DEAN Gerken is expected to seal a return to Colchester United this week.

The 34-year-old, who is a free agent after leaving Ipswich Town at the end of last season, has been training with the U’s.

And with both parties understood to be keen to complete the deal, goalkeeper Gerken looks set to return to the club where he started his career after a ten-year absence.

Colchester are on the lookout for a new keeper, following player-coach Rene Gilmartin’s departure to Championship club Bristol City.

Dillon Barnes, who is still yet to sign a new contract with Colchester, featured in the 2-0 friendly win at Bowers and Pitsea, along with Ethan Ross and Bailey Vose.

Colchester boss John McGreal said: “It’s an area that we probably are still looking to improve.”

Gerken made 126 first-team appearances for Colchester, after emerging through the youth ranks at Layer Road.

He was handed his Colchester debut by Phil Parkinson in a 3-2 defeat at Brentford in League One, in 2004.

Gerken played his part in the U’s historic promotion to the Championship in 2006 and was Geraint Williams’ first-choice keeper in their two seasons in the second tier.

The Rochford-born shot-stopper left Colchester in the summer of 2009 to join Bristol City and stayed at Ashton Gate for four years, before joining Ipswich Town.

He spent six years at Ipswich but after his contract was not renewed at the end of the last campaign, he moved on and now looks set to return to Colchester.

Gerken is set to join as a player only, with the U’s also on the lookout for a new goalkeeper coach.

Meanwhile, Colchester are hopeful that the injury suffered by keeper Vose in their friendly win at Bowers and Pitsea is not as bad as first feared.

The former Brighton and Hove Albion youngster appeared to suffer a blow to his hand just minutes after coming on, in the U’s 2-0 victory.

“We thought it was a bit nasty at the beginning,” said McGreal.

“But we’ve just spoken with (physio) Shayne O'Reilly and he thinks he’s had a really big bang on the nerve area, which has made it a little bit numb.

“He hasn’t felt anything pop out or crack or anything so fingers crossed.

“We should know when it settles down the full extent of it but he doesn’t seem to think it’s too concerning.”