United will be looking to extend their run of three cleans sheets from their last four games on Saturday when Colchester United, one of last season’s beaten play-off semi-finalists, head north looking to continue their own stubborn streak.
Speaking ahead of the game, manager Chris Beech said: “Colchester are a very good team and a good club.
“I know the chairman was the first in the country really to deal with the pandemic from a football perspective. Fair play to his business sense and things like that.
“He had to make real strong decisions if my memory serves me right, he did it within the play-off games as well. You’re talking about established League One and Two players in terms of the decisions he had to make, but he was confident within those decisions.
“They had a change of management, probably backed up by the academy and investment they’ve put in that. He’ll want that to bear fruit this season I would imagine with their younger players. We saw Poku making a significant difference here last season, he was fortunate with a couple of deflections, but he took on his shots and scored a couple of goals.”
“I wouldn’t say they’re in transition because I think their chairman had a master plan, and he followed that through as soon as the pandemic came,” he added. “I’m sure that was down to the financial pressure he’d have had on him, and I do know that Colchester have had some players who have, and some who still do get paid very well for what are they trying to achieve.
“As an owner he’s tried to adjust, but I have so much respect for that because it needed doing, because of where the club was.
“I don’t know John [McGreal] well enough to speak to him personally, so I’m not too sure of the circumstances, but from the outside looking in it did seem harsh to see him go from what he’d achieved.
“The current manager was a big part of that success, so they have continuity and I have no doubt they’ll be looking to be successful this season.”
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So, will the new manager bring a change in style to what we’re used to seeing from the U’s?
“The new manager helped John so the style will be very similar,” he told us. “There are players who have experience of the way they want to play, the squad was big enough to make the decisions they made.
“It’s not like they got rid of players and then had a minimal squad. I expect a real, quick, possession based, energetic performance out of their attacking players.
“They have a stand-out left-back, I’m amazed he’s still at the club - but he might not be on Saturday, who knows. He’s an excellent set play deliverer and constantly up and down the pitch, and he excellent last season.
“Then they’ve got this young group that they have confidence in. I expect a real tough game against Colchester United.”
“We will obviously respect that and I always consider the opponent,” he continued. “I have so much respect for everyone who’s trying to do what we are, because we all want to gain three points.
“They play a completely different way to Port Vale, they have a mobile front four that interchange, and they have a stand out League Two operator in Harry Pell who’s currently injured, so whether he’s fit or not remains to be seen.
“They’ve strengthened in terms of letting Luke Prosser go and signed a very experienced player from Ipswich. They know what they’re doing and in terms of going against them it will be a real hard challenge.
“The result is up to the lads and how hard they fight. Colchester have had some pretty comfortable victories against Carlisle, so we know they can make it tough. We have to play to the best level we possibly can and see what happens.
“You’re not guaranteed anything and if we don’t prepare correctly and show winning intent then everything you’ve done in the past means absolutely nothing. We’ve got to make sure we’re right on point because in this league you get punished if you’re not quite right. As ever in football the most important day is match day.”
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