COLCHESTER United’s youngsters have been praised for ‘stepping up and taking responsibility’ in the final few weeks of the League Two season.

The U’s finished a challenging campaign well to secure their Football League status, claiming 12 points from their final eight games.

The likes of Brendan Wiredu, Noah Chilvers, Shamal George and Ryan Clampin have all played their part in securing the points needed to remain in the fourth tier.

Colchester chairman Robbie Cowling this week praised the U's quartet, along with teenager Junior Tchamadeu, for the contribution they have made, this season.

And experienced defender Tommy Smith, who skippered the U’s in their final two games in the absence of Harry Pell, says the club’s young players deserve praise for the way they have risen to the challenge in the season run-in.

Smith said: “Over the last few weeks, it’s been a lot louder on the pitch.

“We’ve got a lot of young players and they came out of their shells and stepped up and took responsibility, which is fantastic.

“When the team is going through a tough time, obviously individuals go through tough times as well.

“As a team, we all had our moments where we weren’t quite at our best which is probably why we were down where we were.

“But as a collective – not just individually – we all stepped up towards the back end of the season and that’s our benchmark now.

“We have to make sure that we’re consistently at that level, next season.”

Colchester finished the season with back-to-back clean sheets and conceded only twice in their final five matches, under interim boss Hayden Mullins.

“We’ve looked to try and solidify things under Hayden and even before that under Wayne Brown, we looked a lot more solid as a team and conceded a lot less goals, so that’s something that we’ll have to take heart from,” said Smith, who has congratulated Tom Stagg after the teenager made his senior debut as a substitute in the 0-0 draw at Tranmere Rovers, last weekend.

“But it’s not just the goalkeeper and defenders – it’s the whole team and it starts from the front.

“Frank (Nouble) and Mike (Folivi) have been brilliant at starting the press for us and making it an easier job for us, at the back.”

Along with Tom Eastman, defender Smith started all but one of Colchester’s league games in his first season with the club since joining them last summer.

He added: “It’s been quite a gruelling season – it’s been quite condensed with a lot of Saturday-Tuesday so I’ll have a week or so for the body to recover but then the preparation begins for next season.”