Tom Eastman return a huge boost for Colchester United

Tom Eastman, fighting fit again after his brief ankle injury. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Tom Eastman, fighting fit again after his brief ankle injury. Picture: STEVE WALLER - Credit: Picture: Steve Waller

The rapid return of Tom Eastman, from injury, was a major plus mark for Colchester United going into their second week of the new season.

Eastman made a surprise return to the U’s starting line-up for last Saturday’s 1-1 home draw against Stevenage, having limped off at Accrington Stanley the previous weekend with an ankle injury.

The ex-Ipswich Town defender, who has now rattled up 216 league appearances for the U’s, missed the midweek 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa in the Carabao Cup, but was back against Stevenage to add some much-needed experience to what is otherwise a relatively inexperienced three-man central defence.

“Tom (Eastman) coming back was a real boost,” confirmed U’s boss John McGreal, who is now preparing his side for this weekend’s trip to Luton Town.

McGreal added: “We had a slight inclination that he might be fit, but we left it until the last minute.

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“Tom gave us the go-ahead, and I thought he got through the game without actually over-exerting himself too much.

“In fact, I had a bit of a bark at him during the second half to go on a bit, because Tom likes to go on the over-laps and he actually did get down one side.

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“He’s a big player to come back for us. We need that experience.

“And with Doug (Loft) coming on as well (as a substitute), that’s another bonus. Doug had a terrific pre-season as well, but then bruised his ribs against Gillingham (friendly). He showed an air of experience to settle things down with the younger players around him.”

Eastman played alongside two 21-year-olds in Frankie Kent and Cole Kpekawa in a three-man defence against Stevenage, while midfielder Loft made only his ninth league appearance since his move from Gillingham last summer, as a 78th minute substitute for Kyel Reid.

Both Kpekawa and Reid picked up injuries, as McGreal explained.

“Cole (Kpewaka) took a hell of a whack in the first half and we let him get on with it, but he couldn’t carry on,” said McGreal. Kpewaka was suffering from concussion.

“Kyle has also done his ankle, so we had to make changes.

“It was a really tough first week. We had to go to Accy (Accrington), played Villa, and then had another match against a play-off contender within those first seven days.

We have a young squad and there’s a lot of rebuilding at the club.”

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