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STEVE Halford admitted he was touch and go just hours before the Colchester game.

STEVE Halford admitted he was touch and go just hours before the Colchester game.

Nevertheless, the brave centre back made it out - and turned in a strong performance in the goalless draw with the Second Division side in the FA Cup third round.

"I have been having trouble with my knee and top of my thigh. I was touch and go and didn't know whether I would make it. I had been on painkillers all morning in the hotel and was led on the bed unable to move just hours before the game - I think I had taken too many! I got up and fell over and all Paul (Mullin) could do was laugh at me! I did have to come off at the end as I was dead on my feet but I think I did all right.

"They had two good forwards and we had a lot of chances, especially Cookie's late on, but they did hit the post twice. And it was good to keep a clean sheet against a side like that. It was a good atmosphere as well. I could hear the singer from the changing rooms and it was like being at Wembley - I wondered what was going on!

"And I don't think any more fans could have been packed in. It would have been nice if we could have nicked it in front of the home fans but we still have a chance."

The Reds will go to Layer Road next Tuesday for the replay for the right to face First Division Coventry in the next round. "People may think our chance has gone but who knows? We are not scared of anybody."

Halford is hopeful he will be fit for tomorrow's FA Trophy game at Burton and then the replay. And with fellow defender Jonathan Smith coming back into the fold after a knee ligament injury and the prospect of a new addition at the centre of defence, competition for places is again hotting up.

"Smithy has been unlucky with his injury. But all the defenders have a decent understanding and it is up to John (Coleman) who he picks," said Halford. "We will just have to see what happens."

While the cups are important, former Bury man Halford is concentrating on the league where he wants to return to being a full-time professional. "The cups are a nice sideline but the league is the main thing. We want to push for that."

And he is just hoping, after taking so many days off from his job as a fork lift truck driver to play for Stanley, that he has enough days left for a holiday this year, especially as he is getting married. "I should be okay - I hope!" he said.


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