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In this week’s State of Affairs explains why you should be a Colchester United fan. This article also features in the current issue of the Rabbit. 

Colchester United are a professional football team, competing in League 1, who play their home games at Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester. So, just a standard lower league team then, you might think. Well, this year, for the first time, The Rabbit have gained access to press conferences and home games at Colchester United.

This allows us to comprehensively cover the U’s and bring you all the news and updates from the team. So, the question here is why should you care? Firstly, unlike the Goliaths of the premiership, lower league football brings out the passion of the game that simply can’t be bought, no matter how many millions you throw at it.

Colchester United has been an established club within the football league for over 5 decades, and over that time have developed passionate rivalries that always deliver entertaining football. Even in non-rivalry games the atmosphere is great, as any Col U fan will tell you!

The U’s are a competitive and exciting team to follow, with players such as last year’s leading scorer Ian Henderson, young star midfielder Anthony Wordsworth and defensive stalwart Magnus Okuonghae providing the thrills for U’s fans. Most importantly, it’s not hard to follow! With the comprehensive coverage the Rabbit will provide through the newspaper and online, as well as the student discount on already very reasonably priced game ticket prices, why not give the U’s a shot? 

Colchester United are not Manchester United. They aren’t Arsenal either, nor Chelsea, nor Tottenham or even Blackburn. No, what they are is your local team now you are here at the University of Essex, and they are a team that you can, and should, be proud of.


Colchester’s fans were in good spirit before their encounter on Saturday, and hopes were high as in form MK Dons visited the Weston Homes Community Stadium. There were two changes to the squad that last faced Crewe, with Tom Eastman being given his home debut in place of the suspended Magnus Okuonghae, and recent addition to the squad Casey Thomas sat on the bench in favour of Anthony Wordsworth. Captain Kem Izzet was riding the bench once again.

The game started off well for the home side as they dominated possession and opportunities on goal in the early part of the game, but the hosts couldn’t convert and saw a number of chances go to waste. The deadlock was broken after 23 minutes however, as Lloyd James’ saw his cross guided into the far corner of the net with a deft head from Matt Heath.

After having a strong command of the game in the first 35 minutes nevertheless, John Ward’s side saw their grip on the game loosen when the visitors equalised in the 37th minute. Charlie MacDonald converted an easy tap in from Daniel Powell’s pass across the goalmouth and in a strong period of play, Tom Flanagan then put the Dons on top going into the half, with another easy goal scored close to the end of added time.

The U’s came out flat once again the second half, looking complacent and uncoordinated both in defence and in attack. Despite this, the home side went close a few times, the best opportunity coming when Andy Bond beat the offside trap, only to blast the ball high over the bar in a 1-on-1 with the keeper.

The last 15 minutes of the game were the most damaging for the home side. MacDonald popped up again and knocked in the visitors third after some shoddy defending left him an open net in the 74th minute, then Stephen Gleeson’s curling shot from the edge of the box made it 4-1 in the 87th minute, and the rout was completed when Jabbo Ibehre tapped in yet another easy goal for MK Dons deep into injury time, wrapping up a 5-1 victory for Karl Robinson’s side.

Post-game, John Ward admitted the result was ‘tough to take’. Speaking of how the team should go forward from here, Ward said that it was now a question of ‘professionalism’ and ‘taking it on the chin’. Indeed, whilst there is no doubt there is reason to be disappointed with the result, the U’s will need to learn from this and move on quickly if they are to rebound next week when they visit Carlisle.

Colchester now sit 14th in the League 1 table with 23 points from 18 games.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

In this week’s State of Affairs, I examine The U’s chances this weekend against MK Dons.

Since the end of October, Colchester United have been in good form, with convincing wins against Notts County and Crewe Alexandria, both of which saw the U’s net 4 goals, and a solid draw away at good competition in Tranmere. John Ward’s side have played in a creative and confident fashion the likes of which were lacking during the first 3 months of the league year, and fans will hope that form should continue in the coming weeks.

As reported by the club’s website today, in light of the tough upcoming schedule facing the team, Ward believes these upcoming fixtures will say a lot about the squad. Given the positive performances John’s men have delivered recently, there’s no reason to think why the good form shouldn’t continue, but they will have a job on their hands with MK Dons this Saturday.

Last time the teams met in March, MK Dons prevailed 3-1 thanks to an impressive hat-trick from Sam Baldock. Whilst Baldock has moved onto West Ham since, the Dons are still dangerous opposition. They sit 4th in the table and are coming off a streak of some good form of their own, including an emphatic 6-0 victory in the FA cup last weekend (over the mighty Nantwich Town no less!)

Karl Robinson’s side look like one of the premier teams in League 1, and a little help from a footballing legend probably helps to give them an edge as well. Whilst I’m not entirely convinced by the whole ‘they beat us last time so we want to show them we can beat them’ theory, the U’s will be wanting to show they can make a real run at the playoffs this year by performing at the Weston Homes Community Stadium on Saturday.

If the team want to impress and show that they can compete with the big boys, they need to start getting points from big games – particularly at home as they are this weekend. With the foundations of a strong team in players such as Magnus Okhuonghae and Anthony Wordsworth playing so well of late, Ward’s side have the ability to contend with the likes of MK Dons if only they can bring it to the pitch on the day.

I agree with John Ward. The U’s didn’t get a single point from high-flyers Charlton, Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United in their fixtures so far this season. Whether Colchester come out of this game with 23,24 or 26 points will tell us a lot.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for updates on Colchester United

Saturday’s game was a quiet one for both sides, but will undoubtedly be a result John Ward’s side will have left Prenton Park happy with. There was just one change to the starting lineup from last week’s 4-2 victory over Notts County, that being Ashley Vincent in for the injured Steven Gillespie, with new boy Casey Thomas sat on the bench.

The early part of the game was dominated by Les Parry’s side, who had a number of chances that were scuppered by U’s keeper Ben Williams. The chance of the half however fell to Ash Taylor who could have put Rovers ahead in the 26th minute, but his header from deep in the penalty area bounced harmlessly over the bar, missing what looked like an easy goal.

Colchester played a better game in the 2nd half, the best chance coming from Michail Antonio. In an impressive solo effort on the 74th minute, Anotonio beat 3 players before hitting a shot that was creeping inside the bottom left corner before Owain fon Williams got a hand to it.

In a more even half, the U’s had Ben Williams to thank after his heroics denied a number of efforts from Rovers striker Adam McGurk to keep the game goalless, giving the away side a vital away point against tough opposition.

Post game, Ward spoke of his contentedness with the result –

“We scored four goals in beating Notts County last week but I’m probably happier with this result, performance and effort from my team.”

After denying Tranmere a goal from their 15 chances, Ben Williams said he believes the team has what it takes to reach the playoffs this season, even though the team could be viewed as “gate-crashing the party”, a challenge that would not be out of the question now that Ward’s side sit only 5 points behind 6th place.

Colchester United now sit 11th in the League 1 table with 23 points from 17 games.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

Per the official Colchester United website, it was announced this morning that the U’s have signed Swansea City striker Casey Thomas on a 2 month loan deal. The 20 year old has played little football in his time at Swansea, making only 2 senior squad appearances for the Swans, and so he is keen to get some experience.

“It’s important I try and get some Football League games under my belt at my age. I’ve had spells on loan at Newport and Port Talbot, so this is the next step for me.”

Originally brought to Swansea as a winger, Thomas could provide the depth that Colchester desperately need in both central and wide attacking positions (a subject I discussed yesterday). However, with his only experience coming in limited playing time with Swansea, with Welsh sides Newport and Port Talbot and a handful of international appearances with Welsh youth teams, it remains to be seen how effective a player he can be at this level.

John Ward will certainly hope he can make a contribution however with Steven Gillespie out for an indefinite period, as well as Michail Antonio’s last game of his impressive loan spell being tomorrow’s encounter at Tranmere. Nonetheless, if Thomas is to make an impact he most certainly is going to have to impress quickly given his short spell at Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates 

In a weekly column that will usually be published on Thursdays, The State of Affairs will examine current debates, issues and news regarding Colchester United. This week, I discuss formations.

Despite limited use thus far this season, it seems that Colchester United seem a more comfortable and creative side when playing a 4-4-2 formation, as demonstrated last weekend in the 4-2 victory over Notts County.  Of course there are many factors that go into the performance of a team aside from tactics, but from viewing the team’s play it is hard to deny that the team look a more fluid and dangerous side going forward. However, there is good reason why this formation has been utilised little, and good reason why that looks to be the case going forward.

John Ward’s more familiar formation this season has featured 3 central midfielders, 2 wide attackers and 1 central striker – a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 formation.  With talented wingers, a deep core of central midfielders and a lack of depth up front, this formation suits well the squad that Ward has had at his disposal. The problem here however has been a lack of attacking prowess. On the other hand, playing the 4-4-2 brings a problem in that it highlights the holes, and fails to shows the strengths, of the squad on the whole.

With the group of talented midfielders at his disposal, the 4-4-2 presents a tricky task for Ward in deciding who’s names make the team sheet. Last weekend it was Anthony Wordsworth and Andy Bond who got the start in the centre of midfield. Captain Kem Izzet sat on the bench alongside Lloyd James, and not in the squad was John Joe O’Toole. Arguably, all 5 of these players could be starting in the league. Whilst this is a good problem to have, particularly when injuries predictably take their toll, what Ward will want to avoid is a drop in morale for these players if their playing time should drop.

It lies in stark contrast the situation up front however, with viably only 3 true strikers on the first team in Kayode Odejayi, Steven Gillespie and youngster Craig Arnott, the latter of which is yet to make an appearance for the club. Whilst reports earlier this week give hope to help from the transfer market in that respect, Steven Gillespie’s injury last weekend has only served to highlight further that depth at the position is still thin. Wide players such as last season’s top scorer Ian Henderson can fill the role when required, but given that Michail Antonio’s loan ends soon, he will most likely continue to be utilised on the wing.

What remains to be seen then is what Ward can do come January to help improve the depth up front, including perhaps bringing someone like Antonio back to the club (something he discussed in a press conference this morning), but in the mean time it looks as if his tactical options are limited.

Follow @_adambond on twitter for all your Colchester United updates