Match Preview - Colchester

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Nicknames (s) : The U's
Current League Position : 16th (P 11, W 3, D3, L5, GS 16, GA 18, 12PTS)
Form : W-D-L-L-D

The Gaffer

John McGreal is the man in the hotseat at Colchester, having taken the job on a permanent basis in May 2016, with the club already relegated and heading for League Two. McGreal was part of the Colchester youth team set up, and had a game in interim charge prior to the appointment of Kevin Keen. 

The former Tranmere, Ipswich and Burnley defender's first season in club management was relatively successful, guiding The U's to an 8th place finish, one point outside the lottery of the play-offs. It was certainly a learning curve for McGreal, who claims he had to rebuild his side three or four times throughout the season due to a massive injury crisis.

A slow start to this campaign see's Colchester languishing in 16th position, although they did start tardily last season and even found themselves in the drop zone around November 2016. It's perhaps not a surprise The U's are struggling when you consider that last seasons top scorer Chris Porter left for Crewe in the summer, and star players Sammie Szmodics, Kurtis Guthrie and Kyel Reid have all had injury problems in the early part of the season. When you throw in that Colchester have used the most players of any League Two team (26), and that the average age of their starting line-ups has been under the age of 24, this may account for their below par start.

John McGreal's Managerial Record (County) : P66, W22, D17, L27, 33%


Colchester's main threat is left winger Kyel Reid. The ex West Ham man possesses pace and trickery down the left wing and has already weighed in with three goals this campaign, as well as two assists. Sammie Szmodics is the U's top goal scorer but has had injury problems in the early season and is a doubt for Saturday's game. Despite his injury worries, he has still managed to notch four goals.

The Essex side appear to be particularly strong down the right, with right back Ryan Jackson showing plenty of speed as well as a long throw. On the other side, left back Kane Vincent-Young scored arguably Colchester's goal of the season so far with a magnificent individual effort against Forest Green. Four of their goals have come courtesy of right wing crosses.

As you would expect of a youthful side, The U's get plenty of bodies in the box, and are equipped with energy which perhaps masks inexperience. They are though very open at times and can be exploited. They do though seem to be best in front of their home fans, with 75% of their points being earned at the Colchester Community Stadium.


Unfortunately for Colchester fans, there appears to be plenty of weaknesses which opposition teams will look to seize upon. Firstly, they have only won three games in the league and they have all come against team below them in the league. They gained draws against lowly Chesterfield, and Grimsby who are just above them in 15th, with their most impressive point banked against Stevenage in their opening home game. Almost 2/3's of Colchester's goal have come against side below them in the table.

Only three teams in League Two have worse defensive records. Despite having ex-defender McGreal as manager and an impressive goalkeeper Sam Walker who has saved a couple of penalties this season, The U's have only managed one clean sheet and that came last time out at Yeovil, which was a good result given The Glovers were defending a lengthy unbeaten home run. That said, some of the goals Colchester give away to unmarked players inside their own box has to be a worry.

Despite Colchester being strong going forward down the right, it is an area which can be exposed defensively. If Mansfield can get Alex MacDonald on the ball, he should be able to supply ammunition to the likes of Danny Rose and Lee Angol. 


Goals/Shots Attempted (for) : 16/148 (51 on target)
Average Shots per Game : 13
Average Shots on Target per game : 5
Goals/Shots Attempted (against) : 18/131 (60 on target)
Average Shots per Game : 12
Average Shots on Target per game : 5
Goal Periods (for) :       0-15mins 4 goals 16-30mins 2 goals 31-45mins 3 goals 46-60mins 1 goal 61-75mins 3 goals 76-90mins 3 goals
Goal Periods (against) : 0-15mins 4 goals 16-30mins 1 goal 31-45mins 4 goals 46-60mins 3 goals 61-75mins 4 goals 76-90mins 2 goals
Average Corners per Game (for) :  5
Average Corners per game (against) : 7
Average Possession : 50%


Steve Evans has insisted that despite reports linking him with Gillingham this week, his thoughts have been firmly on the task in hand at Colchester. From what I have seen of McGreals side, they appear to be a side who like to play but defend naively and can be overpowered. The Stags are a big side who, with the exception of Cheltenahm, mostly put in solid, battling displays that should be too much for The U's based on recent form.

That said, Mansfield can struggle on long trips away from home, and have not beaten Colchester since Iyesden Christie netted four at Field Mill in November 2002. They have not won an away game against Colchester since a 3-1 win in 1995, where ex-Colchester manager Aidy Bothhroyd scored for the Stags.

Colchester 1-2 Mansfield