Dunne: 'Let's Win Our Mini-League'
Joe Dunne has urged his players to win their 'mini-league' at the bottom of League One, starting with tomorrow's big game with Scunthorpe United at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
The U's are sat just one place and one point above the Iron, who occupy the final relegation spot, with the goal differences also tight. The fixtures marks a run of games against teams in and around the U's in the table, with Walsall, Hartlepool and Portsmouth to follow in the next few weeks.
Dunne knows the importance of this spell of games, saying: 'We're playing the teams around us now, so it's important that we keep picking up points over the next few weeks and finish top of a mini-league, if you like.
'If we do that then we can move ourselves up the table. There's no point beating ourselves up over where we are as it is a fact, so we just have to keep working hard to get out of it which is what we've been doing; let's face the fact and get on with it.'
Despite the lowly position and a club record-equalling eight successive defeats, the U's have offered hope to the support in recent weeks with a number of improved performances, not least the harsh, one-goal defeat away at promotion-chasing Doncaster Rovers last Saturday.
This has been reflected in the training, as is confirmed by Dunne.
'It's been a good week and we've trained well,' he revealed to BBC Essex ahead of this weekend's game. 'Training has been good and we've tried to keep the players fresh.
'We don't want to put them under any pressure that they don't need to be under and, based on last week's performance, it's just been about maintaining standards.
'I choose to look at everything we do well and, as a team performance, we're close. I still think we're getting into the final third and just need to finish chances off, and that will come.
'We've had a few controversial decisions lately and, when you go back through the games, it often seems to be controversial decisions going against us.
'Scunthorpe away was another game where we were unfortunate and, obviously, John [Ward] went after that game.'
Joe added further youth to his squad this lunchtime with the addition of 20-year-old Chelsea midfielder, Billy Clifford, on a one-month loan deal. His search for experience, however, goes on.
'It's a lot of hard work trying to get experience; they're out there, but the problem is that it's not easy in terms of wages.
'I know what I feel we need in terms of technical ability, but that search is hard and we've been working very hard to bring in the right type of player.
'We've been very active and our cars have racked up plenty of miles, but you've got to do that and put the hours in. I'd be annoyed if I thought I should have gone to a game that I'd missed.'
In terms of the exit door, though, there remains no impending departures.
The rumour mill has been rife with speculation over Anthony Wordsworth, but Dunne insists there is nothing in the pipeline, even though a couple of players had turned down moves away from the club this week.
'At the moment, nobody is going out,' he confirmed. 'We've had a couple of enquiries and I've spoken to the players, but it's not right for them.
'You respect the players' thoughts and feelings on that which I've always done.'
For the latest U's news and views, follow us on Twitter