The Colchester Gazette’s Jon Waldron previews today’s Colchester v Pompey game.
There are currently 13 players sidelined – and it’s the second time such a spell has occurred this season.
Previously, it hit the team hard in October. Now once again the issue has emerged to rule out plenty of key players.
To be fair, Colchester have managed to keep going and remain in touch with the play-offs, lying three points short of the top seven, which is pretty good going.
However, of the absent 13 you would say at least half a dozen are key performers for John McGreal and massive misses from the side.
Kurtis Guthrie is the top scorer with 12 goals, Tom Eastman and Frankie Kent have played regularly in a back three which has done really well, while Luke Prosser is the club captain.
Denny Johnstone has been starting regularly up front, with midfielder Craig Slater a candidate for player of the year before his injury struck.
What the U’s have benefitted from is the Academy system, with five of their products finishing last weekend’s 1-1 draw at Cambridge United.
They have invested a lot of money into that set-up and there is a confidence that depth is within the club, with many of the Academy players coming in and doing well. That is one of the reasons why they have remained in touch with the play-offs.
McGreal has done well in his first season in Football League management, stepping up from the under-18s and then under-21s during the summer.
He is still quite new to it, with the 2-0 defeat against Pompey earlier in the season his maiden loss in charge, and has called his good friend Paul Cook for advice on occasions.
At the start of the season promotion was the ambition. I recall asking McGreal at his unveiling, in front of the chairman, and the answer was positive, but, following injuries, that has had to be reevaluated.
If they can finish anywhere near the top seven that is an achievement given the tribulations.
With 11 matches remaining, seven are at home, so Portsmouth tomorrow represent a big game.
The U’s also have other teams in and around them to face at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, such as Doncaster, Plymouth and Luton, while there is a trip to Mansfield on Tuesday night.
Those matches are key. If they can win some of them then it will give a really good chance of breaking into the play-offs.
And only Doncaster and Plymouth have won more home games this season.