Colchester v Stevenage: U’s defence improving?

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Tom Eastman – alchetron.com

It is indicative of the topsy-turvy nature of League Two that every team currently between sixth and 11th were in the bottom half at the end of October. Indeed, Colchester United moved into the bottom two as recently as 19th November after throwing away a late lead at Yeovil to deservedly lose 2-1.

What followed three days later was an unexpected 3-0 win at Cheltenham Town, which catalysed a run of four wins from five. Having had arguably one of the worst third tier defences in modern times last season, it is a credit to John McGreal and the coaching staff that their defence has looked strong lately.

That is more than could be said for Stevenage last time out. They played some good football at times against Cambridge and their overall performance deserved a point. However, a team cannot be too aggrieved when it ships goals as easily as Boro did on Boxing Day.

Darren Sarll’s side look vulnerable at set pieces and, for the second goal they conceded, Jamie Jones perhaps should have punched the ball clear rather than try to catch it under pressure against Ikpeazu. The opposing target man had some joy against Fraser Franks, who looked shaky. Even Kgosi Ntlhe, who has been one of the more impressive performers at the Lamex this term, slipped on occasion and one might question whether they can sustain performance levels against promotion contenders.

Much has been made of Stevenage’s poor home form but five of their last six league games in Hertfordshire have been against the division’s top eight – they have only played bottom eight opposition once at home, when they put six past Hartlepool. Their record against the bottom eight overall reads 17 points from a possible 24, which suggests bad home and good away form has more to do with fixtures than psychology.

This fixture was last played at a similar time three years ago during Stevenage’s relegation season, when Colchester won 4-0. The only remaining player from that starting eleven is Tom Eastman, who has looked a reborn player lately, thanks in part to the shift to 3-5-2. Victory for either side could lift them to within one point of the play-off places which, two months ago, would have seemed unlikely.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 2-1

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