COLCHESTER manager John Ward believes the arrival of Martin Rowlands could transform his team’s season.
Rowlands, previously of Queens Park Rangers, signed a short-term deal with Sheffield United latest opponents on Wednesday after being released from Loftus Road.
With Ward struggling to crush a growing terrace rebellion after a string of disappointing results, he said: “I’ve brought Martin in to strengthen the squad. He’s got a wealth of experience.
“That’s why, when Martin became available, we moved pretty quickly so we could get him across here.
“He’s with us until the end of the season and he’s played a lot of football at the top levels but Martin has only had two permanent clubs in Brentford and QPR.
“I’m sure he’ll be an excellent addition for us.”
Rowlands, who boasts five caps for the Republic of Ireland, made nearly 200 appearances for Rangers and is expected to anchor Colchester’s midfield tomorrow.
However, if United are searching for a weakness in the hosts’ armoury, they need look no further than the fractious relationship between Ward and the Essex club’s supporters.
Karl Robinson, manager of MK Dons, branded a section of Colchester’s following a “disgrace” following an emphatic win at the Weston Homes Stadium earlier this term, with chairman Robbie Cowling also forced to leap to the 60-year-old’s defence.
“For some reason an element of fans never took to John,” Cowling, who appointed Ward in May 2010, said. “I think some of that and some of the negativity that’s been around our ground has been responsible for some poor form.
“I hear many things about the way it used to be. But I can’t find when that was - when Colchester used to win every week and had a full crowd at (previous ground) Layer Road.”
Danny Wilson, the United manager, finds himself in the awkward position of piling further agony on someone he “likes and respects”.
United travel south this afternoon nine places higher than 13th placed Colchester in the table but Wilson warned: “Colchester have habit of getting results when people least expect them too. They have a good knack of claiming ‘scalps’.
“They’ve got some good players down there and John is damn good at his job. We’re confident in our ability but we’re not taking them lightly because if Colchester get on a roll they are capable of reaching the play-offs.”
Colchester are without a win in four after losing at Leyton Orient last weekend. United have won eight of their previous 10 league outings.
Teams and ref
COLCHESTER (possible): Williams, Okuonghae, Eastman, Wilson, White, Izzet, Wordsworth, James, Duguid, Henderson, Odejayi (4-4-2).
UNITED (possible): Simonsen, Lowton, Maguire, Collins, Williams, Williamson, Doyle, McDonald, Quinn, Evans, Porter (4-4-2).
Trevor Kettle: Tomorrow’s game at the Weston Homes Community Stadium will be only his eighth appointment of the season so far. The Berkshire official has issued 24 cautions and one red card since August. Eight of those yellow cards came during Boxing Day’s goalless draw between Cheltenham and Shrewsbury.