RENE Gilmartin has had to wait patiently for the chance to experience regular first-team football.

But now he has achieved it, the Colchester United goalkeeper is clearly in no mood to let it go lightly.

Last year, Gilmartin spent much of his first season as the U’s player-coach serving as back-up to first-choice custodian, Sam Walker.

And while the 31-year-old was a big influence within the senior squad at Watford during his three-year spell with the Hornets prior to arriving at the JobServe Community Stadium, helping them win promotion to the Premier League, he nevertheless left without making a senior appearance.

But Gilmartin is now currently experiencing one of the longest runs in a team in his playing career to date, having started nine successive games for promotion-chasing Colchester in League Two.

And as his outstanding display in the U’s 4-0 win at Northampton Town demonstrated last weekend, the 6ft 5in keeper is currently showing that he has the appetite for more.

Gilmartin said: “The desire to go and play again and again changes everything and get that winning feeling; that’s the big one.

“It changes everything, your whole demeanour.

“It changes how you are as a dad, as a husband – it comes down to that much and how you care so much.

“When you’re playing, the highs are higher and the lows are also low.

“But we’re experiencing a lot more highs at this football club and long may that continue.

“Playing football is huge.

“I was at Watford as a squad goalkeeper. I was an important member of that squad but I didn’t play as much as much football as I would have liked.

“Here, I’ve got the opportunity to play and I think it whets my appetite then to go and play much more football.

“At Watford, you’re at a Premier League football club and a group that got promoted for a reason.

“You’re no schmuck in goal and now you want to prove it to people and yourself, more than anything else.

“If I stepped away from the game and didn’t play any more football, I’d be quite disappointed that I never really reached the kind of levels I wanted to.

“When you’re playing football, it doesn’t matter what level you’re at, you’re reaching those levels for yourself which is great because it gives you a sense of accomplishment.

“The pressure from behind here is definitely real, because we have really good goalkeepers at the football club.”

Gilmartin impressed at Northampton, helping Colchester register their 14th clean sheet of the season.

The shot-stopper will be hoping for another one against Cheltenham Town tomorrow, along with three points.

“It’s like a striker scoring goals – for me, clean sheets are what I want,” added Gilmartin, who has helped Colchester keep eight clean sheets so far, this season.

“It’s what I think about and what I do and you want to instil that into the team which is very easy to do, because of the players we have here.

“Clean sheets are everything that both I and the defence live by.

“We’ve shown great strength in front of goal and if we can keep clean sheets as we’ve shown this season, we’ll get more results."

Colchester head into their game against Cheltenham lying just a point off the League Two play-off places.

They will be in confident mood after the big win at Northampton, where they were boosted by the immediate impact their three new signings made.

Gilmartin added: “I don’t think you can get too high or too low at any point of the season but we go into the game after a very good away win.

“It was a great 4-0 win and it was great to see the new additions show the fans what they’re about, because they have been very bright in training.

“When you bring new bodies in and different characters as well, it can always give that bit of impetus to the squad and the group.

“I think everyone gets a bit of a lift when new faces come through the door.

“They’re not goalkeepers but I get a lift and you want to show people what you’re about.

“On the recruitment side, you’re looking to bring people in who you think will be of benefit to the group on the playing side of things.

“But you also want to bring in good people who’ll fit into the group, which is a great one."