TOM Lapslie has been backed to one day play at a higher level after signing a new contract with Colchester United.

U’s academy product Lapslie has extended his stay with the club until 2021 and his team-mate Harry Pell believes his fellow central midfielder can achieve big things in the game.

The duo have formed a strong partnership this season as Colchester push for promotion from League Two - and Pell is sure that the talented 23-year-old has a big future.

Pell said: “I think Tom will play higher – 100 per cent.

“He’s a very mature head on young shoulders and he’s got hunger to achieve in the game.

“I’ve got to know him really well and his family – he’s a lovely lad and he thoroughly deserves his new contract.

“I’m looking forward to playing alongside him some more.”

Colchester have recently dropped out of League Two’s top seven, following a run of one win from six matches.

John McGreal’s side head to Port Vale this weekend looking for their first win of 2019 and Pell says they must rediscover their fine form from earlier in the season.

“At times like this, you need to be completely honest with yourselves as a group and individually,” said Pell, who is Colchester’s third highest-scorer, this season with five goals.

“I’m big on social media and I’ve seen some of the comments and stuff.

“I think players need to stay strong and stand up and be counted.

“As a club, we’ve looked really strong over the past five months and we need to get back on track.

“We’re still in a relatively good position.

“We’ve obviously been in a better position but we’re still in and amongst it and it’s so tight.

“We’re battling against some big clubs and the mentality of the boys hasn’t changed.

“Everyone’s bubbly – it’s just that we haven’t accumulated the points that we wanted.

“An element of frustration has definitely crept in among the boys, because individually and as a group we want to achieve and we want to do well.

“It’s times like this that you have to get back on the bike and pick up that three points as soon as possible.

“Players don’t go on the pitch to intentionally not try.

First and foremost, we get prepped right for every game and the players cross that white line knowing everything about the opposition.

“Our target is the win and both individually and collectively, we’ve not quite reached the levels that we’ve reached earlier in the season.

“We need to get back to that but it’s not a dull place around here – we have some big characters and there’s still lots more football to play.”