It’s time for Tom Eastman to take a breather

THE hectic March schedule of nine games in 28 days has taken its toll on Colchester United’s promising young centre-half, Tom Eastman.

The ex-Ipswich Town defender has started all eight of the U’s games this month, and has in fact been ever-present in 2012, a run spanning 16 games.

But Eastman will enjoy a well-earned rest for the ninth game of March, away at Exeter City tomorrow, although the 20-year-old will still make the trip to Devon.

Manager John Ward predicts a bright future for Eastman, but he recognises that the recent fixture pile-up has had a debilitating effect on a player whose previous U’s starts, before his 2012 run, were restricted to just two outings against MK Dons and Stevenage from earlier in the season.

“Tom will have a breather on Saturday,” confirmed Ward, whose U’s side suffered a first defeat in 10 at Walsall in midweek.

“Young Tom has had a fantastic time, and is going to be a very, very good player.

“But he’s still developing into a footballer who has to cope with 40 games a season, let alone a run of eight or nine in a month.

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“I took Tom off (at Walsall) because he was tired.

“It was right prior to Walsall’s third goal. I saw him chase a ball down the touch-line, and I thought – ‘no, he has not got the legs.’

“He got faced up and the lad (Alex Nicholls) has got his cross in, and that’s just not the way that Tom has been playing. Unfortunately they scored.

“That was when I thought Tom has got to come off, and that he needs a break now. I told him at the time that he was looking a little leggy and needed a breather.

“A senior player like Magnus (Okuonghae) has got all these games under his belt, and he can deal with that week in, week out, but young Tom has found it difficult.

“But there’s a really good player here to come through our football club,” added Ward.