LUKE Norris is edging closer to a first-team return for Colchester United.

The U’s striker was sidelined throughout much of pre-season with a knee injury, which has led to him missing the start of the new League Two campaign.

Norris has been working hard on his fitness though and is ahead of schedule, in his recovery.

The 27-year-old, who scored eight times for Colchester last season, is on his way back – much to the delight of head coach Steve Ball.

Ball said: “Luke is really positive and he’s nearing a return now, which is way beyond my expectation when we first knew about the injury.

“If we can get Luke back firing soon, it will be great for us.

“He’s the one who can be our focal point and he’s very close now.”

Colchester will assess the fitness of winger Callum Harriott prior to the visit of Bolton Wanderers, on Saturday.

The former Charlton Athletic and Reading winger missed the U’s 0-0 draw at Bradford City last weekend because of a hamstring injury.

Harriott could return for the Bolton game but boss Ball says he will not be taking any risks with the skilful attacker.

Ball said: “Callum is close.

“I’ve always got to be careful with Cal, because he’s that explosive, dynamic sort of player who plays off his speed so he has to be spot on.

“If there’s any doubt in that, there’s just no point at this stage of the season in maybe putting a guy out there for minimal gain of hopefully getting one win and then him being out for six weeks with a torn hamstring.

“Let’s hope he can make it.”

U’s midfield pair Tom Lapslie and Diaz Wright remain sidelined with knee injuries.

And Colchester will also assess ‘one or two other knocks’ prior to the game at the JobServe Community Stadium.

Ball said: “Like anything in a working week, you’re a little bit delicate on things.

“There’s a couple of things but that’s a standard thing.”

Meanwhile boss Ball has praised Kwame Poku's work ethic for Colchester after he made the most tackles in the game for either side at Bradford.

Poku made a total of five tackles at Valley Parade, more than any other player on the pitch.

“It’s great that stat," added the U's boss.

“When you see things like that with how I want to play which is all about in possession, just as important is our creative players working hard out of possession.

“Top players do both and they have to do that.

“Kwame Poku in my opinion will play a lot higher than division two and to do that he has to do both sides of the game, which he’s doing.

“I spoke to KP about that because it was brilliant to see.