HARRY Pell says making a long-awaited return to Colchester United first-team action has made him feel like a teenager again.

But the popular midfielder admits he could face a battle on his hands to force his way back into John McGreal’s starting line-up, given the U’s current fine form.

Pell made his first senior appearance for Colchester since the opening day of the season when he came on as a late substitute in their 3-2 win at Mansfield Town, last weekend.

The 28-year-old had been sidelined for more than two months with an Achilles injury but is now back to full fitness and bracing himself for a battle to get back in the side.

Pell said: “I feel like an 18-year-old again and I’m really happy.

“It’s been tough for me – unselfishly, I think the boys have been absolutely fantastic.

“I’m just buzzing for everyone, the staff and the players, that our hard work is starting to pay off.

“The only thing for me now is that I don’t know when I’m going to get a game because Ben (Stevenson) and (Brandon) Comley are on absolute fire.

“I’ve always wanted this my whole career, that I’m in League Two team that’s competitive because I know for a fact that me being back in and around it is pushing Ben and Coms.

"It’s obviously going to improve my game as well, to try and get back in the team.

“I know that’s what the gaffer wants and I know that competition for places is what the club has tried to install this year, because if I’m being honest I think that’s where we came short last year.

“I really do believe that if we’d had the numbers that we’ve got this year, it would have been different last year.

“You’re constantly looking over your shoulder so if Ben and Coms do go through a bad patch then I have to be ready to step in but I can’t see me getting a game at the moment!

“I’m 28 years old – I know how it works.

“I’m at the stage of my career where I want promotion and this is the way you’re going to get it.

“If you look at the past teams that have done it like Luton they had big squads and I’m really thankful and happy to be part of the squad such as the one we’ve got.”

Colchester’s win at Mansfield was the perfect way for them to follow up their Carabao Cup triumph at Crawley Town – and their subsequent pairing with Manchester United in the quarter-finals.

Pell added: “The gaffer (John McGreal) said to us individually and to a man it’s a test of our character with the come down that we all faced after what happened at Crawley and the Man United.

“So credit to the boys and everyone that we’ve managed to get our mindset right and our mentality and fair play to the gaffer and Bally (Steve Ball) for installing it.”