COLCHESTER United head coach John McGreal says utilising the squad at his disposal will help maintain a "competitive edge" within the group.

The U's have the luxury of a free midweek, with their next fixture being Saturday's FA Cup first-round encounter against Coventry City at the JobServe Community Stadium.

However, games have been coming thick and fast and the team are facing the prospect of a busy run-up to Christmas, with ten more matches - league and cup - to squeeze in before the end of 2019.

As such, McGreal plans to shuffle his pack, make full use of the squad and give talented players a chance to shine, something he says also helps foster an "all in it together" mentality.

“Saturday was our 23rd game. There’s been a lot of matches and a lot of fixtures, so it’s nice now to go Saturday to Saturday for once," said the U's boss.

"Some of the other teams in our division have played about 18.

“As such, we'll have to utilise the squad with the games coming up.

“We need to keep that competition and I’ve said that from day one.

“The players train with each other every day and we want to keep that competitive edge.

“The substitutes always have a role to play, even when you’re not getting on the pitch, because we’re all in it together and that’s the mentality we want."

Colchester are eighth in League Two, just one point outside the play-off zone and seventh-placed Newport County.

“It’s so tight in the division but no different to any other season since I’ve been here," added McGreal.

“I can see that being the case right the way throughout the whole of the season and in January, there will be players joining clubs and players leaving them and squads will differ."

Meanwhile, McGreal admitted being delighted with the performance of Callum Harriott, following the winger's return to the starting line-up for Saturday's 3-2 victory at Mansfield Town.

Having recovered from a quad injury, he played in the 1-0 defeat at home to Morecambe on October 19 but that was followed by three substitute appearances against Crewe, Newport and Crawley Town.

“Callum started against Morecambe the other week and we’ve been trying to get his numbers up in training and doing the extra bits, because he’s obviously a fair bit behind," said McGreal.

“I think he played for 85 minutes and he’s hit the post and the keeper’s also made a brilliant save from him in the first half, because that’s nestling in the bottom corner.

“I was pleased with his performance."