Frustrating time for Colchester United duo of Craig Slater and Sean Murray

PUBLISHED: 16:51 22 December 2017 | UPDATED: 16:51 22 December 2017

Craig Slater tries to control a cross during a rare league outing this season, against Morecambe. Picture: STEVE WALLER

Craig Slater tries to control a cross during a rare league outing this season, against Morecambe. Picture: STEVE WALLER

© Copyright Stephen Waller

Craig Slater and Sean Murray, two of Colchester United's stalwarts from last season, are struggling to break into the U's starting line-up this term.

But that has nothing to do with a loss of form – it is purely down to a more competitive squad.

The U’s only missed out on the League Two play-offs by one place and one point last season, with the midfield duo of Slater and Murray both regulars in the engine room.

Now, however, they are spending most of their time twiddling their thumbs on the bench, waiting for a rare chance to contribute to the U’s ever-increasing interest in promotion.

“Why do you think players like Craig Slater are not getting in the team?” asked McGreal, in response to that exact same question this week.

“It’s because competition for places is very strong, and because our loanees have helped us so much. We have managed to use the loan system pretty well.

“It has meant that a few of our regulars from last season have not got so much game-time this season, players like Craig (Slater) and Sean (Murray).

“But we will need everyone over the Christmas period, that’s for sure, not just the players currently on the bench but the others not even in the squad at the moment,” added McGreal.

Troubled by a double hernia towards the end of last season, Scotsman Slater has only featured in six league games so far this season, with his only league start being the opening day 3-1 defeat at Accrington Stanley.

Murray, who has had his own injury worries, has only started nine of the 22 league games, and was only a late substitute during last weekend’s 3-2 win at Swindon.

Both Slater and Murray are again expected to be on the bench tomorrow.

Another player waiting in the wings for a return to the firing line is Kurtis Guthrie, last season’s joint second leading scorer with 12 goals.

Guthrie has been out of action since last February, due to a long-term ankle injury, with the exception of one league outing as a last-minute substitute against Yeovil, and 45 minutes in a Checkatrade Trophy match against Gillingham.

“Kurtis will hopefully be involved over the Christmas period. He is very close to the squad now,” confirmed McGreal.

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