CHARLTON Athletic was a charade. Birmingham City a crushing disappointment.
But Danny Wilson is firmly of the belief that it is at unassuming grounds such as Colchester’s Weston Homes Stadium where champions are annointed and seasons made.
Nevertheless, the Sheffield United manager showed no signs of being consumed by the pressure of a League One promotion battle when he discussed another key fixture on the South Yorkshire club’s calendar with the media at Shirecliffe yesterday.
“I haven’t got a crystal ball,” said Wilson. “But if we can keep this squad together then we have to be in with a fair chance. You’d like to think so anyway.”
Having spent nearly two decades at the coaching coalface and a career battling and often beating the odds with teams like Barnsley, Swindon and Hartlepool, Wilson is not a man prone to knee-jerk reactions.
But his placid demeanour throughout an hour-long grilling disguised the fact the former Northern Ireland international knows that is exactly what he could face should United lose their first ever visit to Colchester’s functional home on the edge of the A12 tomorrow afternoon.
A third straight defeat, following that controversial reverse at The Valley and last weekend’s FA Cup setback against Chris Hughton’s side, will not make or break fourth-placed United’s campaign.
However, a support base still smarting from May’s Championship relegation are unlikely to show such restraint as the season enters a critical phase.
“Away wins, at this stage, are going to be
very important,” said Wilson. “All of the teams who are up towards the top are strong at home, ourselves included, and we’ll work hard to try and maintain that but if we can pick-up points elsewhere then that could give us an advantage.
“People will say it’s over in terms of the title - that Charlton are as good as up - but not me. I’m sure there will be plenty who disagree, although they do have a very good cushion with regards to finishing first so it’s important we try to chip away at that.”
Having captured Will Hoskins before Tuesday’s transfer deadline, Wilson is expected to include the former Rotherham striker in the squad which locks horns with opponents 13th in the table. Hoskins, a centre-forward adept at working ‘off the shoulder’ of defenders, provides United with greater tactical flexibility but could be forced to wait until Wycombe visit South Yorkshire in eight days for his first start.
Despite Hoskins initially arriving on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion, Wilson confirmed the arrangement could become permanent if United go up.
“There is a discussion there. If we succeed then we may have a chance. If not then ‘no’,” he
said.“We got a nudge that he might become available but at first we thought Brighton might be looking to sell, in which case we wouldn’t have been able to compete.
“We could have brought in lots of people in from the Premier League but who are untried and untested. We need people to hit the ground running.
“Will has scored goals at this level and it’s a bonus that he knows the area well. He’s someone I’ve always kept a ‘weather eye’ on so I was chuffed to bits to get him.”
Hoskins’ presence also provides United with invaluable insurance should the elements wreak havoc with the fixture schedule.
Scunthorpe’s visit to Bramall Lane has been rescheduled for Wednesday February 29 and United’s meeting with Chesterfield must also be arranged now John Sheridan’s men are in the JP Trophy Final.
One to watch
Anthony Wordsworth is highly regarded by Colchester’s coaching staff. Has scored an impressive nine goals from midfield this season, with two of those coming in his last five games. Wordsworth netted five last term.
Colchester were beaten 3-0 when they visited Bramall Lane earlier this term with Ched Evans, Stephen Quinn and Chris Porter all scribbling their names on the scoresheet. Both their meetings in the Championship four seasons ago ended in draws.