John McGreal is ready to give his Colchester United youngsters a chance to shine in tonight’s Checkatrade Trophy opener against Southampton under-21s.

Diaz Wright is set to be handed only his second competitive U’s start in central midfield for the Group B opener, at the JobServe Community Stadium.

And the likes of Paul Rooney and Ryan Gondoh are also pushing for game time, ahead of the game against Saints’ youngsters.

McGreal could also give Mikael Mandron and Aaron Collins a rare start, as Colchester aim to continue their solid start to the new campaign.

But the U’s head coach says even if his rookie youngsters do not feature tonight, they may still get the opportunity to impress in League Two at Tranmere Rovers, this weekend.

McGreal said: “It’s a cup match – we’ve got a good academy at the club and a good philosophy at the club.

“I need to look at the next boys coming in.

“We’ve got a good academy that we thoroughly believe in.

“I’ve challenged who’s going to be the next one and maybe they’ll get an opportunity on Tuesday.

“We haven’t made any new signings in the (loan) window and that’s why I need to see these boys playing.

“We saw a little bit of Diaz (Wright) – we’re not afraid to put them in, in a heat of a battle and I thought he came on and showed great composure, as well.

“There’s the likes of Aaron Barnes and Aaron Collins on the bench and (Paul) Rooney has come in from the cold on the bench.

“There’s also the likes of (Ryan) Clampin and Ryan (Gondoh) who haven’t been getting on the bench but have been in and around it.

“That’s where we’ll be throwing down the challenge to them because we need to look at them and ask are they going to be in and around, because we need them this year.

“They might get an opportunity tonight but if not, then at Tranmere because that’s what we’re about and that’s our philosophy.”

Colchester will be looking to continue their impressive early-season goal ratio tonight.

The U’s are currently joint second-highest goalscorers in League Two with 13 goals, having hit the net three times at Cheltenham Town last weekend.

“To have scored 13 goals in six league matches is really pleasing,” said McGreal.

“That’s what we were saying in the off season and we needed to bring in the likes of Norris, Pell and Nouble because we missed those kind of goalscorers, last season.

“We’ve got it in abundance at the minute and we want that to continue.

“We want to keep creating chances for them as well.”

Brandon Comley is unavailable tonight because he is on international duty, while midfielder Tom Lapslie is sidelined with a knee injury.

Brennan Dickenson (back) is unlikely to be risked and Luke Norris could also be rested.