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Saturday saw the U’s triumph 4-2 over a tough opponent in Notts County, a game in which John Ward’s side looked confident and possessed the hunger for goals that has been lacking of late.

In a move away from the 4-5-1 formation that has been favoured recently, Steve Gillespie started his first game of the year partnering Kayode Odejayi up front in the 4-4-2 formation the team ended Tuesday’s 1-1 draw against Bournemouth playing. Notably, the odd man out in the centre of midfield was captain Kem Izzet, with Andy Bond and Anthony Wordsworth getting the nod to start.

Michail Antonio gave the home fans hope early on, as a patch of strong attacking play resulted with his shot being narrowly parried over the crossbar on its way to the top left corner of Stuart Nelson’s goal. After starting strong, Gillespie’s game came to an abrupt end when he left the game after 23 minutes due to a hamstring injury. His exit was one of the few points of note during a first half that finished goalless.

It didn’t take long after the break for the deadlock to be broken, as Anthony Wordsworth’s free-kick from just outside the box took a deflection before heading in the left hand side of the goal. Notts County weren’t behind for long however, with Sam Sodje nodding home the equaliser from Jude Sterling’s long throw in the 57th minute.

From this point onwards Colchester began to dominate the game, leading to Antonio’s goal in the 65th minute and a top effort from outside the box that whistled into the top right corner by Ian Henderson just after the 70 minute mark. Kayode Odejayi finished the goal-fest a few minutes later by picking up Henderson’s defence splitting pass and taking to around the keeper to put home the U’s 3rd goal in 10 minutes.

During injury time Notts County got themselves a late consolation prize in the form of Ian Hughes’ shot deflecting off of Matt Heath’s right boot into the back of the net, however it was too late for the visitors to salvage anything from the game.

Post-game, John Ward spoke of the way the team responded to changes he made leading up to the game.

“I’m delighted with the way that my team has responded to the whole game. We changed the format slightly, and then we’ve had to change it again with Steven Gillespie coming off.”

Colchester United now sit 12th in the League 1 table with 22 points from 16 games.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

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On a warm, still day on the Essex University pitches Essex Mens 1st XV welcomed Medway University for the second BUCS league fixture of the season looking to build on their promising win the previous week.  With a slightly depleted team Essex were looking toward some untried Freshers to really step forward and make a claim for cementing a regular first team place in front of new coach Nick Lloyd. After last weeks big win against UCL 2nd XV Essex knew that they would be provided with a sterner challenge from Medway who had come off the back of a win themselves the previous week.

Essex won the toss and chose to kick to the opposition and with some excellent forward play soon had the ball back in their hands. As would prove to be a common theme throughout the game the Essex forwards bullied their way deep into the opposition 22 and were rewarded when they were awarded a penalty in front of the posts for hands in the ruck from the Medway flanker, Jack Marlow duly converted the penalty to give Essex a 3-0 lead within the opening two minutes. No sooner had the game restarted than Medway were to find themselves under their own posts yet again. The Essex pack were really imposing themselves on this game in its early phases and utilised their superior size to the full when driving over flanker Joss Nunn to score the first try of the game, the try was converted by Jack Marlow. The early signs were encouraging for Essex and the game continued in this very one-sided vein for the opening 20 minutes with Essex adding one more score in this period. A simple yet effective backs move with the Essex backline moving the ball swiftly through the hands to the winger Nick York who outpaced his opposite winger on the outside to score in the corner, 15-0 to Essex. This try was a prime example of the forwards dominance creating space for Essex’s ever dangerous back line and was a perfect example of Rugby being made to look simple through perfect execution.  Essex scored once more before half-time, debutant Ashley Clarke-Walkin sprinting in from fully 60 metres after the backline again created an overlap, the try was converted meaning that Essex headed into the break in a comfortable position, leading 22-0.

 

With a solid lead going into the second half the game plan for Essex would have been to build on the foundations that they had laid and continue to assert their dominance over the opposition in the forwards, unfortunately that was not to be. Whether Essex came out expecting the victory was unclear however Medway suddenly seemed to pose a much bigger threat than they had for the duration of the first half. Despite Medway having their inside centre sin-binned for hands in the ruck early on, they were still first to put points on the board, springing on some loose handling by Essex in their own 22 to score in the left-hand corner. What happened next is a rarity in rugby as Essex were shown two yellow cards within the space of 2 minutes, the first of which was a somewhat contentious decision to say the least. With Essex down to 13 men the team showed a brave and resilient streak that will bode them well going towards future games. Essex didn’t concede a point during this 8 minute period with 13 men and in doing so managed to secure that Medway had too much to do going into the final 10 minutes 17 points behind. Medway did manage to get a consolation score meaning the final result was Essex 22- 12 Medway.

The acting captain for the day Adam Atkins had this to say after the game:

“We got off to a great start today and although I’m disappointed with how we played in the second half the boys still showed passion to keep out Medway when we were down to 13 players. If we combine that passion with the attacking rugby we know we’re capable of it should be a good season.”

With the English summer having passed us by (predictably lacking in sunshine!) now is the time to sit back and reflect on sporting successes, and what a successful summer it has been for the England cricket team. Since Andy Flower took over the reins following the Peter Moores – Kevin Pietersen debacle in 2009 the ultimate aim has been to build a team to achieve the number one Test match ranking in the ICC World rankings, the question is; now that this current group of players have achieved that goal, what next?

It is a question that is asked of many top athletes: How can Usain Bolt improve from his performance in Beijing? Can Novak Djokovic improve on his incredible record from this year (he has won 64/67 matches so far)? Of course, there is rather more limited scope for improvement in an individual sport such as Tennis, but cricket is essentially a team game made up of many individual performances which means that the notion remains the same. The team (as individuals) will work on every aspect of their game that they can in order to discover that extra 1% that will give them an edge over their opponents. It may sound very clichéd but it does perfectly epitomise the mentality of Andy Flower and his charges.

The nature of sport is that it is an evolutionary entity raising standards and expanding boundaries, rarely does any sport stagnate over a significant period of time, change is inevitable due to the cyclical nature of the majority of mainstream sports (most have a defined ‘season’) and it just so happens that at the moment the England cricket team – and surrounding staff – are at the peak of their powers, a result of 2½ years hard-work and dedication towards a set goal.

Since Andy Flower took over as head coach in the Spring of 2009 his regime has been one built around professionalism and the attention to detail previously not synonymous within the England cricketing setup, always previously seen as a laughing stock amongst cricket’s elite. Always the younger brother looking up to his superior (in the shape of Australia) in terms of preparation, player quality and of course performance, how the tables have been turned. England’s infamous Schofield review after the ill-fated tour down under in 2007 (in which England were whitewashed 5-0) has been recently mirrored by the ACB (Australian Cricket Board) following their humiliating home & away defeats to England in successive Ashes series; whoever thought that the Australians would resort to such stereotypically English panic-stricken measures? Is it cruel to smile at the thought of struggling Australians?

So to my original question; what next? Well, England are current world T20 and Test ‘champions’ so the logical step would be to aim for the ultimate triumvirate of being at the top in all forms of the game and thus win the 50-over World Cup, right? Well, actually probably not, as fantastic as it would be to win the World Cup it is uninterrupted dominance of the Test arena that truly drives this English setup (and one could argue supporters as well). To follow on from the great West Indian teams of the 80’s, the all conquering Australian teams of the 90’s/2000’s wouldn’t have been in these players wildest dreams four years ago, but now it is a real possibility, it is just for them to take that last push and grasp it. Now to the small task of two winter tours in the sub-continent, one which England must be successful in to cement their place atop the world rankings.

To all you avid sports readers/writers/junkies the news that everyone has been waiting for is finally here, therabbitsport online! Spread the word people. Articles will be up shortly, once I figure this thing out….