JOE Dunne feels Colchester United are now in a “positive position” to keep Luke Garbutt for longer.

And the U’s boss has also made signing a new centre-back one of his top priorities in the transfer window.

Garbutt played the final game of his current loan spell in the U’s 0-0 draw at MK Dons, on New Year’s Day.

The young left-back’s reputation has flourished since he arrived at the Weston Homes Community Stadium from Everton, last September.

Garbutt, 20, has clocked up 17 appearances for Colchester - scoring three times - and has been one of their most consistent performers in League One.

Earlier this week, Dunne admitted that the defender’s future was “out of his hands”.

But Colchester now believe that they have a realistic chance of retaining Garbutt’s services for a further period of time.

Dunne said: “We’re in a positive position I think with Luke.

“I’ve been speaking to the chairman every day for the last few days.”

Dunne has also confirmed that he wants to strengthen his central defensive options during the January transfer window.

The U’s are short of cover in the centre-back position, following Ben Tozer’s return to parent club Northampton Town.

Dunne wants cover for Magnus Okuonghae and Tom Eastman, with Josh Thompson still some way from full fitness following his ankle injury.