Colchester United might look poised to make a late play-off bid, but they’ve got a mountain to climb if they are to gate-crash the top-seven party in two month’s time.
John McGreal’s side are in 12th place at the moment, seven points away from Swindon who occupy the last play off slot. The position looks to be the last in which a side can make a push for the end of season matches, but when looking at the fixture list one could be forgiven for ruling the U’s out at this stage.
In previous seasons, sides have needed as little as 68 points to finish seventh (Torquay 2010/11) or as many as 78 (Wycombe 2007/08), although one would assume 72 would be a reasonable amount to make the top seven this season. Many of the sides in the play off frame have faltered in recent weeks which has opened the door for Carlisle and Crawley amongst others. Unfortunately, Colchester United have not taken advantage of that.
Just two wins in eleven has seen their promotion hopes fade and recent defeats against Crewe and Barnet have underlined some frailties in their current squad. Just ten goals in eleven games hasn’t helped, the drought coming at a time when players needed to stand up and be counted. Much was expected of former Sunderland striker Mikael Mandron, but he’s yet to hit double figures in a barren season.
If the U’s are going to break into the top seven, they’re going to have to do it the hard way. Of their eleven remaining matches, seven are against sides in the top half of the table, with trips to Mansfield, Exeter and Lincoln all looking incredibly tough. On top of that, Notts County, Accrington, Swindon and Luton all have to visit the Weston Homes Community Stadium. Whilst the benefits are they’re involved in seven ‘six point’ clashes before the end of the season, current form doesn’t suggest they’re likely to win many of those games.
Whilst the season looks set to peter out into mid-table obscurity, there is plenty of comfort which can be drawn from this campaign. Colchester haven’t been drawn into the relegation battles and therefore have operated in relative security throughout 2017/18. Sammie Szmodics has also shown some terrific form, but he’s been out injured since February 13th. His goal threat has been sorely missed as the recent slump continues, but knowing he’ll be back will be a huge boost. Hanging on to him this summer will be one of the manager’s top priorities.
Also, young midfielder Drey Wright’s development has continued and with 12 assists, he’s been the key provider of goals for the side. Whilst their run-in suggests next season will only bring more League Two football, fans can be comforted by knowing that the early signs of a really good squad are beginning to show.
Colchester Fans, do you think you’re still in with a shout of the play offs? Does the nucleus of the squad convince you that a promotion push is likely next season? Let us know your thoughts in the comment below.