Colchester United manager John Ward fears the club may be priced out of a permanent move for leading goalscorer David Mooney.

But the U’s boss has stressed that signing a new striker is one of his top priorities this summer.

Mooney has netted 14 times for Colchester, during his season-long loan from Championship promotion-hopefuls Reading.

The Irishman’s contract at the Madejski Stadium will soon expire and he will not be offered another deal by the Royals.

Mooney will be a free agent this summer and Colchester boss Ward has made no secret of his desire to secure his services for next season.

However, he admitted he could face competition from rival clubs in trying to lure Mooney back to the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

Ward said: “I want to keep David but I’m sure he’ll have offers from other clubs who can maybe afford a bit more than us.

“A striker is a priority - it’s one area that we’ve got to be strong in.”

See Friday's Gazette for the full story and a preview of the U's final game of the season against Bristol Rovers tomorrow.