JOHN McGreal has challenged his in-form Colchester United side to maintain their consistency as they head into the hectic festive programme.

The U’s have been in fine fettle in League Two over the past two months, losing only two of their last 13 matches in the division.

Only goal difference is keeping Colchester out of the play-off places, as they head into the busy Christmas programme.

And ahead of their home meeting with Port Vale on Saturday, U’s head coach John McGreal wants his players to keep their standards high.

McGreal said: “It’s been terrific, taking nine points from 12 having played Lincoln, Notts County, Exeter and Swindon, who were all teams who were above us.

“To come away with that point ratio is absolutely terrific and it’s quite a return.

“I’m absolutely delighted with our form.

“The two-week break after the Notts County game was pivotal and we came back and put in a fantastic performance against Exeter, who I believe are a great team in our division.

“The players are performing well, both individually and as a team.

“The hardest thing now is to keep it going because they are a young team and you will have your peaks and troughs.

“It’s now about having that level of consistency that we’ve definitely shown over the last two and a half to three months.

“It’s going to be a tough game against Port Vale because as we know, it’s fine margins in this division and everyone beats each other.”

McGreal has praised the impact of Mikael Mandron, after the striker got back on the goal trail in Colchester’s win at Swindon last Friday.

Mandron netted from for the first time in eight matches in the U’s 3-2 victory at the County Ground and is their second leading goalscorer, with seven goals.

McGreal said: “Mikael had been very close (to scoring before Swindon) – he hadn’t got the goals of late but his performances had been very good and he’s been a perfect foil for Sammie (Szmodics) and Drey (Wright).

“He knows that he has to continue to work hard and he has big boots to fill but he’s only 22 years of age.

“The boy can have everything and that’s one of the reasons why I targeted him to come to the football club, not only for his goals but also his all-round play.

“He’s still learning, as are the majority of the team.

“We just stressed to him (at Swindon) that he needs to keep working hard and I thought that he was terrific in the second half, where he came into his own.

“Their two centre-halves couldn’t really handle him and it was a great performance from him.

“Everything seemed to stick and he and Szmods (Sammie Szmodics) linked pretty well and he also got his goal, which was a great header.”