TOM Eastman admits spending time out of Colchester United’s starting line-up has made him even more determined to impress.

The long-serving U’s defender has been a near permanent fixture in their starting line-up since joining them from neighbours Ipswich Town, back in 2011.

Eastman, a three-time winner of Colchester’s Player of the Year award, has clocked up nearly 300 appearances for the club but has started only two of their opening six matches in League Two, so far.

The 26-year-old returned to John McGreal’s side for their 3-1 triumph at Cheltenham Town, last weekend.

And ahead of the trip to play Tranmere Rovers tomorrow, the popular centre-back says he is determined to stay in the team.

Eastman said: “Anyone who’s on the bench has to keep pushing and training hard and try and get back into the team.

“Sometimes being on the bench gives you that extra boost to train even harder to try and get back into the team.

“If you’re not on it every week and in every training session and game, you risk not being in the team.

“I played the first game of the season where we drew 0-0 at Notts County and I was a bit frustrated to be out of the team since then.

“But to be fair to the boys who’ve played they’ve done well and I can’t really complain too much, as we’re fourth in the league and playing well.

“I came back in last week and we had a good win, so I was very happy to contribute.

“There are some quality players on our bench and you can only pick 11 players for any game.”

Colchester head to Tranmere tomorrow looking to make it back-to-back wins in League Two.

Eastman is the only current U’s player to have played for them at Prenton Park, having featured in the club’s 2-1 defeat there in November, 2013.

“Tranmere are a big club and there’ll be a good few thousand there supporting them,” said the Colchester-born defender.

“It’ll be a hard game and we have to go there and start strongly, like we did at Cheltenham.”

Colchester could climb into the top three with a win at Tranmere tomorrow, following a promising start to the season.

The U’s already have twice the amount of points they had at the same stage, last season and Eastman believes their new recruits have played a part in that.

He said: “The boys who have come in like Frank Nouble and Harry Pell have been around a lot in this league and have added a great deal of strength, physicality and experience to the team.

“Fair play to whoever’s brought them because they’ve come in and we’ve done well and the boys who were here last season have gelled with them.

“It’s been a solid start to the season.

“We’re fourth in the league at the minute, the boys have been playing well and it’s a good start.

“We didn’t get off to a good start last season and throughout last season, we were keen to get a good start this time and that’s what we’ve done.”

Sammie Szmodics and Brennan Dickenson are set to shake off knocks in order to feature for Colchester at Tranmere.

But Tom Lapslie (knee) is out and Brandon Comley is on international duty.