Lateral thinking

JOHN McGreal has made a habit this season of successfully adjusting his tactics during matches, in order to sway a game Colchester United’s way.

But it was his Port Vale counterpart Neil Aspin whose lateral thinking helped secure his side a 1-1 draw and deny the U’s a victory that would have taken them into the League Two play-off places.

After Colchester had taken a first-half lead, Aspin’s decision to send on forward Tyrone Barnett for the ineffective Cristian Montano at half-time and moving to two up front proved crucial.

And although McGreal responded by switching to three at the back and replacing winger Kyel Reid with defender Cameron James in a bid to try and alleviate the second-half pressure created by the visitors, it ultimately came too late to preserve their lead.

Home expectations

THE vast majority of Colchester United supporters who stuck around after the final whistle in the aftermath of their side’s 1-1 draw with Port Vale were generous in their applause for the hosts’ efforts.

But there were also murmurings of discontent from one or two unhappy fans, no doubt disappointed at the hosts’ failure to see out their 2017 home campaign with a win.

It is perhaps a sign of how far John McGreal’s side have come over recent weeks that there is such a level of expectation to win games, particularly at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

McGreal’s side have been beaten only four times in the league at the venue in the calendar year; only Notts County and Mansfield Town have lost fewer home games in the league so far this season, so the U’s faithful have grown used to watching winning football on their own patch.

Lapslie’s progression

THE fact that academy product Tom Lapslie is on course to reach a century of appearances for Colchester United by the end of the season at the age of 22 says much about his worth to the team.

Lapslie’s tenacity and commitment to the cause have never been in question since he joined the club as a teenager, prompting head John McGreal to hand him the captain’s armband in Luke Prosser’s continued absence.

But the dynamic midfielder’s man-of-the-match performance against Port Vale offered evidence that he has much more to his game than determination and drive, which are notable qualities in themselves.

Lapslie’s pass for Sammie Szmodics’ goal was excellent, as was his goal-line clearance at the other end to save a certain Vale goal and overall, his vision and reading of the game.

Changes afoot?

WITH so many games coming up in such a short space of time, it will be interesting to see if John McGreal will make changes to his Colchester United starting line-up for their Boxing Day clash with Crawley Town.

It is a fine balancing act for the U’s head coach, over the hectic festive programme.

He will be reluctant to make too many alterations to an in-form side that have lost only two of their last 14 games and are just a point off the play-off places.

But on the other hand, he will be mindful of the danger of fatigue and with the U’s second-half display against Port Vale in mind, may feel the need to freshen things up.

Typically, he gave nothing away when he was asked whether he might change things around but the possibility of key defender Ryan Inniss returning from a shoulder injury would certainly influence his thinking.

An amicable separation

SANMI Odelusi did not make it off the bench for Colchester United in their draw with Port Vale.

The attacker has been a regular among the U’s substitutes since his arrival on a free transfer in August, which is ultimately one of the reasons behind the club’s decision not to offer him a new deal when his current short-term contract runs out on December 31.

Odelusi has failed to make Colchester’s starting line-up in League Two over recent months, so it is probably right for both parties that they go their separate ways.

It is unusual that a club should allow a player to stay when he knows he will be leaving imminently but that is mainly testament to Odelusi’s popularity, temperament and professionalism.

He may not have made the impact he would have liked on the pitch but he has nevertheless made a positive impression on his team-mates and colleagues, in his short time at the U’s.