HARRY Pell is hoping to return to first-team training with Colchester United this week as he draws nearer to a long-awaited return.

The dynamic midfielder, who celebrates his 28th birthday next week, has been sidelined for the last two months with an Achilles injury.

Pell, who was watching from the sidelines as Colchester were beaten 2-1 at Crawley Town last weekend, has not featured for his club since their opening-day draw with Port Vale.

However, the former Cheltenham Town man had his protective boot removed earlier this month and is nearing a return.

He could feature in Colchester's Professional Development League Two under-23 game against Cardiff City at Florence Park next Monday, as he bids to regain his match fitness.

Colchester head coach John McGreal said: “He’s desperate to get back.

“He’s had a few setbacks which he’s been disappointed with.

“But he’s a strong character and he’s an influential boy in and around the dressing room and you need a Harry Pell in and around the group.

“His personality and persona are important but so too is what he brings to the team, which we saw in the early part of the season.

“He’s chomping at the bit at the moment but we do have to just pull him on the reins at the moment.

“We’re hoping that come Monday (today), he’ll be able to increase his workload and then try and get him involved in first-team training.

“It will be a little bit of a carrot for him, knowing that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

“He’ll need a couple of under-23 games.

“He’s a really fit boy with how he does all of his work, he’ll still need games."

Meanwhile, Colchester will assess the fitness of winger Courtney Senior today after he suffered a heavily swollen ankle in their defeat at Crawley.

Senior suffered the injury in the first half at Broadfield Stadium but battled on, before eventually being replaced by Luke Norris with nine minutes remaining.

McGreal said: “It’s one where we could have kept Courtney on but when you have players on the bench like we have, we had to take him off and also to change things."