Tom Eastman ready to hold down a regular place

TOM Eastman has been given the chance to cement his position in Colchester United’s team, long-term.

Manager John Ward had no qualms about confirming that Eastman would retain his place in the U’s central defence, for tomorrow’s home game against struggling Scunthorpe United.

To date, ever since his move from Ipswich Town last summer, Eastman has only been employed as an emergency defender in the U’s team, in the face of an injury crisis.

The 20-year-old has been the fourth choice centre-half, behind Magnus Okuonghae, Matt Heath and Pat Baldwin, but he will definitely play against Iron and so start back-to-back games for the first time (with the exception of a loan spell at League Two club Crawley) since his Town days under Roy Keane.

“I feel this is my big chance to cement my place more in the team. I want to impress again this weekend,” enthused Eastman yesterday.

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“I thought I would have had more of a chance at the start of the season, following my move from Ipswich. But I’ve come here and seen the experienced lads at the back, so I quickly realised it was going to be hard to get into the team.

“That means I have had to be patient, and my spell at Crawley (loan stay) really helped. I feel that I’m improving each day at the club.

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“It’s a huge confidence booster that the manager has said I will be starting again this weekend. Because I did well in the previous game, I thought that I would have a chance, and now I have got to do it again,” added Eastman.

Colchester-born Eastman will play alongside Okuonghae in the heart of defence against Scunthorpe. This was the same pairing that featured in the U’s last outing, a 1-0 defeat at MK Dons last Saturday week.

Heath missed that game with a sore groin, an injury that continues to sideline him for this weekend, but Eastman has again got the nod over the more experienced Pat Baldwin, who is fit again after a fractured toe.

Eastman continued: “When I came here, I hoped I would be seen as a player for the future, but also hopefully knocking on the door for a place in the team. I need to hold onto my place now.

“It was a bit of a struggle, at the beginning of the season, because Heathy and Mags (Okuonghae) did well early on.

“Most managers do look for experience at centre-back, but I think I’m learning and improving all the time.”

Manager Ward confirmed: “I thought Tom was very, very good at MK Dons, when he showed a lot of maturity for a very young man.

“And I’m quite happy to say that he will be starting in the team again this weekend. He played well enough to stay in the team.

“Matt (Heath) is not available, but Pat is, and he is a senior central defender. Yet I’m going to stay with Tom because I think he deserves that opportunity.”

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