Colchester United will head to Rodney Parade intent on spoiling Mike Flynn’s birthday celebrations. The U’s have had a steady start to the campaign so far, having picked up 15 points from the opening 13 fixtures. Last season, they only narrowly failed to reach the play-offs, missing out by a solitary point.
Here, you can find all the facts and statistics ahead of this League 2 encounter.
Last six league matches
The U’s have picked up seven points from the last 18 available in League 2, after two wins, one draw and three defeats from the previous six league matches.
That run started way back on 16th September, when Sammie Szmodics could only net a late consolation in the 3-1 defeat at Cheltenham Town.
Another defeat soon followed, Brandon Hanlan’s goal not enough to prevent Colchester from suffering a 2-1 home defeat to Wycombe Wanderers.
They stopped their losing run with a battling point at Grimsby, Kyel Reid twice netting in the 2-2 draw.
They then won back-to-back games. Sean Murray’s second-half strike was enough to give them a narrow 1-0 victory at Yeovil, in what is Colchester’s only away victory to date in all competitions. Interestingly, they are the only side to take all three points from Huish Park this season.
The U’s followed that up with another solid performance, Murray again scoring alongside Mikael Mandron to give them a 2-0 success against pre-season favourites Mansfield Town.
But defeat in their last match, 1-0 at home to Carlisle, saw them slip one place to 16th in League 2 ahead of their trip to Rodney Parade.
The visitors have several injury concerns ahead of their trip to South Wales.
Midfielder Sammie Szmodics (ankle) continues to make a speedy recovery but won’t be ready in time while Brennan Dickenson, Courtney Senior and club captain Luke Prosser are all absent with knee problems.
Striker Kurtis Guthrie has suffered a setback in his rehabilitation from an ankle injury, with Kane Vincent-Young and Doug Loft missing with hamstring injuries.
Those injuries saw the U’s line-up in a 4-4-2 formation last time out, with Mikael Mandron and Brendon Hanlan up-front. Ex-Exile Ryan Jackson started in his usual right-back position.
Colchester team vs Carlisle (4-4-2): Walker, Jackson, Eastman, Kent, Kpekawa, Wright, Murray, Loft, Reid, Mandron, Hanlan
One to watch – Mikael Mandron
Goals this season: 3
Selected previous clubs: Sunderland, Eastleigh, Wigan Athletic
Mandron has started well to life in Essex, netting three goals already this campaign after joining in the summer for an undisclosed fee.
Interestingly, Mandron’s goals have all come at home so far this season. And when the 22-year old scores, Colchester have never lost.
He grabbed the equaliser against Stevenage in their opening home game of the season, before scoring in the 3-1 victory over Crawley Town. His most recent goal came on 7th October with his strike against Mansfield Town.
He has also been sent off this season, his dismissal at Cheltenham Town the first of his professional career to date.
Prior to joining the U’s, Mandron has had a mixed career so far, with the French born striker starting at Sunderland.
He spent his youth career with The Black Cats - making his Premier League debut on 29th April 2013. However, it didn’t quite go to plan for him as he came on in the 85th minute of a 6-1 defeat to Aston Villa.
Mandron made two further Premier League appearances following spells in League 2 with three different clubs.
He made his debut for Shrewsbury Town against County in a 1-0 victory, although combined with loans to Hartlepool United and Fleetwood Town, could only manage one goal from 18 League 2 appearances.
Upon his release from Sunderland in July 2016, Mandron signed with National League outfit Eastleigh. It was here that Mandron began to finally find his shooting boots, attracting the attention of Championship side Wigan Athletic after scoring 15 goals from 33 appearances.
But his stint with the Latics was extremely short-lived, making just three appearances in the second-half of the season before his summer move to Colchester United.
Manager – John McGreal
McGreal has been in charge since 4th May 2016, being appointed after the club’s relegation to League 2.
He led the club to a steady eighth place finish last season, missing out on the final play-off spot by a solitary point.
During the season, McGreal won the Manager of the Month award for December, becoming the first Colchester manager to win the accolade for eight years.
It is his first managerial spell to date, with his record standing at a 33.8% win rate from his 68 games in charge. That sees McGreal winning 23 of the 68 games, with a further 17 draws and 27 defeats.
Prior to management, McGreal had a successful nine-year spell with Tranmere Rovers, scoring once in 233 appearances.
He moved to Ipswich for £650,000 in 1999, winning the Championship play-off final to move to the Premier League.
He scored two Premiership goals with the club, against Everton and Tottenham Hotspur, with the defender also scoring in the 2002/03 UEFA Cup campaign.
He moved to Burnley in 2004 where he spent three seasons, before joining the coaching ranks at Colchester United.
The two sides have met on 48 previous occasions.
And while County won the first meeting on 16th September 1950, it is in fact Colchester United who have the better head-to-head record. They have won 21 of the previous meetings, with County winning on 13 occasions and a further 14 draws.
The Exiles biggest ever win over the U’s was way back on 4th October 1969. County won 4-1 that day in League Division Four while Colchester’s biggest win came back on 1st January 1977 with a 5-0 win.
Of the previous meetings, only two have occurred since County’s reformation in 1989.
And both of those games ended in draws last season.
Graham Westley had to watch from the stands before taking over as County manager as the two sides drew 0-0 at the Colchester Community Stadium before a 1-1 draw at Rodney Parade.
Josh Sheehan saw his early opener cancelled out by a Chris Porter penalty, as the Exiles ended a run of eight straight defeats in League 2.
Referee: Darren England
Assistant Referee 1: Thomas Harty
Assistant Referee 2: Ravel Cheosiaua
Fourth Official: Simon Knapp
Darren England was a late appointment for this game after Robert Lewis was ruled out following his injury on Saturday evening.
Lewis was substituted on 50 minutes with concussion after colliding with Charlton’s Josh Magennis in their 1-0 victory over Doncaster Rovers.
England is currently embarking on his first season as a Championship referee after a remarkable rise through the English system.
He only officiated for two seasons in League’s 1 and 2 before making the jump, officiating in the Conference prior to that.
He has refereed 10 Championship games so far this season, of which the last was on Saturday as Fulham and Preston drew 2-2.
That sees England giving out 38 yellows and 1 red card from the ten games, following on from the 42 games that he refereed last season.
During 2016/17, he distributed 116 yellows and a further nine red cards across all competitions.
England has refereed County on five previous occasions and all of these have been in League 2. From the five games, County have won three of them, losing one and drawing the other.
Last season, England refereed three County games, the first coming in the 2-0 victory over Carlisle United which saw the Cumbrians lose their unbeaten start to the season. Two yellow cards were given to both teams, Darren Jones and Josh O’Hanlon booked for County.
He then officiated the 0-0 draw with Barnet, Mark O’Brien cautioned on that occasion before his last game that season saw County secure a 1-0 home victory over Crawley Town.
Four yellow cards and two red cards were given out in that game, Joss Labadie sent off for the Exiles as-well as a yellow card for Mickey Demetriou.
In 2015/16, England refereed a further two games. The first of those saw Danny Holmes and Connor Dymond booked in the 1-0 victory at York City.
The other came in the 1-0 defeat at home to Cambridge United. No bookings were given to the Exiles although three were given to the visitors.
Other League 2 fixtures that day (All 7:45pm kick-offs unless stated)
Barnet vs Mansfield Town (8pm)
Cambridge United vs Yeovil Town
Carlisle United vs Wycombe Wanderers
Cheltenham Town vs Grimsby Town
Coventry City vs Forest Green Rovers
Crawley Town vs Chesterfield
Crewe Alexandra vs Notts County
Exeter City vs Luton Town
Morecambe vs Port Vale
Stevenage vs Accrington Stanley
Swindon Town vs Lincoln City
Can’t make the match?
Don’t forget – if you reside outside of the UK, you can watch the game live by subscribing to County’s iFollow service. Commentary by Charlie Brown and Richard Sheppard can also be found at the Match Centre.