Colchester United head coach John McGreal admits it is crucial he has been able to add experience to his young starting line-up over recent games.

Doug Loft, 30, has started the U’s last four games in League Two having missed much of the first six weeks of the season through injury, while Kyel Reid, who turns 30 next month, has also started their last three games which have produced seven points from a possible nine.

The likes of Sam Walker, Sean Murray and Ryan Jackson, who have clocked up more than 650 career appearances between them, have also played their part in Colchester’s upturn in form and boss McGreal says that has been important.

He said: “We need the experience of the likes of Lofty in a young team - the average age is 23.4, so we are the youngest team in the division.

“It’s vital that we get the likes of Doug Loft and Kyel Reid in and around it, along with the likes of Walks (Sam Walker) and Sean Murray, with the games he’s played and the divisions he’s played in.”

McGreal has praised defender Tom Eastman, after he made a successful return from injury to help Colchester beat Mansfield Town 2-0, last weekend.

The Colchester-born centre-back had missed the U’s previous three games because of a hamstring injury but came off the bench as a first-half substitute for the injured Kane Vincent-Young to help his side claim three points.

“Tom came straight in and I think he’s had one day of training,” said former centre-half McGreal.

“It was a toss-up between him and Cole (Kpekawa), who I thought did particularly well against Gillingham, to put on the bench.

“We want an attacking bench - we’re at home and we want to be able to change things if we have to, to score goals.

“Tom got the nod and he was thrown straight in against a tough team and did particularly well.”

Meanwhile, boss McGreal says he was delighted with Mikael Mandron’s display against Mansfield.

The Frenchman bagged his third goal of the season last weekend and McGreal added: “I thought Mika was a threat - he was excellent. He’s 22 years of age and 6ft 3ins or 4ins and growing into his role.

“The number nine is a tough one to replace with Ports (Chris Porter) and I think he’s getting there, game by game.

“He’s got a lot of learning to do but I’m sure the fans will get right behind him if he continues to score goals like that.”