Colchester United head coach John McGreal believes his in-form team have made big strides in League Two over recent months.

The U's head to Crawley Town today lying just a point off the play-off places at the midway point of the season and just three points off third-placed Exeter City.

After a slow start to the campaign, Colchester have lost only two of their last 14 league games and boss McGreal has been suitably encouraged.

McGreal said: "We're a good team and I think we've proved that over the last few months.

"I think we've won 16 or 17 games over the calendar year and we're only three points away from the top three.

"We've come a long way over the last few months, with possibly the youngest team in the division and five academy outfield players starting.

"Four games in nine days is a tough ask but it's about recovery and putting in a bit of analysis of the opposition.

"But it's more about what we're about and unfortunately, there isn't the time to go through everything even though we want to.

"There were some really good points from the Port Vale game to take forward but also some things we need to work on."

Colchester travel to play a Crawley side who pulled off an excellent 3-2 win at promotion-chasing Accrington Stanley, on Saturday.

Harry Kewell's side lie in 17th place and the U's beat them 3-1 at the Weston Homes Community Stadium earlier this season but McGreal is expecting a difficult game.

"Their result (at Accrington) was no surprise to me - this division is really tight and anyone can beat anyone on any given day," he said.

"We know it's going to be a really tough game at Crawley and Harry (Kewell) seems to have turned them around.

"It's a good game to look forward to.

"The boys are disappointed with what happened a little bit in the second half (against Port Vale) and that's good - hopefully they can channel it in the right way for the Boxing Day."

Kurtis Guthrie was among the Colchester substitutes for their game against Port Vale after returning to their first-team squad for the first time since October.

The striker is likely to be on the bench again today and McGreal says he is glad to have him back available, after his injury woes.

McGreal added: "Kurtis gives you another option.

"It's great to have him back - he hasn't had a game as such but it's good for him to get the feel of being back again and on the bench."

Colchester could welcome back midfielder Doug Loft to their squad today after his shoulder injury.

The U's will also check on defender Ryan Inniss, who has missed their last two games with a shoulder injury.