NEW-BOY Dean Hammond today admitted he has a fight on his hands to force his way into Colchester United's starting line-up.

The midfielder is edging closer to fitness following a calf injury, which has delayed his U's debut.

Hammond joined Colchester from Coca-Cola League One club Brighton and Hove Albion in last month's transfer window.

The 24-year-old is yet to make an appearance for Geraint Williams' side since his £250,000 switch.

But he resumed training last week and travelled to the KC Stadium with the rest of the Colchester squad for last weekend's Hull City clash.

And he is confident of declaring himself available for Saturday's Coca-Cola Championship clash with Bristol City at Layer Road.

However, Hammond knows that it will not be easy to dislodge the likes of Johnnie Jackson and Kem Izzet, who have helped Colchester embark on a four-match unbeaten run.

Hammond told the Gazette: "I know that I have a fight to get into the team.

"But competition for places is always good and that's what you want, because it means you have to be in top form.

"You know that you have to train well if you want to get into the team."

Hammond conceded that it has been hard not being able to play since his switch from the Seagulls.

He has been unavailable since picking up the injury in his final match for former club Brighton, a behind-closed-doors friendly against Reading.

However, he said that being on the sidelines has afforded him extra time to acclimatise to his new surroundings.

"It's been a bit of a settling in period for me," said Hammond, who spent more than 14 years with the Seagulls, after joining as a youngster.

"I've been at the club but I haven't been able to train.

"In some ways it might be a blessing in disguise but any footballer will tell you that it's very frustrating when you're not playing."