LONG-SERVING Tom Eastman admits he is never guaranteed a place in Colchester United's starting line-up.

But the U's stalwart is hoping his impact appearance off the bench at Barrow will have boosted his chances of a first-team recall.

Eastman came off the bench to bag Colchester's winner in their thrilling 3-2 triumph over the Bluebirds, last Friday night.

The 29-year-old defender, who boasts made more than 400 league and cup appearances for the U's, has been a substitute for their last two League Two matches, after suffering a hamstring injury against Mansfield Town last month.

And although he is now in line to return to Hayden Mullins' side for the home clash with former side Crawley Town this weekend with Luke Chambers serving a one-match ban following his dismissal at Barrow, centre-back Eastman concedes that is not guaranteed.

He said: "The squad is so strong.

"I've obviously been here quite a long time and played a lot of games but it's not a given that I'm going to be in the team, with the squad we've got.

"We've got Chambers and Smudge (Tommy Smith), who have been playing really well.

"I want to be playing as many games as I can.

"If I get the chance to start next week, hopefully I can take it and hopefully stay there."

Eastman says he was delighted to celebrate his dramatic late headed goal at Barrow with the 120 Colchester fans who had made the mammoth trip to Cumbria for the game.


The experienced defender nodded in Charlie Daniels' corner to net an 80th-minute winner at the Dunes Hotel Stadium, before celebrating with the U's jubilant supporters.

"I've always enjoyed scoring goals - there's no better feeling," said Eastman, whose goal at Barrow was his first since the U's 5-2 defeat at Oldham, last April.

"But when you realise how far they'd come with it being a crazy journey and supported the boys, I thought they were brilliant throughout to be honest.

"They cheered us on and it was nice to give them something to go home with.

"We haven't scored too many goals as yet but three goals away from home and three points - hopefully we can take that into next week and get a few more goals."

Colchester played their part in a barnstorming encounter at Barrow, with Alan Judge and Freddie Sears netting before Eastman's memorable late winner.

Eastman, who joined Colchester from Ipswich Town back in 2011, said: "It was an entertaining game full of so many things going on, full of goals, yellow cards, a few mistakes.

"We started quite well, then they had a spell, they unfortunately got a soft goal but then we bounced back.

"It was like that pretty much all game with each team having spells, with chances, goals, yellow cards, red cards.

"It was a really good game to be a part of and I'm very happy to have got on the end of the cross and score the winner.

"It was a great ball in from Charlie Daniels and I almost couldn't miss - it was right on my head.

"It was nice to get on the end of it and get the goal.

"They had a man extra and they were getting quite a few crosses in.

"Me and Smudge pretty much stayed in the middle of the goal and headed everything out.

"It was pretty simple but it was what we had to do as centre-halves at times and we did it well."

Colchester have brought in a lot of experience this summer and Eastman believes that is already making a positive difference.

"We showed a lot of character at Barrow and I think the experience of the players who have been brought in helps so much.

"You've got the likes of (Cole) Skuse in the middle of the pitch dictating things, Charlie Daniels, Smudge at the back, Noubs (Frank Nouble) up top working hard.

"I think that experience, along with the youth and the pace that we've got in the team, gives us a great strong base to go off."