‘We rate Dillon very highly’ – U’s boss McGreal

Dillion Barnes keeps his eye on the ball during the pre-season fixture against Millwall. Picture: ST

Dillion Barnes keeps his eye on the ball during the pre-season fixture against Millwall. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

Colchester United boss, John McGreal, has faith in young Dillon Barnes to fill the sizeable boots left by former No. 1 stalwart Sam Walker.

Barnes was rewarded with a starting berth on the opening day of the season, at Notts County last weekend, and celebrated with a clean-sheet in a goalless draw.

The 22-year-old Londoner was making only his third league appearance, after playing in the last two games of last season – Walker’s future was very much up-in-the-air by then, following his 200th league appearance for the Essex club and also his contract expiring in the summer.

Barnes kept a clean-sheet on his league debut, a 0-0 home draw against Swindon, before also playing in the final-day 1-0 defeat at Exeter City.

Walker’s eventual move to Reading, on a three-year deal, has paved the way for Barnes to establish himself this season.

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McGreal confirmed: “We rate Dillon really highly.

He’s got a lot to learn still, but he looks a composed boy with some good distribution and it was great for him to get another clean-sheet.

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“There’s a lot more to come from Dillon.”

Previously on the books of Barnet and Fulham, without making a senior appearance for either club, Barnes went on loan to Welling United and Hemel Hempstead Town to get some competitive action last season, in National League South.

McGreal does have Rene Gilmartin, the goalkeeping coach, as an option, while former West Brom trainee Ethan Ross, a summer signing, was on the bench at Notts County.

But Barnes is in possession of the shirt, and he will want to keep it that way over the coming months.

Referring to last weekend’s opening day draw, McGreal said: “I think it was a good point.

“I don’t want to put extra pressure on the boys, but you saw a lot of self-management on the pitch, and they put in a fantastic performance.

“We haven’t got the win we wanted, but a point is the next best thing, against a very physical side. Visually, we looked a good strong, athletic team, but also with the passing movements still there.

“New boy Harry Pell was excellent for us, and very vocal as well. He shows his personality in the dressing room as well as out on the pitch. Harry will improve and we are improving as a result. I thought, he was a great foil for Tom Lapslie in midfield,” added McGreal.

The U’s are looking forward to their first home game of the season, against Port Vale this Saturday.

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