O’Toole and Knudsen close to return

COLCHESTER United’s mouth-watering tie at League One table-toppers Brighton this afternoon may have been postponed due to the snow, but there is some good news for the Essex club today.

Manager John Ward has revealed that long-term absentees John-Joe O’Toole and Morten Knudsen could return to reserve team action within the next two weeks and, all being well, will be vying for a first team place as early as the middle of next month.

The duo both suffered cruciate knee ligament injuries towards the end of last season – O’Toole twisting awkwardly in a match at Charlton in April and full-back Knudsen suffering the injury in training not long before.

All-action midfielder O’Toole barely missed a game following his arrival from Watford in the early stages of last season, while U’s fans are yet to see defender Knudsen in action following his arrival on a free transfer back in January from the lower divisions of his native Norway.

“They have both been back in the football side of training for some time now but it was purely non-contact to begin with,” said Ward.

“Over the last couple of weeks we have been able to give them the green light to tackle though and the next stage to get them half a game in the reserves, maybe as soon as in the next fortnight. That will be the acid test because you can’t put bibs on them saying ‘don’t tackle me’ then.

“In terms of being ready for the first team we’re looking at the middle to end of January if everything goes to plan.”

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He continued: “It’s going to be like two new signings for me. They’ll add some really good competition for us.

Meanwhile, Ward has confirmed that he is close to agreeing another one-month extension to the loan of left-back Tom Williams from Bristol City.

Today’s postponed game at Brighton was due to be the 30-year-old’s last, but Ward says talks are at an advanced stage to keep him in Essex for a second one-month extension due to the fact that Marc Tierney will be out for at least two weeks following a hernia operation.

Ward said: “We’re talking to Bristol City and hopeful that we’ll get him for another month after this weekend.”

In other loan news, U’s keeper Carl Pentney has extended his loan deal at Bath City by another month.

The 21-year-old, who signed on a non-contract basis in the summer following his release by Leicester, initially went to the Blue Square Bet side on an emergency one-month loan to cover for injured shot-stopper Ryan Robinson. He has made five appearances so far, helping City pick up 11 points from a possible 15.

– For all the latest U’s news, follow Stuart_Watson on: www.twitter.com.

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