Worry for U’s as goals dry up

PUBLISHED: 06:00 19 November 2018

Frank Nouble, who drew a blank against his former club Newport County in the centre-forward role on Saturday. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Frank Nouble, who drew a blank against his former club Newport County in the centre-forward role on Saturday. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Colchester United, despite Saturday’s defeat at Newport County, remain well-positioned in fourth spot in League Two, and so well-placed to mount a promotion challenge this season.

However, alarm bells are beginning to sound, at both ends of the pitch, especially on the attacking front.

The U’s have been the leading scorers in the fourth tier for much of this campaign, vying for that accolade with title favourites Lincoln City, and they remain the third highest scorers on 31 goals from 18 outings, behind Lincoln and Bury (both 32).

But that hides a current lean spell, which has seen John McGreal’s men muster just four goals in their last seven league and cup games, and three in their last five league fixtures.

It is a problem that needs resolving, if the U’s are to remain in the promotion race, and there were not much signs of an improvement at Newport, despite a good deal of possession.

Second-half goals from Jamille Matt and Cameron Prigg enabled the Exiles to leapfrog the U’s in the table, and move into the third.

The U’s are clearly missing the presence of leading scorer, Luke Norris, up top. The 25-year-old plundered eight goals in his first 17 appearances in a Colchester shirt, but has missed the last three games with an ankle injury and is set to sit out a few more as well.

Frank Nouble has taken up the centre forward mantle, and can be a handful up top, but he is not in the same ‘natural goalscorer’ bracket as Norris. The other central option, Mikael Mandron, has not even started a league game this season, so is understandably rusty, while Sammie Szmodics (six goals) and Courtney Senior (three) are not out-and-out strikers.

“We were missing five key players today,” rued manager McGreal, after the losss at Rodney Parade. “And they are difficult players to replace, Luke (Norris) being out, who is going to come out and be that main goalscorer? That’s the main challenge.

“Luke came out and hit the ground early, Noubes (Nouble) has got a few, Szmods (Sammie Szmodics) as well, so we are now asking who is going to be next?

“At the minute we are getting into the final third but not getting on the end of crosses, and a lot of shots are going straight at the keeper.

“There’s a lot of work still to be done on the training pitch,” added McGreal.

And at the other end of the pitch, Tom Eastman’s absence with a head injury will be compounded by fellow centre-half Luke Prosser serving a one-match suspension next weekend, against Exeter, leaving just one senior centre-half in Frankie Kent, and two young back-ups in Ollie Kensdale and Cameron James.

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