HIGHLY-RATED Maldon and Tiptree pair Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe and Ryan Gondoh have been drafted into the first-team squad at Colchester United.

The U’s have an alliance with the Bostik League division north club and have been keeping close tabs on the duo’s progress.

Both have enjoyed a successful first half to the campaign.

Striker Ogedi-Uzokwe is the top scorer in the north division with 26 league goals, including ten penalties, and he notched twice in his side’s 2-1 victory at Witham Town on New Year’s Day.

His early-season form resulted in Premier League and Football League scouts attending matches at Park Drive.

Gondoh has also caught the eye.

Previously on the books of Barnet, he has been tracked by several League clubs.

He played for Carshalton last season and has also featured for the likes of Met Police and Kingstonian.

Meanwhile, U’s pair Dominic Kurasik and Ryan Clampin, who have also been with Maldon on a work experience loan deal, are set to return to the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Ogedi-Uzokwe, Gondoh, Kurasik and Clampin may be involved when the U’s host Chelmsford City in the Essex Senior Cup on Tuesday night.

Maldon have won five games in a row and are third in the table.

However, assistant manager Mark Levey insists he and boss Kevin Horlock have a tough job on their hands because of the departures.

In addition, Harry Morgan returned to parent club Heybridge Swifts before Christmas, stalwart midfielder and club captain Matt Lock recently announced his retirement and Chris Millar requires an operation.

“We’ve got five wins in a row and we’re very happy with that but the hard work has started because we’re now without six or seven regular starters,” he said.

“We’ve basically got to start again.

“We’ve got to try and stay in the play-offs so it’s an incredibly tough job for Kevin and I.

“I don’t know if we’ll be able to bring in more players on loan because I know there are rules about the number of loans we are allowed to have.”

Of Ogedi-Uzokwe’s departure, Levey added: “We thought Liam Nash did brilliantly well for us before he went to Gillingham, but Junior has scored 34 goals in 30 games.

“That’s why he’s going to Colchester.”

The Jammers maintained their impressive winning run at Witham. Levey said: “We had no-one in the side over the age of 21, so it was a great win with a very young team.”

“Witham went into the game as the in-form team in the league so it was a fantastic result.

“It’s going to be incredibly tight at the top of the league come the end of the season.

“AFC Hornchurch lost on New Year’s Day and it’s too early to call who will be in the top six or seven - we don’t know who it is going to be.

“I know it’s a cliche but it’s true - we will take one game at a time.

“We’re in third now and we’re four points behind Bowers and Pitsea, although we have two games in hand.

“But we’ve got six starters to find and, if we want to stay up there, they need to gel straightaway.”