Colchester United will be looking to record their first win of the season as they arrive at Home Park on Saturday after a 1-1 opening day draw with Port Vale. In contrast, Plymouth Argyle will be looking to keep their 100% record after a very impressive 3-0 win over Crewe at Gresty Road.
Forward Luke Norris looks set to keep his place in the side. The 26-year-old struggled for much of last season with injuries but started off the new campaign in fine form, scoring the equaliser in Colchester’s 1-1 draw with Port Vale.
Right back Ryan Jackson is likely to return to the side at the expense of Arsenal loanee Colin Bramall. The 29-year-old missed the season opener through injury.
Former Pilgrim Paris Cowan-Hall will miss the chance to feature against his former club. The winger suffered an achilles injury during pre-season and is awaiting full fitness before returning to action.
Predicted Line up (4-2-3-1)
Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Vincent-Young
Senior, Brown, Nouble
Style of Play
Predominantly playing in a 4-2-3-1 formation, John McGreal’s side look to hit opponents on the counter attack, utilising the abundance of pace they have going forward. The attacking midfield trio Frank Nouble, Courtney Senior and Jevani Brown all possess this trait, often interchanging during matches to cause sides more problems.
Nouble and Senior combined to register 22 goals and assists last season (15G, 7A) which is a very respectable tally given the predominant supply of goal contributions came from the now departed Sammie Szmodics (14G, 9A). Brown, a summer signing from fellow League Two side Cambridge, is a like-for-like replacement. The 24-year-old makes surging runs deep into the final third, beating players and will prove to be what make the U’s side tick this coming season.
The Jamaican had an impressive season at the Abbey Stadium, recording an seven goals and 10 assists from 43 league appearances. Given Cambridge scored only 40 league goals last season, he was involved in just under half.
The added pace of Kane Vincent-Young and Ryan Jackson at full-back offer a threat on the overlap, with last season’s player of the year Jackson in particular impressive in an attacking role, providing six assists, a figure that only Szmodics managed to better.
Their pace could prove pivotal to Saturday’s result as they come up against a rather slower and less mobile Argyle backline. Should Colchester catch Ryan Lowe’s side on the counter, they will be likely to cause plenty of damage. Very much like Crewe last weekend, the pushing forward of full-backs allows them to pile into the opposition final third in higher numbers, stretching the opposition and creating more gaps in which to create chances.
Much will be expected of attacking midfielder Jevani Brown this season. Joining from Cambridge following the departure of Sammie Szmodics to Championship side Bristol City, the 24-year-old registered an impressive 17 goal contributions, nearly half of his side’s 40 goals as they narrowly avoided relegation. With a burst of pace, Brown balances a ruthlessness for goals with an ability to break the midfield line and open up spaces for his teammates to exploit.
As a like-for-like replacement for the influential Szmodics, the form of Brown will prove vital to Colchester’s chances of going one better and reaching the play-offs this season. Along with Courtney Senior on the right, the Jamaican will be under heavy pressure to provide a creative outlet.
Despite making 10 signings over the summer, McGreal’s side have a very settled defence with regular starters Jackson, Vincent-Young and Luke Prosser missing a combined 14 games across the season.
Yet, unlike their full-backs, both Eastman and Prosser are particularly slow centre-backs, both standing at 6ft 3in. Whilst they both excel in terms of their aerial abilities, passing sides, such as Argyle will utilise their pace going forward, keeping the ball on the deck and against less technically gifted players will cause a lot of problems. It will be vital that Pell and Lapslie, in the defensive midfield roles, take extra care in shielding the defence when the likes of Danny Mayor are making runs into the final third.
Colchester and Crewe both offer similar threats in attack, with their pace and skill in possession, they will similarly test Argyle’s defence on Saturday. The defensive trio of Niall Canavan, Scott Wootton and Gary Sawyer stood up to the challenge last week, ably supported by the rest of the team.
However, Argyle’s attacking dominance last weekend and energy even at the end of the match to grab their third will prove vital once again. Given Ryan Lowe’s Bury side were dominant at home last season, I think Argyle will make it two from two, winning 2-1 on the day in front of a packed Home Park 10,000+ crowd.