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Match Previews

Johnnie and Joe return to the fold

Double boost as we bid to get back on track

29 December 2023

Match Previews

Johnnie and Joe return to the fold

Double boost as we bid to get back on track

29 December 2023

Johnnie Jackson will be back in the technical area tonight against one of his previous clubs - and he also has centre back Joe Lewis available again for selection.

Our manager and on loan defender have served their one-match suspensions after seeing red a week ago in the victory at Crawley - as we aim to return to winning ways against visitors Colchester.

“I can’t wait,” said Johnnie after Thursday’s final training session. ”Boxing Day was frustrating - not being able to be with the lads and obviously the way it panned out. I’m delighted that we’ve got another game so soon.”

Listen to everything Johnnie had to say below, from the gym at the training ground.

“I can be in the changing room before and at half time and it’ll be nice to be back down on the touchline with the boys and with the staff. I’m looking forward to putting things right.”

Joe Lewis, on a season-long loan from league leaders Stockport, will also make a welcome return to the squad.

“Joe was a loss the other day,” said Johnnie. “He’s been excellent for us all season and for him to get a suspension was a difficult one, as I felt it was a little bit harsh. We had to deal with it and his ban meant an opportunity for someone else, but with Joe available again he comes back into our thinking.”

Looking beyond this evening’s match, Johnnie is hopeful of having top scorer Ali Al-Hamadi available for the New Year’s Day match at Forest Green, before he heads off to Asia Cup duty with Iraq. 

Ali 16.9.JPG

“Hopefully Ali is involved for the Forest Green game and then he goes away on his travels after that,” added Johnnie.

“I think he has to join up with the Iraq squad that week. They have a build-up to the tournament and a friendly they want him to be a part of. How long they are in it will determine how long he is away for, but pretty much for the month of January he’s going to be gone. 

“It’s bittersweet. We’re delighted for him to get that recognition and it's great for us as a club - what with the Asia Cup being such a huge tournament. The flip side is that we lose him, we know how good he’s been and how important he is for us.”

Ethering 16.9.JPG 

Johnnie will be up against a familiar face in the opposing dugout this evening from his days at Tottenham, with Colchester having changed their man in charge since a James Tilley brace earned all three points in the corresponding fixture.

“Matthew Etherington is a former teammate of mine,” said Johnnie. “He’s gone in there and tried to implement his style. Although the table suggests something different, they are a good team and tricky to prepare for, because they’ve got players who can hurt you. He’s got them playing in a slightly different way.” 

As our manager, Johnnie has won all three of his previous meetings against Colchester, who he made well over 100 appearances for as a player. Johnnie said: “It’s not about me, but we’ve had some good results against them.

“We’ve got to be better than we were on Boxing Day and we’ve got to be like we were at Crawley, where we were magnificent and left it all out there. That’s the type of character we’ve got to show to bounce back and to do the double over Colchester this season.”

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