Colchester United v Port Vale Preview: stopping Sammie Szmodics

Sammie Szmodics –

It has been an exciting few weeks for Colchester United – and even more so, for Sammie Szmodics.

The 22-year-old academy graduate has bagged ten for the season in all forms and five in his last six, including two in a man-of-the-match performance against Exeter City in their last home game.

His individualism compliments the dynamic movement of Drey Wright and the selfless hold-up play of Mikael Mandron, each of those three players bringing something different to the table.

That trio also has wing-backs/full-backs Ryan Jackson and Kane Vincent-Young making bold runs towards the byline, either with or without the ball. Their movement drags opposing midfielders and full-backs away from the central areas, create gaps for the likes of Szmodics to take aim.

Trying to stop that quintet is Port Vale and their midfielders, likely to be Anthony Kay and Michael Tonge. The experienced duo – with a combined age of 69 – might not have the pace to snuff out attacks in wide areas, so getting drawn out would only serve the Colchester cause. Aspin will probably ask them to stay in central areas, where they can close down the danger man.

The Valiants though will pose a threat themselves, having failed to score just twice in Neil Aspin’s first 16 games in charge in all forms. Tom Pope has hit double-figures during that period and added to his tally by scoring the second goal in a 2-1 win at Carlisle last time out.

The 32-year-old failed to score under Michael Brown, when he looked isolated, but now we are seeing the likes of Ben Whitfield and David Worrall given the chance to create for him.

Tyrone Barnett also came off the bench to score at Brunton Park and the prospect of having to handle the physicality of him and Pope late on in games isn’t the most appealing thought for centre-backs.

Thankfully for Colchester, their back-line looks sharp, despite the recent injury to Ryan Inniss breaking up John McGreal’s plans for a three-man defence. Tom Eastman is benefiting from a season uninterrupted by injury while Frankie Kent is posing a threat in both boxes – even if his dummy for Szmodics’ second against Exeter was not as intentional as he would like to think!

Behind them, goalkeeper Sam Walker is enjoying arguably the best football of his career and Colchester’s midfield looks even more refined with Sean Murray back in contention. The U’s and Szmodics may be too hot to handle for Vale.

The Football Lab’s Verdict: 3-1