March 2018

Like many last Saturday I left sharpish from the U’s game. It was not pretty viewing and the lure of the England rugby game was too great. Sadly that was equally depressing.

As I have said before, I maintain the view that the current League Two standard amongst our peers is not high, and the U’s should be taking advantage. Only a small handful of teams have impressed me. So why are we playing so poorly and losing to teams that are bottom dwellers and fighting for their survival? In part therein lies the answer – they are having to bust a gut in each and every game, and some of our players are struggling with that intensity. Unfortunately we have a few that don’t like being tackled and some that can’t tackle properly, hence we cannot keep possession of the ball, and without that you’re in big trouble.

11 games to get it right again, but really at this stage of the season teams looking for success should be purring with a solid formation and confident players.  I like John McGreal and I really that hope he can do it for us. It’s as much in the players hands as his though. Ryan Jackson is no inexperienced footballer and yet he looked elsewhere against Barnet. For me the halftime change should have been to whip him off, move Kane across and have Brennan at left wing back where he is best.

Dickenson should have started, it is as simple as that. Lapslie needs to come back into the team without doubt, and not just because he can tackle. He is also an effective leader on the pitch and we missed a voice against Barnet.

I hold my hands up because last week I voted for Mandron and Junior to be given another chance. Against a physical Bees backline they struggled. The U’s need goals so other options/combinations have to be found.

Finally, let’s all place an arm around the shoulders of David Blacknall. He loves his football pitch and probably would have been a touch hurt by the unfair criticism from the management. Chin up Dave.

At the time of writing I have no idea about the Morecambe prospects. Just getting there if the game is on is my main concern. The Beast from the East will dictate that, but all I hope for is a sensible and early decision rather than a “sorry it’s frozen” tweet whilst we are halfway up the M6.

Stay safe, stay warm and stay supporting the U’s please

23 February 2018

I have come to the conclusion that footballers are complex individuals. Not sure how a team that were buzzing after a late winner against Coventry can deliver what the manager described as a “flat” performance against lowly Crewe and lose. I could not make the game last Saturday but I hear that the 200 that did were equally squashed after watching the U’s play so poorly.

The trouble is that it’s not the first time. The 1st half against Grimsby recently and of course the entire FA Cup game against Oxford City as examples. Such a shame that good work can get undone in what seems to be an easy fashion. When you’re gunning for a play off place, these “switch off” moments can’t happen.

What are the reasons for it? Too much or too little pressure perhaps, or are we lacking the big voice and personality in the changing room that George Elokobi delivered? Really not for me to say but with just 12 games left the management badly need to resolve it.

There have been plenty of quotes this week about tomorrow being a massive game. Barnet are bottom for a reason but they won’t give us the 3 points. The U’s will need our support to get over last week but equally they’ll have to work hard. The squad of players is certainly still good enough and with 36 points to play for, a successful end to the season is well within their grasp.

I would really love to see Brennan Dickenson start tomorrow. A natural leftie has been sorely missed. Reid did it for a while but kept on drifting inside. Who to score the goals though? Junior and Mandron again, or will Mandeville get his first start because the pressure will be on to use the loanee? Personally I would play the Coventry match winners again. Mica needs more end product, that’s obvious, but I like his work rate. There is a spark in Junior’s play and the U’s will need it. The sort of ignition that Sammie has delivered this season, and hopefully will do again soon.

A win could take us to 8th and that will feel a whole lot better ahead of another long one to Morecambe. You could say inflated rather than flat! Good luck everyone!

16 February 2018

The season continues to fly by. I cannot believe that there are only 13 games left. The U’s fate will be decided before we know it and for me it remains firmly within our own control. It is that key part of the season. The final quarter where those that want to be winners will work hard and succeed whatever the cost, and those that aren’t quite so sure, will fall by the wayside and be left with regrets and frustration.

Anything other than at least the play offs will be an end product below our potential in my view. It all rests on whether the U’s really want to winners. Tuesday night was heading towards another annoying draw but for some great football from Dickenson, Junior and Mandron. If only some of the other stalemates had changed in such a way.

The U’s are playing very well but without the ability to kill the opposition off over 90 minutes. It was apparent at Carlisle and again against Coventry, and it could do with changing. The football we played first 45 minutes on Tuesday was brilliant. New boy Ben Stevenson was excellent, and with Senior, Junior and Mandron, some of the team movement up front was some of the best we have played. The ball was rarely launched in to the cold February night sky and it was lovely to watch. One day soon the end product will come and someone will take a real pasting.

At struggling Crewe tomorrow, the U’s must play the same way. They have to be looking at winning at least 8 or 9 of these remaining games. An easy draw won’t be good enough.

So pleased to see Brennan Dickenson back in action and I really hope that he’ll have a problem free and brilliant next 3 months. Such a lovely reception from the U’s supporters for their returning hero.

Also pleased to see Junior getting the nod in place of Guthrie. Ahead of Szmodics and Mandeville is quite some appreciation from John McGreal for what he’s done in the U23’s recently and he was not found wanting. The goals will come if he continues to work as hard as her did Tuesday.

There are positives and the squad feels strong. Being winners will be the proof of the pudding. Thanks for your support and good luck tomorrow U’s

9 February 2018

Praying for kind weather, good drainage and a superhero Carlisle groundsman ahead of our trip tomorrow. It's been a bit snowy and rainy in Cumbria this week so fingers crossed. I love this away trip but not so much if we get a call off on the M6 and then have to contend with a Tuesday night excursion.

The U’s will want to carry on where they left off against Newport County. They were tough to break down, as Spurs found, but when you have someone like Courtney Senior not afraid to take players on and create chances, then your odds improve considerably. He did well, and his play for the 1st goal was exceptional. Let’s not put too much pressure on his though. His team mates need to rise to the challenge too.

Mandron v Guthrie is a working battle in progress in my opinion. One worked his socks off and the other had a day to forget in front of goal last Saturday. It’s certainly a dilemma for John McGreal, especially if they feel they are competing against each other. Although now though, with a bench full of attackers, they have even more competition to contend with. I’ll be watching this scenario with interest.

John is right to say this week that he needs the edge that competition delivers. 15 games to go and there is ground to make up above us. Everyone needs to top notch because the games will start to fly by now. Will the U’s make it? I’ll judge it at the end of this month.

Really pleased to see Luke Prosser back to his best and adding more strength to the back line. Also pleased to get Tom Eastman on the team sheet again. In my view Tom is one of the best defenders we’ve ever had. He knows his game so well and I love to see him marauding up front when he gets the chance.

Before I start to pack the winter gear for Carlisle, a word of praise for the U’s U18 squad who bravely bowed out of the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday night when Reading’s big gun internationals won them the game. We have some damn fine players of our own and if we can keep the bulk of them together, then they’ll do only develop and do better.

Good luck tomorrow U’s, and a safe journey to all those travelling north to the wall. Don’t forget that we have Coventry City here on Tuesday night. Like I said, the games will fly by!

2 February 2018

Sadly I could not make Port Vale, one of my least fancied away grounds if I am honest. Gavin Johnson’s broken leg there has always been one of my many contributing factors.

By all accounts the U’s need a bigger bus. A double decker perhaps, or even one of those bendy buses so that we can get right into the corner flags. As a manager you’re either a tactical genius if it works, or the king of negativity if it fails. It is a dangerous game trying to defend a lead for 25-30 minutes. That said I remember the U’s from not so long ago adopting a similar tactic, but then they had the pace of Gavin Massey for the counter attack. What you can’t have with the “bus” is no outlet, no way of getting out so that the ball doesn’t keep on crashing back to your defence.

I was pleased for Courtney Senior and his 1st “senior” goal, but it was a disappointing end to a rubbish January for the U’s. We all must put it behind us and work on a hugely improved February. 7 points behind the play offs and we can’t afford to lose any more ground.

Tomorrow against Newport is a must win game. Hopefully they’ll have their eyes on Wembley, and as they also played on Tuesday, the U’s must take advantage on tired limbs and wandering minds. The team selection looked good last week, but with the 4 new and young arrivals, plus the fact that the 2 Maldon signed lads banged in goals during the week, he has plenty to choose from and capacity to tinker.

At least we know where we are now as a squad. January can be too distracting and it would be great to have Sammie with his blinkers on again. John McGreal has said he’s been frustrated by missing out on key transfer and loan targets. I sympathise because it does feel like League Two is becoming a bit of a forgotten place for Premiership clubs looking for a proving ground. But I also hope that our new faces this week are contributors rather than names on our already long squad list. Time will tell and I wish them luck and success whilst they’re with us.

Hope you can make tomorrow’s game. Massive one for us and our support is crucial, as it will be on Tuesday night at 7pm when the U’s U18 lads play Reading in the FA Youth Cup. Arsenal or Middlesborough await the winners in the quarters so I hope you can make it to cheer them on.

Up the U’s!

27 January 2018

45 minutes of our footballing lives that we will never get back again. That was the 1st half against Grimsby Town. One of most bizarre and surreal halves of football that you will ever see, and certainly one that you won’t ever want to see again.

John McGreal called for a reaction after the loss at Wycombe but I really don’t think that this was what he meant. It was flat and I likened the lack of energy and movement to anti football. Not quite sure what was said in the changing room pre-match or on the training ground beforehand, but I guess it was nothing like what was said at half time. Hair dryers and tea cups spring to mind!

The U’s are in a minor rut and they need to bounce there way out of it sooner rather than later. These guys were in the play offs not so longer ago and desperately need to win at Port Vale tomorrow to regain some much needed confidence.

The team selection will be crucial. There is a feeling amongst some fans that one or two players are on the team sheet so as not to upset them. We all have our favourites but a coach/manager cannot, and he has said this week that he is ready to make the big decisions so let’s see what that means. Courtney Senior was a breath of fresh air when he came on so he’s definitely an option. Fresh faces in the squad can be a boost. Will we see more before the transfer window closes?

Don’t forget that not so long ago life was rosy and sweet. I still believe that we have the nucleus of players and management to get back on track. Work to do though. The U’s have to be aiming for an automatic or at the very least a play off place. Anything less is a poor return in my opinion.

A date for your diaries please. Tuesday 6 February, 5th round of the FA Youth Cup v Reading 7pm at the WHCS. Huge achievement to get this far and they would really welcome your support. Spurs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Ipswich amongst others await the winners.

If you’re off to Port Vale tomorrow to cheer on the U’s I hope you have a safe journey and come back full of smiles. Up the U’s!

20 January 2018

Let’s start on a positive note with congratulations to the U’s U18 lads and management that saw off the almost unbeatable MK Dons team in the FA Youth Cup on Tuesday. Into the last sixteen with another home draw against Reading for a place in the quarter finals. It would be an immense help if we all kept an eye open for that fixture date and gave them bags of support.

You may not know many of their names now, but with 3 of them already lined up for the U23 squad next season, you soon will I hope. They played very well for the 2-0 win and fingers crossed for further cup success.

Less fantastic news over the past week was the Wycombe downfall. Painful when it is one of your old rivals and even more hurtful when you come away with nothing after a decent performance. Biggest problem at the moment is renewing that goal scoring chemistry. The balance that was there and brought us our unbeaten run, seems to have shifted slightly and I suspect that John McGreal will have been focussing all of his efforts that way all this week.

He will need to be strong with his decisions even if they upset a player. It’s about the team, not the individual, after all.

Great to have Inniss back and regardless of how rusty he may have been, after all of his hardships, I was pleased to see Luke Prosser back in the 1st team. The players are there for us in defence I feel. Comley has signed a permanent contract with us and that’s good. He knows his role and does it well. Just feel we could do with another dimension in the middle of the pitch. Someone to truly support our attack. Be good to see the 2 Maldon lads at some point too.

The transfer window clock is ticking. What else is in the offing for the U’s? Maybe nothing of course but if that’s the case, with the gaffer declaring that he needs a reaction from the players, nothing helps focus the mind than a new team mate looking to take your place.

Grimsby Town are here tomorrow. Also on a non winning run of games. The U’s will not have a better chance to kick their football back into gear and hopefully that rain of goals that we’ve been looking for recently will descend upon us.

Hope you’ll be there to support them. Up the U’s!

12 January 2018

The U’s will have to show all of their “bouncebackability” at Wycombe tomorrow. Really cannot afford to go there and play below par in front of their baying supporters and the expectant U’s travellers.

The old rivalry still exists to a degree. Probably because our cupboard of available local rivals is a little on the sparse side. I used to love the Martin O’Neill clashes and can still visualise the Scott Barrett goal kick catching the wind to such great effect.

Wycombe are now our promotion rivals. Our recent backward steps need to be halted by all 3 points if we can, to make sure that we don’t continue to lose ground in such a tight top half of the table. One of my biggest fears about our chances tomorrow is the flux and uncertainty that the January transfer window delivers to the U’s. Several released on loan to free up cashflow with the Slater wages probably being the biggest assistance. Two decent midfielders missing just when perhaps we could do with some more creativity in that department. Good to see Loft back but unfortunately he seems to always carry a health warning.

A left back out at Aldershot just when KVY pulls up lame at half time. Our options appear a little limited and fate is definitely not smiling on us again. It must be a nightmare for John McGreal at this time of year and I really sympathise.

The biggest news story of the week has to be Sammie and the rumours of his departure. Keeping him on the bench last Saturday was a distraction for me. We missed him on pitch because Guthrie/Mandron are still a work in progress for me. That said, what a beautiful strike by Guthrie. The highlight of a dour 1st half. The lowlight was a strike of a different nature by Kyel Reid whose loud apologies should still be echoing around the Weston Homes Community Stadium. 

Disappointed with the way we played with 10 men but that game is gone now and it’s all about the 11 at Wycombe tomorrow. McGreal could do with a boost for his squad to enhance our chances and personally I would have no problem seeing the new Maldon lads if we’re looking for goals. I have a hunch that we’ll be bouncing back just fine and be back in the play offs before the end of night.

Fingers crossed and good luck everyone! Up the U’s!

5 January 2018

Back to normality after the festive break. No more two games in three days rubbish and hopefully no more goalless draws, especially at home.

I’m pleased that the unbeaten run was continued but it does feel like the U’s left something out on the pitch at Chesterfield and against Cambridge. Fine margins and it would have been lovely to have at least another two points in the bag. There are still 20 big games to go though and plenty to play for, starting with the battling Cheltenham at our gaff tomorrow. If I’m honest I only tend to really judge our fortunes at the end of February – just a couple of months to go then and you can really feel the strength of the squad once any transfer window changes have settled in.

The support has been brilliant this last week. Can you do it again for the U’s tomorrow? Really hope so because it can make the difference. A U’s goal in front of the South Stand will help. It’s been a couple of months since that happened I think.

Chesterfield are a good team and clearly on the rise. Badly missing any sort of threat up front though. The U’s themselves squandered chances that they really should have put away and then lost control of the game a bit. For me we needed someone to put a foot on the ball in midfield more than anything else. Frankie and Tom were brilliant and they continue to be a real plus for me.

A change of formation against Cambridge should have also delivered a few 1st half goals for the U’s. We waned after that and both teams gradually ran out of steam to be fair, but we all left thinking of another two points lost. Good to see Guthrie getting more minutes. Be great if he can get back to the threat level he had before his injury.

I believe in our squad of players and would not like to see any wholesale changes this window. To be honest I only expect some strengthening to help us during the run in, but that said, as usually happens this time of year, as I write these notes a day and a bit ahead of publication, on the Friday one or more of the players I have been appreciating have left us. I was about to extol the virtues of Craig Slater for example.

Two new additions from our Maldon and Tiptree FC special relationship route this week. Hope they get a good chance and do well for us. I can honestly see the benefits and logic behind the link up

Good luck tomorrow U’s and thanks for all of your loyal support

29 December 2017

That’s a pretty decent way to celebrate our 3,000th game in the Football League. A 1st ever win at Crawley Town and the 1st time we have ever scored 2 at their Checkatrade Stadium. It’s probably also some sort of record that we scored in each half, in the rain and that both were left footed strikes.

Apart from the M25 car park it was probably one of the best Boxing Days ever U’s wise. A well controlled and well won game against one of our bogey teams. They deserve a lot of praise for another 3 points away from home. 3 points that have helped us very nicely into the play off positions. One must hope that all this will help get a load more U’s fans to the New Years Day local derby when Cambridge come to town. The players do deserve it and the extra help would be a great way to start 2018.

How long of 2018 will we be able to keep some of our players in anyone’s guess. Rumour control has Sammie joining about a dozen different teams, and his isn’t the only name being thrown around. A few of the short termers have already left and not sure personally why Odelusi has been warming a bench seat these last 2 games when he’s already packed his kit bag.

That strange one apart I have been really impressed with the players and the management decisions of late. I can understand the change of formation last week against Port Vale when we were under pressure. They are on a roll themselves and whilst disappointed that we didn’t do enough to win, we remained unbeaten.

Chesterfield will be a test of our attitude as much as our playing ability tomorrow. It’s an often used statement that the U’s struggle against the lower placed teams. Not this time I hope, especially given the way we are playing. Perhaps the real test will be 48 hours later and the Cambridge game. Totally ludicrous to have so little recovery time. Old Mourinho would be having a fit if he was in League Two.

John McGreal will have to manage his charges well this Bank Holiday weekend. Guthrie, Slater and Murray may well see a call to arms. Good luck tomorrow U’s and if you’re heading North to support them I hope you have a safe journey. Thanks for your support

 

22 December 2017

For just a few hours last weekend, the U’s were proudly sitting in P5 of League Two. The perfect reward for a terrific performance at Swindon. A victory that not so long ago would have been beyond our team. A match where the U’s of the past would have shrunk away from.

Great to see so many U’s fans there. M25 and M4 aren’t always the kindest on Friday nights and I again thank Swindon for requesting the change of fixture. Really too kind on the visiting support.

Super Sammie Szmodics did it again. This time he was very ably supported by his team mates in a real old team effort all over the pitch. The guys and gals on the supporters coach, when asked for their 1, 2 and 3 for man of the match, between them they named every single U’s man last Friday night. A sign that everyone put in a real shift.

The missing Ryan Inniss was adjusted for and it was good to see Kyle Reid back in the starting line up. Sounds like he wants to stay longer with the U’s and I would be up for that. It would allow time for Dickenson to be welcomed back into the fold.

My star man against Swindon, and someone I am really warming to with each and every game, was Mikael Mandron. Not just because he scored the sweet second goal, but because he works, works and works again. No histrionics, no moans or groans, just plenty of “can do” attitude and I like that. Appreciate that there is more to come from him, and he probably needs to manage himself better in our own penalty area, but the U’s would be in a dark old place without him.

Port Vale tomorrow at the WHCS. Big opportunity for the U’s to hit Christmas on a high with 3 points and hopefully another visit to the play off places. Vale are fighting back at the foot of the table so it won’t be an easy one for our guys so I hope you can ditch your festive prep to come along and support them.

I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and thank you for your support of Colchester United so far this season. It would be great to see more of you when the team are doing so well and if you’ve picked up enough brownie points and can make it to Crawley on Boxing Day, I know the player would appreciate it.

Up the U’s!

 

15 December 2017

Will Super Sammie Szmodics soon be saying “sayonara” after his special strikes secured success in front of the spying scouts?

Selfishly I hope not because he comes alive like no other around the opposition penalty area for the U’s and we need him. Unselfishly, he truly deserves the attention and praise, and ultimately he needs to do what is right for his future. Maybe the chatter is all a bit of unnecessary pressure on the chap, but it’s great to be talking in such a way about one of our local footballing talents. Hopefully more will follow him into the limelight.

Sammie was the difference last Saturday against a decent Exeter team. His hat trick should have been confirmed but for the width of half a post, and I loved that fact that the scoreboard confidently gave him the honour anyway and even spelt it out for the fans.

Goals breed confidence and you could see how it helped the whole team. Let’s face it, the U’s have not been a prolific goal scoring team for several seasons and in my view this has been our downfall. Hitting the back of the net helps everything on and off the pitch. All in all a strong team performance and a well fought 3 points.

It strengthened our position in a league table that sees us in the middle of a pack of 10 governed by only 6 points. Tonight brings another opportunity for Sammie and Co to shine against one of the teams above us. A Friday night victory would be so sweet for the U’s fans that have had either a time or monetary expense from it not being on a Saturday.

Great to see Sean Murray back amongst another strong U’s bench. Disappointed that Cameron James wasn’t included though and maybe he was injured. With Inniss coming off, and I’ll be praying that he’s a fast healer, we were kind of forced into an unnecessary formation change and Exeter took advantage. I’m sure that John McGreal will have looked at this post match.

Lastly, and in case you weren’t aware, Christmas is coming! Please don’t forget that the U’s are at home next Saturday and also New Years Day and we would love to see you there. Plan ahead and get your tickets cheaper is my suggestion. Football is important and it often gets forgotten amongst all of the parties, presents and puddings.

Good luck tonight U’s and safe journey to all heading to and from Swindon

 

8 December 2017

Unless you ventured to Brentwood last week or supported the U23 team on Monday against Newcastle United, you are probably not enjoying your current lack of U’s football. Fear not, because high flying Exeter City are in town tomorrow and we’ll have football to watch again, with the added bonus that it gets us out of any Christmas shopping.

If you did venture down the A12 in the Essex Senior Cup then you would have been impressed by the abilities and goals of Tommy O’Sullivan. He arrived carrying bags of praise from noted football seniors but unfortunately sprung himself early and was out for a while. He’ll be looking to get into the starting XI soon to show us what all the talk was about. Brentwood also gave a chance for James and Slater to get some much needed match minutes under their belts

Games come thick and fast over the festive period and we’ll need plenty of good players in good condition to see us into January.

It was strange old sight seeing the scorecard on Monday containing both Colchester and Newcastle at the same time. May not happen for a while me thinks. Great to see Guthrie get through 45 minutes of hopefully pain free action.

Onto tomorrow and despite the defeat at Notts, the performance should provide the players with confidence going into the game. They played very well and they will need to again tomorrow. Exeter are doing well but 3 points is a must for us. Will John McGreal stick with the same line up? Of course he will, despite  Mandron’s “faux pas” two weeks ago. Our break in action may have allowed a little bit of brain and body revamping but I expect the U’s to start brightly and win the game.

Looking ahead, please get yourselves to the WHCS next Thursday 7pm if you can to support the U18’s v Crewe in the FA Youth Cup. The draw for the 4th round is today, and who knows, it could be an Old Trafford or Anfield trip on the table.

The following day, oh joy of joys, a Friday spent on the M25 heading to Swindon. Not overly happy that Swindon even asked for the change so late in the day, let alone that we said yes. Some U’s fans will lose decent amounts of money changing their pre-booked travel/holidays plans because they want to support their team. Disappointing, but we’ll just have to make sure we beat them to make up for it. 

Please have a great weekend supporting the U’s and thank you as always for doing so 

1 December 2017

“Winter is coming” for all GOT fans out there. Well, winter is most definitely here. Chilly at Notts County last Saturday and even colder for the England Ladies game on Tuesday where at least a sell-out crowd could huddle together for warmth. It’s certainly not the time of the season to be standing up at halftime and letting your seat get cold.

Time to find the old thermals and dust off your U’s hats and scarves. Disappointingly though they won’t be required tomorrow. Very sad not to be in the 2nd round of the FA Cup but that ship has sailed so no good going over old ground. On the flip side, U’s fans have a bonus Christmas shopping day – lucky us!

I said last week that few opposition teams have truly impressed me. Notts County are a good side, as you would expect from a top three team, but the U’s more than matched them and will consider themselves very unlucky not to have come away without a point at least 

The stats painted an even contest and it was one of our best performances of late. Strong at the back, and with Drey and Sammie buzzing around Mandron, ably assisted by Jackson on the right, we could have been a couple up at the break. They came back strongly in the 2nd half and added pressure and it took one moment of madness to start a chain of events that would decide the game.

I’ve yet to see it on TV but Mandron’s shove in the box looked clear cut to me. Ameobi took a fine penalty but in my view he should not have been on the pitch at the time after 3 yellow card offences. Should our hard running Frenchman have taken our spot kick? Big question and for me no, because it needed a calm head and his emotions were no doubt running high 

Fair play to the lad he did set up Odelusi for our deserved equaliser. All of emotions were running high when that goal went in, but our highs were soon transformed to lows by that last minute corner. So many late and required U’s changes that perhaps some defensive roles were left vacant. They know and we know that it was harsh for us to come away with nothing.

One last thing – our supporters were brilliant at Notts County and certainly helped the players. Well done to you all and well done for even making the game after the M11 closure

10 November 2017

Where to start after such a disappointing week of football for the U’s? Victory for the young guns in the Essex Senior Cup on Monday night brought some relief, and in fairness they played very well, but it still remains overshadowed by last Saturday, and to a degree by our defeat at Southend.

John McGreal has asked for everyone to move on and I quite agree because we have an important league game tomorrow, but the hurt is still there for many of us, and especially those that can remember the Gravesend, the Bedlington and the Chelmsford City. What makes it harder this time is that we were at home, even though it didn’t really feel like home with just one stand open.

I’m sorry to report that the football was flat and the atmosphere was likewise. So much so that you hear virtually everything being said on the pitch, with Sam Walker’s fruity advice to his team mates drawing perhaps the loudest cheer of the day from the U’s fans.

A bad day at the office, on and off the pitch, and it simply must not happen again. Oxford City deserve huge credit for the way they played and applied themselves. They were hard working team and did not waiver in terms of fitness and ability. The U’s were a shadow of their recent selves and when 9 or 10 players are making continuous basic errors, there is no chance of victory.

If I’m honest the areas of my dissatisfaction were up front and the make up of the midfield behind them. I really don’t know where Kyle Reid was meant to be playing. Sorry to say that we had no control because the shape was poor. As for the front two, well they should be hanging their heads in shame that they could not find a way through a defence nearly 60 places below them in the footballing pyramid. One lazy skier from Mandron summed up the whole mood of the performance. Their understudy’s on Tuesday faired no better as a goal threat I understand.

On the plus side, McGreal now has the chance to totally re-form his starting XI. In other words, discard the favourites and select those who can firmly look him in the eye and declare that they want to play, work and win, rather than offer lip service to it.

Let’s hope that we do “move on” tomorrow against a struggling Barnet. Play well, show some passion and win the game please U’s – good luck everyone!

3 November 2017

Cup fever strikes at Colchester United this week. Like buses, silverware possibilities are coming at us from all angles all at once.

Safe passage has already been secured in the FA Youth Cup with an exciting comeback against a very good Cheshunt team on Tuesday night. Amongst a number of encouraging performances, please particularly remember the names of Ollie Kensdale, Callum Jones and Dean Ager for the U’s years to come.

I know that I should be excited about it, but the Checkatrade decider at Southend next week probably means slightly less to me that the Essex Senior Cup tie against Thurrock here on Monday night. Pity really, but the competition is still a bit messy and confused for me to embrace it fully.

The main event though is clearly the FA Cup 1st round tomorrow when Oxford City (not United) come to town. The U’s have had some terrific times in the Cup. Normally when they get through the opener, we go on a little run. With due respect to our opponents I can’t see any different this season. My only fear is that our levels drop sometimes when we play “lesser” opposition. Let’s hope for a good game of football and another morale boosting win.

Our good form continued, eventually, last Saturday when we beat Crewe. Hard to say why we couldn’t get going for most of the 1st half but clearly the John McGreal dusting down at half time did the trick. Still learning but he’s doing the vast majority of things very well with the players at his disposal. Perhaps not so the Crewe manager who was waving his arms about and criticising his players from the warm up onwards.

Pleased to see Mandron getting a double because we need regular scorers, and it’s always good to see Tom Eastman on the scoresheet. He should always be a handful at set pieces, but perhaps too nice to bully away more goals.

My man of the match was Ryan Jackson. Another hard working performance from our brilliant right wing back. It must be tempting to wrap up Ryan and few others in cotton wool tomorrow, but I think John will go as strong as possible. We all want an FA Cup after all!

Good luck tomorrow U’s and if you’re coming along, many thanks for your support 

20 October 2017

I think that it’s time for the U’s to release themselves from the shackles of inconsistency. Happy to acknowledge that the treatment table merry go round hasn’t helped, but the positive vibes coming from the management that the squad is coming together must mean that we can put disappointing results like Carlisle behind us.

To bounce back in style at Newport County shows what quality there is within the squad. It’s making sure that quality and effort is there each and every game. Looking back to Saturday, I felt that 2 or 3 players were not at the races and that left a massive hole for the rest to cover. Their keeper made some good saves but the overwhelming feeling I had whilst departing the car park was that it was 3 points lost and a top half of the table position wasted.

Delighted they won at Newport although it is not lost on me that whenever I miss an away game, the U’s win. Hopefully that’ll be disproven at Coventry City tomorrow. Mandron nabbed a goal again which is good but I’d like to see more, and Ryan Jackson showed how good a player he is by slotting one home from wing back. Good to see Tom Lapslie back playing too. A very decent 3 points against a team boasting a strong home record.

Coventry have their own record – not a single goal scored for 3 games. Can Sam Walker get out his deckchair at the Ricoh Arena? It might be a tadge over confident I feel. Can we get some more names on the scoresheet ourselves? Let’s hope so. Drey is due a goal because he’s been excellent recently. Odds on a clean sheet and D Wright as 1st goalscorer please.

Two weeks time and the U’s are back in the FA Cup. Thank you so much for a home draw. It takes away the stress of ticket allocation and coach parking that comes with a non league away draw. It’s something different for the fans and I’ll enjoy watching Oxford City take us on. Unless it’s already declared before you read this, I am keeping everything crossed that we don’t get moved to a ridiculous TV slot somewhere between the Friday and Monday. Traditional FA Cup fixtures please!

Good luck U’s and carry on where you left off Tuesday please

 

13 October 2017

Knocking England’s World Cup thrilling World Cup qualifiers into touch, the clear highlight from last weekend was easily the U’s toppling Mansfield. Colchester United will always be the winner over internationals for me, and even more so when we take 3 points from a team that thought they were going to walk over us, or fall over us as their bloke Rose loved doing.

It was a cracking performance and I loved the resulting grief between their manager and supporters that has rumbled on during the week. Never underestimate the power of a U’s clean sheet. It’s been a sticky start to the season we all know that, but keeping goals out helps massively, especially when the U’s, in fairness, don’t exactly have the fox in the box striker we all covert. A fully fit Guthrie can be exactly that when he’s back of course.

I thought John McGreal did very well. Losing Kane (not Harry) to injury early on was a blow, and you could see some of the players frowning towards the bench when Tom came on and Frankie switched to left back. Past managers would have stubbornly stuck to their guns and game plan, but within a few minutes we were 3 at the back and looking comfortable.

No player more so than Drey Wright who switched to the left and had a storming game. He’s had a few good ones on the bounce and is very much repaying the faith that John has in him. Handy deflection for Murray’s goal and he’s another player that has excelled recently. Mandron did very well with his header and he’s another who the manager clearly supports. I do sense that there is a decent amount of “feel good” within the squad and management.

What we really could do with tomorrow is a few of our guys hitting the South Stand net for a change please. Tough to celebrate when the majority of fans, and Eddie the Eagle of course, are miles away. Eddie is brilliant and real asset to the club. He goes mad when we score and loves every minute of his interactions with the fans. Keep it up mate!

A win tomorrow will help with us with some tricky trips to Newport and Coventry next week. Thankfully Newport now have a football pitch rather than a lifeless bog. Be nice to go there and get something other than boredom thanks to the pitch. Always a pleasure to go to the impressive Ricoh Arena of course. Don’t lose your money in the casino beforehand of course

Your support has been great thank you. It’s been a massive help and I’m sure it will be again tomorrow against Carlisle. Good luck U’s

6 October 2017

One of the very lowest crowds ever for this competition on Tuesday night. The national “boycott” of this trophy is well publicised and I’m perfectly happy with their views. Other fans see it as a chance to see their football team play a game of football, simply because they love seeing them play. Which group of fans are right? Both are, it’s a democracy after all, but I see little impact on the powers that be as they only see the £ signs and not the game of football.

The only real advantage I see is that someone like John McGreal can have a proper look at some players away from a more important league game and also being a step up from a “softer” U23 game. Up front, the challenge to Kabamba, Mandron, Hanlan and Odelusi was given, but sadly they all fell short in my opinion. Not one of them stood out and said “pick me Saturday gaffer” ahead of the returning Guthrie who got through another good 45 “baby step” minutes.

The temptation to start Guthrie tomorrow must be massive. Play him and he does well and we win the game, then you’re a hero. Play him and he gets hurt again, then you’re an idiot and should be instantly banished to the Antarctic. Who would be a football manager?

The U’s need to get back to winning ways at home. Mansfield will be tough opposition but following two positive away games in the league we should be full of confidence. It’s only in attack where my confidence is slightly diminished. Guthrie aside, I don’t instantly jump at another goal getting centre forward to win us the game. A Charlton friend of mine says that Hanlan is the real deal. Let’s hope he can add to his goal scoring tally tomorrow.

It was a fantastic win at Yeovil especially with a clean sheet thrown in. Let’s give all the support we can tomorrow to help the U’s do the same. Have a cracking weekend everyone.

29 September 2017

A tough old week for the U’s which now leaves us poorly placed after 10 games. Losing last Saturday was a real kick in the teeth. Our home record was one of the things the fans were still clinging onto for solace. They made up for it by almost winning at Grimsby. Close but not close enough for the U’s and now they head to Yeovil desperate for 3 point

The disappointing thing is that not one opposition team has impressed me so far this season. A full strength U’s would not be sitting 4th from bottom of League Two. The trouble is that expressions like “injury free” and “selection headache” are not available to be used by John McGreal. It’s not an excuse because we all know that every team has to use what it’s got, and at times the 11 who pull on the U’s shirt can do better, but I do hope that it won’t be long before John has a full hand to play with.

No sooner than Slater is back in training and Guthrie has 20 minutes for the U23’s, then O’Sullivan gets injured in the same match and Sammie gets stretchered off at Grimsby after limping around for the last quarter of the Wycombe game. Eastman nurses a hamstring and the U’s nurse Kyle Reid, the best player on the Grimsby pitch, by taking him off and going a bit too defensive for my liking.

If you weren’t one of the 89 at Grimsby or struggled with the foggy TV highlights, up until the very end, the U’s played really well and deserved their lead. They dominated the 1st half completely, with Reid and Wright running the show. Until Guthrie returns, Hanlon is definitely the man in attack for me. Give him the right service, not pumped up high balls, and he’ll score goals. It was much better on Tuesday night and they have to take that to Yeovil tomorrow and get a result. Then we have to somehow patch up a team for Gills in the Checkatrade on Tuesday. Good luck everyone 

A quick plug for the U’s Football in the Community Walking Football Team for those of you aged 50 or more. It’s well run and it sounds like great fun, and they take it seriously enough to be pretty successful. They need more players though so please seek them or CUSA out for further info, or have a look at our website

Thanks for your support and have a great weekend

22 September 2017

These away day blues, or should I say, away day lime greens, are getting tough to take for the fans. I missed Luton but made the other 3 and it’s hard to say exactly where the issue is. Tactics possibly, personnel maybe, confidence definitely. The U’s should not be in this rut away from home and it needs to change fast – Grimsby next Tuesday would be a start. The more we draw blanks on the road, the more pressure gets heaped on our home games, and in my view our young squad can do without that.

It could have been so different at Cheltenham if Kabamba had scored his gifted chance in the 1st minute. I said last week that I thought he would shine once he got his scoring boots going. Sadly his laces looked tied together as he fluffed an easy one. This was one of many missed goals at both ends of the pitch last Saturday. Poor finishing is really costing the U’s. Hanlan has to start tomorrow obviously and let’s hope that he is the answer, because although Guthrie might be kicking a ball again in the U23 game Monday night, it could be a while before he’s fully firing in front of goal.

The U’s are also crying out for some creativity in midfield. I really like Comley but he makes it an industrious 3 when we could do with 1 of them being able to put his foot on the ball and run the show. We all remember what Garvan could do – that sort of player. Slater and Loft are big misses for us at the moment.

Thankfully the U’s are at home tomorrow. Massive game and our old friends Wycombe Wanderers, which will hopefully entice a few more U’s fans. Appreciate our league position is not the best, but it’s only September and if promotion is our aim this season then we’ll need more fans than we are getting at present. How do we achieve that? It’s the age old question for the U’s and ourselves as supporters to do our bit during the week to encourage local football friends along. It doesn’t need to be an expensive day with a difficult journey, so please encourage them to ignore the negatives and look for the easy solutions that are there for their match day at the U’s.

Best of luck tomorrow U’s and thanks for your support

15 September 2017

Not quite the week the U’s would have been hoping for with 4 points from an achievable 6, but also not a disaster and they retain their unbeaten home record. Disappointingly even one of the best set of home stats across the 4 divisions this year can’t seem to attract the punters to watch the team. Two low crowds will be a concern for the U’s and also the long standing fans that support them. Hopefully numbers will increase soon.

I am pleased to say that some of the new boys have started well. As injuries continue to blight, Ryan Inniss has already become a popular figure in the back line.  A commanding presence which will be a massive help to Eastman and co. He also looks likely to get on the end of a set piece or two which will be a new thing for the U’s.

Brandon Comley, our midfield loanee from QPR has settled in brilliantly well. Quite some player if he can keep up the high standards he has shown so far. A busy midfielder and at last someone else to put a tackle in through the midfield. I like him and out of the last minute splurge on players, in my view he is the best of the bunch so far.

The work in progress is Nicke Kabamba and I think that once he scores his first senior goal and breaks the ice then he’ll do well for us. A very good non league scoring record but quite the rookie at league level. With every game he’ll combine better with Mandron and that can only be a good thing.

Be interesting to see how these new boys do away from home where the U’s have, to be brutally honest, been well off the pace for the vast majority of the time. Maybe they’ll be the catalyst for a bit more drive and confidence. The U’s must turn the tide at Cheltenham tomorrow. Much like they did last season. They’ve had a month to sort out their away day niggles, now it’s time to rid ourselves of this poor record because if we don’t then each game becomes harder and harder.

In my view, promotion from League Two is easy pickings this season for the right football club and the U’s won’t have a better chance to grab it with both hands. Let’s hope they begin that journey tomorrow. Good luck U’s and thanks to all of you for your support.

8 September 2017

It’s a pity that we can’t play Forest Green every week. Likewise it would be even better if we could only have home games, because at the moment, with only one away win in 2017, it’s becoming a tough watch outside of Colchester.

Cambridge were very beatable in my opinion. It was almost stalemate football with our defence cancelling out their strikers, and our attackers not really hitting their straps. Cambridge found 2nd gear, whilst we were still crunching ours, and from then on the U’s struggled badly. You are almost always guaranteed one gilt edged chance late on in football. I’m afraid ours fell to one of the new boys who was perhaps not having the debut game he had always dreamed of. Free header, 5 yards out and he does well to place it past the post.

I spoke last week about winning things with “kids”. I love watching them and they purred through Forest Green. They were allowed to play their football and they really look motivated when they’re at home. Away feels different and whether that is where they need the experienced heads, I really don’t know if that is the only answer.

It wasn’t all bad last Saturday. Sean Murray worked himself silly in midfield. Box to box but he couldn’t get his team mates going. 21 year old Frankie Kent is the leader at the back and never shirks a challenge or strong word to his colleagues. I thought these two played well. It was lovely sunny day too with 800 U’s fans out in force. I do miss those famous bacon rolls at the Abbey though!

Despite the 5 goals the week before, it’s in attack where the U’s have a major problem and I fear that it is going to need more than the eventual return of Guthrie to cure. Within the many last minute new faces the U’s brought in, and he’s not the aforementioned easy chance misser, there is a Nicke Kabamba on loan from Pompey. He has found the non league net very regularly in his short career. Let’s hope that he can do damage to the Weston Homes nets tomorrow and Tuesday night, because the U’s need to do well in these back to back home games.

6 points before this time next week please U’s. Thanks for your support and I hope that have an enjoyable Saturday and Tuesday.

1 September 2017

I am reminded of Alan Hansen’s infamous quote directed at Manchester United 22 years ago, who then went on to win the league and cup that season. “You can’t win anything with kids”. I just get the feeling that the U’s this season will be playing their football using “kids”, albeit that most of our youth team products are no longer teenagers and have already racked up a load of appearances.

It feels this way now more than any other start to a season. So is it a bad thing? It’s a bold move and for some of the players being fast tracked they may find it harder than others, but I can understand what the football club are looking to do. It certainly brings energy to our football and that was evident last Saturday as the U’s destroyed Forest Green for an excellent morale boosting victory. Helped by a slight change in formation perhaps? We’ll see if that continues.

Fair to say that the League Two new boys were poor but the goals still need to be scored. Great to see 5 different names on the team sheet with the pick of the bunch being from Kane Vincent Young and his early goal of the season candidate, and then a dream return for Courtney Senior to snatch the 5th. Sorry to say that I had completely forgotten about the chap because he had been out for so long.

He was another U23 squad signing. Our proving ground for the 1st team where the majority of our new faces land with the promise of League football if they excel. This is the U’s business plan for the season ahead I feel. Reading what they say, watching what they do, it looks like this is our only path to League One and I’m OK with that, especially if it makes Mr Hansen eat his words again.

Big game tomorrow for the “kids”. Cambridge away and up against Jabo Ibehre again. Nice local derby equals a good U’s turn out which then should equal an away win for a change. After Accrington and Luton the U’s need to work hard to bring better times on the road again.

So a good week for the U’s on the pitch, including a Checkatrade draw/victory, which will hopefully help us come back from the Abbey with 3 points. Good luck U’s!

25 August 2017

The U’s are certainly not where I wanted or expected them to be for the first Banter of the season!

Any momentum from the strong finish to the end of last season has already been diminished. Is this down to the departure of players such as Elokobi and Porter, and the lack of suitable replacements. Injuries, both existing and new, continue to kick us and I am really starting to wonder if this is more than just bad luck. The other constant is our poor away form and that really needs to be resolved quickly. Personally I am putting this bit down to the away kit – lime green to follow the black kit and gold kit as my least favourite to see the U’s in

I have a lot of time for Head Coach John McGreal, even though I was puzzled by his opening gambit at Accrington, but it does feel like his hands are tied with players falling away and he really needs some good news soon. To cap it all, even one of his few remaining forwards looks to be jumping ship after what I thought was a decent pre-season.

Too many gambles taken perhaps? Letting George go because of Prosser returning? Similar with Chris, and the unfortunate Guthrie? Big decisions need to be made sometimes, especially when money is tight, but I would like to think that these two were really debated well.

Cash is tight at the U’s. Were we also gambling on the sale of Brennan Dickenson to his suitors during the summer? Hence the massive hole in our cashflow and we are now struggling accordingly. These are hard times and we do need to stick together, but it’s tough when you know it could have been so much better.

Quite simply we must beat Forest Green Rovers tomorrow afternoon. Perhaps we could sell them our “green” kit too? Our players need to stand up and take the game by the scruff of the neck and wring 3 points out of it. The U’s can ill afford the start they had last season with the comfort of knowing how well they turned it around. That would be another gamble in my book, and we don’t need anymore thanks

Good luck tomorrow U’s and thanks to you all for your support