DANNY Cowley believes Colchester United’s improved defensive form can stand them in good stead ahead of today’s trip to League Two leaders Mansfield Town.

But the U’s head coach admits he would like more clean sheets registered, as the team battle to move away from relegation danger.

Colchester have conceded 13 goals in the ten games they have played since the Cowleys were appointed in early January.

That is a marked improvement on the five months that had preceded their appointment, when the U’s had the worst goals against record in not only League Two but also of any team in the whole of English football’s top four divisions.

READ MORE: Wilkinson scores twice as U's under-21s win at Charlton

Cowley said: “We’re improving in that area, definitely and the statistics back it up.

“I think defensively both in open play and from set pieces we’ve improved, in the last ten games.

“But we want more clean sheets and we should have had more clean sheets.

“We have to be more ruthless and we have to make sure that we concentrate for 90 minutes.

“We had to eradicate those small hitches that are costing us.

“We were a team that was regularly conceding two goals a game; we’re now a team that’s only conceding one goal a game.

“But if we are going to have the success that we want to have, then we have to keep more clean sheets.


“For me, it’s always built on defence and when I look at the promotions that we’ve had, we’ve always kept 20-plus clean sheets in a 46-game season and this is a must.

“While we’re improving in that area, we need to start getting value for them.”

Both sides are in need of a victory today, for different reasons.

While Colchester require a win to boost their survival chances, Mansfield are pushing for a victory to enhance their hopes of going up.

“Winning is a skill,” said Cowley.

“I’ve always thought that and as a PE teacher, I always teach people how to win, my children I teach how to win and the players, I teach how to win.

READ MORE: Samson Tovide ready to play his part in U's survival bid

“Everything that we do in training is competitive and there’s always a winning element to it.

“There is absolutely a way to win not just in football matches but to win in life.

“To know how to do that, to practise that repetitiveness time and time again, day in, day out, I think is really important.

“Everything that we do is recorded, so every game that we play, even in training, it might be a small sided game that’s three minutes long but we still record the outcome.

“It’s really interesting to start seeing the patterns and the correlations.


“Who are the perennial winners; who are the people that win consistently but also, who are the guys that maybe come up short and you’re asking yourself why, because winning is a habit but it’s also a skill you can develop.

“All of the best cliches in football and in life are there for a reason; they stand the test of time because ultimately, they hold some truth.

“We are a team that is competing hard now; we’re a team that is growing and I think we’re growing off the pitch and on it and we now need to start turning that development into winning, because football is about winning.

“My life is a lot better when we win.

“I like to win, I’m used to winning and I expect to win.”

READ MORE: Screen stars - five televised games where U's have shone

Colchester’s game kicks off at 12.30pm this afternoon, as it is being televised live on Sky Sports.

Cowley added: “I like early kick-offs.

“You can get ahead of the fixture schedule and it also allows me to go to another match afterwards.

“I can’t decide between the games at Notts County v Salford and Doncaster and Forest Green!

“For me it’s great, because I get to go to another game.”