COLCHESTER United’s free weekend has allowed them a rare opportunity for a period of reflection, in an otherwise relentless season.

And as they prepare to embrace one of the busiest periods of their campaign, boss John McGreal and his players can feel satisfied with their commendable efforts so far.

Colchester currently sit in the automatic promotion places in third place and just five points off leaders, MK Dons.

Indeed, they are set to reach the midway point of their League Two season later this month in a healthier position than they have been in, in several years.

Last season, the U’s had gone into a similar break between fixtures after 20 games sitting three points off the play-off places, following a 2-1 loss at Notts County.

And although McGreal’s side went into the Christmas break with plenty of momentum the season prior to that, they were still playing catch up after a ten-match run without a win.

This time around, there has been no such inconsistency.

Admittedly, there have been setbacks as there are in every season for every club.

But Colchester have developed a very useful habit of responding rapidly to them – and are yet to suffer back-to-back defeats.

The U’s have shown so far that they are more resilient force than they have been for some time.

Although they have not been quite as prolific of late, not helped by the absence due to injury of their joint leading scorer Luke Norris, they are nevertheless the third-highest scorers in League Two with an impressive 33 goals.

And one of the most pleasing things about that statistic is that their goalscoring prowess has not been at the detriment of their solidity at the back.

Colchester have conceded just four goals in their last seven games and boast the fourth best defensive record in the fourth tier.

The summer recruitment of the likes of Norris, Harry Pell and Frank Nouble has undoubtedly played a part in that, helping them pick up points in games which in the past, they might well have left empty-handed.

December promises to be another pivotal month for the U’s.

After bottom club Macclesfield Town – and newly-installed boss Sol Campbell - provided the opposition at the JobServe Community Stadium this weekend, tests await against Carlisle United, MK Dons and Stevenage, all currently residing in the top half of the table, before 2018 is rounded off with a home game against Morecambe.

McGreal has been keen to play down any promotion talk of late, insisting that it is still far too early to be getting carried away with the U’s form.

That is understandable given the fact that the Colchester head coach does not want his young players in particular to get carried away with how they are faring.

But the truth is that if the U’s can reproduce similar high standards in the second half of the season and they have in the first, their target of a top-seven finish looks very achievable.