It's the Standard Verdict - an exclusive weekly look at Colchester United (From Essex County Standard)
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It's the Standard Verdict - an exclusive weekly look at Colchester United
ESSEX COUNTY STANDARD U's REPORTER SIMON SPURGEON DELIVERS HIS THOUGHTS ON Colchester United IN HIS WEEKLY COLUMN: Hooray for referee Oliver Langford.
The Standard Verdict may have made for rather gloomy reading this week if it wasn’t for our benevolent official’s penalty decision against Hartlepool.
I have to say that the U’s haven’t hit the heights that we know they can in the last few games.
If it hadn’t been for Mr Langford’s error in awarding the U’s a spot-kick late in the game last Saturday, they would have only taken a single point from the last nine.
As it is, the win against Hartlepool tempers the disappointment of losing against Swindon and Brentford either side of that in the league, so thank you Mr Langford.
Still top six as we head into December – I’d have taken that had you offered it to me in August.
I do think it’s fair to say that the U’s haven’t been at their fluent best in this little run of games, but they have had several key positional changes for one reason or another.
Kem Izzet’s absence through an accumulation of yellow cards appeared a big blow on Tuesday.
It’s no coincidence that Kem was chosen by John Ward to be his captain and I also see him as a key player for the U’s.
His partnership with David Perkins is the heartbeat of the team and even though Andy Bond put in plenty of hard graft I thought Kem was missed against Brentford.
Meanwhile, the search for a settled central defensive partnership goes on, with Magnus Okuonghae’s troublesome ankle being the latest culprit for a change at the heart of the back line.
It’s extremely unfortunate for Magnus, but it was great to see Pat Baldwin make a return to the starting line-up and even though he looked a bit rusty in the early stages against Brentford, he looked more and more solid as the game wore on.
I have to say that I’m a fan of the partnership between Paul Reid and Pat and I hope John Ward finds a settled duo quickly – whether it’s Pat and Paul or any combination you care to choose.
The link-up between the two centre-halves is probably one of the most important partnerships on the pitch and I’m sure any defender would tell you that having to chop and change, like the U’s have had to recently, isn’t ideal to creating a solid back line.
I look back to the first year in the Championship, when Pat and Wayne Brown seemed ever present in the centre of defence and they looked impregnable for much of that season.
The defensive performance of the team – not just the back four but the side as a whole – is on Ward’s mind and the fact that they have shipped 11 goals in the last five games will be a statistic that he wants to address.
He has openly admitted that the team has looked more open since they changed the formation from 4-3-3 to 4-4-2, so it’s possible that we may well see a return to plan A in a bid to shore up the flow of goals.
The leaking of goals has been tempered by some impressive scoring at the other end over the last six or seven games, but that wasn’t going to happen against Brentford on Tuesday.
There are some days when you know you just aren’t going to score.
Colchester failed to create the amount of chances they have been so far this season and I’d say that Brentford were extremely lucky to hit them on an off night as the Bees looked like they would have folded once any pressure was applied.
Unfortunately the U’s didn’t seem able to sustain the pressure long enough to convert it into goals and that’s strange because they have been creating opportunities right from day one – even if they haven’t always taken them when they have been created.
There were even times on Tuesday when the U’s seemed to revert back to last year’s play when they just tried to move the ball forward as quickly as possible and that proved meat and drink to the Bees’ impressive central defensive partnership of Leon Legge and Karleigh Osborne.
Colchester have always looked more dangerous when they have got the ball down and passed this season and Tuesday was no exception, but they didn’t do it enough for me.
Mind you, it could all have been different had our referee on Tuesday, David Foster, deemed that the foul on Ashley Vincent was inside the box rather than outside when the Bees were leading 1-0.
A converted spot-kick then would have set up an interesting end to the match.
It looked from where I was sat that the referee got it wrong on this occasion, just as Mr Langford appeared to have got it wrong on Saturday.
One decision went for the U’s and the other against and as I said a couple of weeks ago, referees’ mistakes are all part and parcel of the rich fabric of the game.
You take the rough with the smooth.