MARTELL Taylor-Crossdale needs to build up his match fitness before challenging for a starting spot at Colchester United.

That's the view of U's head coach Steve Ball, who says the young striker's lack of game time for Fulham's under-23s has left him a little behind his team-mates in the fitness stakes.

Taylor-Crossdale, who joined Colchester on loan from Fulham earlier this month, appeared as a second-half substitute for his new club in their EFL Trophy Group A opener at Portsmouth, last week.

However, the 20-year-old did not even make the bench for the U's opening game of the League Two season at Bradford City, last weekend.

Taylor-Crossdale, who has represented England at under-20, under-18, under-17 and under-16 level, is hoping to make a big impact during his season-long loan at the JobServe Community Stadium.

However, boss Ball says the former Chelsea youngster first needs to reach the fitness levels needed to compete in League Two.

Ball said: “Martell is a project.

“I need to work with him and he hasn’t done much (game time) at Fulham.

“I spoke to Mark Pembridge (Fulham academy coach) about him in the week and Martell has had a really stop-start pre-season.

“He knew he was going to get a loan and it was just a case of the 23s at Fulham not playing him much.

“He’s come to us and he’s a little bit behind, fitness wise.

“I felt the other night (against Portsmouth), it was a chance to give him some minutes which I did.

"But certainly for league football now, Martell needs to get himself into a kind of fitness stage to come and play football."

Colchester are now preparing for their first home game of the season, a clash with Bolton Wanderers on Saturday.

The U's have a positive platform to build from, following their creditable 0-0 draw at Bradford City, last weekend.

It followed on from their Carabao Cup defeat at Championship club Reading and EFL Trophy reverse at Portsmouth.

“I’ve been delighted with every game," said Ball.

“For large parts of both the Reading and Pompey performances, we were the better side so I knew going to Bradford we’d have nothing to fear.

“Of course, you always want to start the season with some form of points.

“We’ve got a tough start and Bolton again are going to be up there challenging.

“They’re a big club coming to our place but it’s great that we’ve got a nice foundation from the Bradford game to work hard with in the week and work hard for Bolton on Saturday."