LUKE Gambin had a ‘real desire to play’ for Colchester United in their EFL Trophy opener at Portsmouth.

U’s head coach Steve Ball has revealed the attacker rang him on a daily basis during his recent international exertion with Malta.

Gambin made his first start of the season for Colchester in their 2-0 defeat at Pompey, in their Group A opener, having only just returned from playing for his country against Faroe Islands – where he contributed two assists – and Latvia in UEFA Nations League Group One.

The 27-year completed 78 minutes at Fratton Park and is hoping to start Colchester’s opening League Two game at Bradford City, on Saturday.

Ball told BBC Essex: “Gambo’s obviously a brilliant kid and he was ringing me from Malta every day.

“He’s started two games in four days for Malta and he epitomizes what I want out of this football club – a real desire to play.

“He had a bit of a stop-start year last year but he’s one that I have so much time for.

“He’s shattered in there now but I think he’ll be fine for the weekend.”

Colchester fell to a 2-0 loss at Portsmouth, after two goals in barely a minute from Marcus Harness sealed the hosts’ win.

Ball made five changes to his starting line-up for the game at Fratton Park and says he has food for thought, ahead of the Bradford opener.

Ball said: “For 35 minutes, I’m sitting there thinking I’ve got a really hard decision to make for the weekend.

“I have a good group and anyone who watched the game, certainly the first half will see a real proof of what I’m trying to do.

“I want them to try and make my decisions harder for the weekend.

“I know the team in my head already and I have a plan set up for Bradford so there are certainly boys there who I know can step up to it.”

Michael Fernandes has joined Dartford on loan until January.

The young winger will be hoping to shine, in National League South.

Colchester director of football Tony Humes told the U’s website: "It's the next natural step for Michael in his development.

"We have seen it in other young players, they aren't going to be really stretched at U23s level and need to experience regular competitive football.

"He has had a good pre-season being in and around the first team squad and hopefully this move will be beneficial for all three parties - Michael himself, us and Dartford."