COLCHESTER United head coach John McGreal believes his players fully deserve the respect they are gaining from their League Two rivals.

While frustrated to be held to a goalless by Morecambe on Saturday, the U’s have kept clean sheets in five of their last nine games and taken 18 points from a possible 27.

It has left them 12th in the table - just four points outside the play-offs - heading into tonight’s home showdown against Lincoln City.

McGreal says his players are earning a reputation and respect from other sides in the league - and rightly so.

He said: “It’s a terrific shift from the boys to go from the position we were in to now being in and around the edges of the play-off places.

“Credit to them and they’re getting a reputation where other teams are coming here and showing a lot of respect.

“It’s a tough league and every team can beat each other.

“We shipped quite a number of goals in the early part of the season and we’ve done a lot of work on that aspect of it.

“It’s now five clean sheets in nine games and the boys look a very solid outfit.

“The boys are quite comfortable in a 3-5-2 at the minute and it’s worked wonderfully well in terms of the points return, with 18 out of nine games.

“They’re building a reputation and getting a lot of respect from the opposition and now it’s about what else we can do.”

Tonight’s game is Colchester’s second in quick succession at the Weston Homes Community Stadium, following on from Saturday’s stalemate against Morecambe.

And McGreal has urged supporters to get behind his team and make a difference again tonight.

He said: “It’s another good game to look forward to.

“We’re at home and hopefully the South Stand will get right behind us again from the start.

“We’re missing the drum a bit and I think we need to get that out – I don’t know where it’s gone!

“The support does help the boys, especially when games are tight.

“We’re a young team and we need the fans, especially the South Stand, to keep showing their support because it’s terrific and it does take them a long way.

“It does make a difference, especially when things are tight and you want to pull that ball into the goal.

“I think you heard that late in the game (against Morecambe) after we’d changed the shape – we got a few bums off the seats and they got right behind the team.”

Doug Loft was an unused substitute for Saturday’s game.

McGreal said this was because of a calf injury that had made it difficult for him to train.

The U’s boss said: “Lofty has been nursing a calf injury and hadn’t trained for the majority of the week,” said the U’s boss.

“We’re only 18 games in and he lost a lot of football last year through pushing himself when he possibly might not have at times and broken down.

“It’s one where we have to manage what he can do but also, there are boys who are knocking on my door who want to play football.”