MAGNUS Okuonghae is available again, after serving his one-match suspension, but he faces a tough battle to regain his place in the Colchester United starting XI.

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Josh Thompson, his replacement at Bournemouth, produced such an impressive full debut for the U’s, despite the defeat, that he would be very unlucky to lose his place at Walsall on Saturday.

In fact, the odds must be on manager Joe Dunne sticking with Thompson against fellow strugglers Walsall.

The 21-year-old Portsmouth loanee was man-of-the-match at Dean Court, in a 1-0 defeat, and seemed to hit if off with fellow 21-year-old Tom Eastman in the heart of defence.

Thompson explained: “You just have to go when you get your chance, and hope that you’ve done enough, but in the end it is down to the manager to pick the team.

“It’s good competition for places, everyone gets on well in training, but we all know that there is more than one player for each position.

“I was impressed with everyone’s performance at Bournemouth, especially their attitude, because a lot of teams could have gone there after losing a few, and just caved in.

“We had suffered a few bad defeats recently, but we showed the courage not to feel down, after all the criticism of us shipping goals.

“A lot of teams might have gone into hiding, but not us.

“We’re going to fight and turn it around.”

With reference to his centre-half partner Eastman, Thompson continued: “I’m with Tom six days a week, we all train with each other, so although it was our first start together, we’ve worked a lot alongside each other. There is that partnership already.

“Tom is a good player, and I think he will help me get better.”

In addition to Okuonghae, former Brentford midfielder Marcus Bean will also be available again this weekend, after completing his one-match ban.

Gavin Massey still has one game left of his three-match suspension.

Meanwhile, a very experienced U’s side romped to an 8-0 win over Brentwood Town in last night’s Essex Senior Cup fourth round tie.

Clinton Morrison and John-Joe O’Toole gave the U’s a 2-0 lead at half-time, and there were second-half goals from Brian Wilson, Karl Duguid, Freddie Ladapo (2), Drey Wright and a second for O’Toole.

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