Colchester United boss John McGeal wants to ‘get back to basics’
PUBLISHED: 06:00 02 March 2018
© Copyright Stephen Waller
John McGreal has insisted that his players “haven’t downed tools,” despite being a distant seven points behind the play-off race going into this weekend’s long away trip to Morecambe.
Back-to-back defeats, at the hands of Crewe and Barnet, have put a serious dent in the U’s play-off aspirations.
But there are still 11 games to go, and 33 points to play for, which is why the U’s remain outsiders for a top-seven berth.
Indeed, a welcome three points at the Globe Arena – the match has to survive a noon pitch inspection today to go ahead – could yet turn the Essex club’s season around.
“It’s a big game for us this weekend,” admitted U’s boss McGreal.
“It will be tough, looking back at what they did last week at Wycombe (won 4-2 away, at third-placed Wanderers).
“So we must keep an eye on what they are doing, to nullify that, and also implement our own game, which we didn’t manage to do last week (1-0 home defeat to bottom club Barnet).
“We might change one or two things around, and we could also change our formation, so we have options.
“It’s fine margins, and key moments, in this league.
“Poor as we were last week, we still had two key moments just before half-time with chances we didn’t take.
“It’s a really tough division, and it’s down to how we look after ourselves.
“We know what to expect, with the long journey, and we’ve still got things that we want to do this season.
“We haven’t downed tools, or anything like that.
“We have got to see what we can gain out of these last 11 games, starting at Morecambe.
“If we get three points from this weekend, then it can look rosy again, and can kick-start our season again,” added McGreal.
The attacking duo of Kurtis Guthrie (ankle) and Sammie Szmodics (back) both missed out last weekend, but McGreal has revealed that most of the club’s injuries have cleared up.
“Training indoors has actually helped us this week, and we nearly have a clean bill of health,” confirmed McGreal.
“It’s been a good week, despite the poor weather. We are very fortunate that we have got some fantastic facilities here at Colchester.
“We have had the big dome area to continue our training. It’s just been a case of reverting from the grass to the 4G indoors.
“As regards last weekend, we have moved on from that.
“You take what you can out of it, though there was nothing we could take out of the Barnet game, as I’ve said before.
“You can count on one hand the times when we haven’t performed since I’ve been in charge, and collectively we were poor last weekend,
“We’ve just gone back to basics.
“You’ve got to strip it down, and work hard, and that’s generally what I have tried to do since I’ve been here.
“We did not show any of our habits from last Saturday, which we have showed for most of this season.
“In the past, we have tried to set points tallies over a certain period of games, and that did seem to work for a few games.
“But it has not worked the last couple of games, so it’s just one game at a time for us now.”
The U’s are currently down in 12th spot, and have also played at least a game more than six of the clubs above them.
The automatic promotion zone looks well out of their reach (12 points adrift of the top three), but they still have many of their promotion rivals to face over the last nine weeks of the season.
High-flying Luton, Accrington Stanley, Notts County and Swindon all still have to come to the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
And the U’s still have to pay visits to promotion contenders Mansfield Town (tomorrow week), Lincoln City and Exeter City (on the final day).
The weather looks sure to have a big impact on this weekend’s round of matches.
Newport County’s home match against second-placed Accrington Stanley was postponed yesterday, and virtually all the other League Two fixtures will undergo pitch inspections.
Looking further ahead, Colchester United Under-18s have a mouth-watering FA Youth Cup quarter-final tie against Arsenal Under-18s next Tuesday evening (March 6, kick-off 7pm).
The U’s were beaten 4-1 by Reading in round four, but have been reinstated after it came to light that the Royals had breached competition rules by fielding an under-age player in that game.