With injuries ruling out some key figures for the Blues, manager Keith Millen addressed concerns about the age of the squad at his pre-match press briefing.
“We saw with Port Vale, a good way of describing them is that they’re experienced, a big, strong side that do the basics well,” he said. “We’re not there, we’re a younger, more inexperienced team.
“We looked in the January window to try and get more experience into the squad. That was one of the things we spoke about. But again, what clubs are going to let a good, experienced player leave in January to come and join us?
“It’s very difficult to get those types of players. We know that. It’s not like we didn’t try to address it in January. We’ve got to learn very quickly and that’s part of my job, to try and help us simplify the game as much as possible.
“Us being priced out would have been a factor for some players we looked at. The finances has an impact, of course it does. We can’t compete with a lot of clubs, not just in this league, in the National League.
“We were never going to go and blow the budget in January. You have to work within certain restrictions. We tried to get as good a player as we could, and if you could see the list of the different positions, you’d see the types of players we were trying to get.
“For different reasons, not just finances, sometimes it might be where we are in the league, in the country, there are lots of reasons why some of them maybe didn’t come to us.”
“Our squad is what it is and it’s a good challenge for them,” he added. “I’ve got confidence in them, I have. A lot of the new players I think aren’t scarred by the season here, because they’ve only just joined us. That can help us.
“Sometimes when you’ve been at a club all season, and it’s been a tough season, it can drain you a little bit. I’m hoping the new players give us that freshness in their mindset and energy levels. That’s what I think we’ve got to look for.
“We’ve got enough in the squad, we can quite easily go on another run again. Most teams in this division have good runs and bad runs. You’ve just got to make sure your bad run doesn’t last long.
“We haven’t got a lot of leaders, but I knew that when I first walked in the dressing room at Northampton. We haven’t got many of those types of characters.
“I think some of the new lads will be vocal, but it’s difficult to walk into a dressing room and start being the main voice when you aren’t in the team. You’ve almost got to earn the right and the respect to be like that in every dressing room, that’s the way football is.
“The dressing room isn’t going to change from when I first came here, but there needs to be an understanding that the way we’re playing isn’t acceptable. We’ve lost the fighting spirit a little bit, and we’ve got to get that back.
“That’s what I’m trying to help them with on the grass, because tactics are all we can really do at the moment.”
And it goes without saying that use and protection of the ball is an important part of helping to build confidence.
“When we play well, and move the ball well in possession, we generally need to have two, three, four passes and all of a sudden we’re off and running,” he explained. “We haven’t got that one direct pass that can all of a sudden create problems for the opposition.
“That’s something I’ve looked at and I’m always learning as a manager and coach. It’s something we’ve looked at the last couple of days, can we be more effective in a simpler way when we have possession?
“I always look at the players we’ve got available and always try and pick the team in the shape that suits. I don’t like to play players out of position. Sometimes you’re forced to, but I don’t like to over a period of time.
“When I first came into the club I felt the 4-4-2 inverted wingers, front men running down the sides, suited what we had. We are in transition at the moment because of injuries and new players.
“I’m trying to work out the strongest approach that’s going to win us the game. Whether it’s 4-4-2, whatever formation, it’s got to be one that hopefully helps us put the right things in place.
“The formation isn’t going to win us the game, it might help, but it’ll be the desire, mindset and decision making. At the moment the decision making certainly in the defensive part of our game has been poor. That’s where I’ve got to try and help them.
“The plan is to structure the team in a way that’s going to help us perform better. As in the style, the shape of the team, the decisions, when and where we’re going to play, when and where we’re going to press.
“From a tactical point of view, they are the things that are in my control. That’s what we’ve worked on. The injuries and the players available, I can’t control. I have to work with what’s fit and available.
“A lot of those players are very new to me and the club. It’s trying to educate them, trying to get the group as close together as quick as possible, because it’s a new group. They have to get that spirit amongst themselves in the dressing room.
“There’s a lot of things I’ve tried to put in place the last two days and we will see on Saturday. Certainly the basics from my point of view will be to try and set them up to be organised, aggressive and have a real passion and understanding of where we are at the moment.”
Part of the rebuilding of the collective confidence is maintaining the support of the fans, who have been nothing short of superb through what has been a tough spell.
“They let us know how they felt on Tuesday and that doesn’t help with your confidence when you hear it,” he said. “But we’ve also got to understand that if we don’t perform in a certain way, the fans have quite rightly got their voice and opinion that they’re not happy with what we’re doing.
“Normally if the fans feel the players aren’t giving everything, as in the work rate, how aggressive we can be, are we pressing, they’re the sort of things that normally the fans pick up on.
“It doesn’t help when you go a goal down after a minute, that sets the tone for the game a little bit. We scored a very good goal, I was really pleased for Owen to get off the mark, but we never really got close enough to Port Vale, and they were stronger than us.
“They’re the sort of things the fans pick up on and that annoys them. That’s why they voiced their opinions as they have. I’d be more concerned if we were playing really well, doing all the right things and the fans weren’t behind us. But they’ve not been like that.
“When we’ve performed well, and been aggressive and really up for the fight, they’ve followed us. If they boo or shout it’s a reflection of their opinion on the way we’ve performed.
“They’ll be there again on Saturday and we want them to go home happy. Colchester is a good stadium, it’s a nice pitch, a good place to go and play football, a place that hopefully the players look forward to going and playing.
“I always like supporters in the grounds, whether they’re the home or away fans, I prefer an atmosphere. Sometimes when the atmosphere is against you, especially if it’s your home fans, it can have a negative input on the players.
“I’m sure the fans that do travel will get behind us. You wouldn’t travel all that way to not enjoy yourself. Hopefully they travel down and support us and we can give them a performance that they’re happy with.”