Cole Kpekawa says he is looking forward to a productive second half of the season after making a long-awaited return to Colchester United’s starting line-up.

The defender made his first start for the U’s since October 14 when he started in their 0-0 draw with Cambridge United, on New Year’s Day.

Kpekawa helped Colchester keep a third successive clean sheet in what was only his fifth league appearance of the season after making a summer move from Championship side Barnsley.

And the former QPR youngster is hoping to clock up many more appearances, after making his League Two comeback.

Kpekawa told the Daily Gazette: “It was great to be back in the starting line-up.

“It had been a while but thankfully, I got my chance and I thought I did OK.

“I was buzzing to be back involved.

“I’ve just been training hard and keeping my fitness up and waited for my chance.

“The team has been winning so it’s been hard for me to complain about not getting my chance.

“It’s been a case of being patient and thankfully I got my chance.

“It’s a new year now and there’s plenty to look forward to.

“When I first came in, I wasn’t really up to par.

“I didn’t have a good pre-season at Barnsley and coming here, I was playing catch up.

“But now I’m fully fit and raring to go now and I just have to keep pushing on and training hard.”

Kpekawa admits it was disappointing not to claim victory over Cambridge – but was nevertheless delighted to help them keep the visitors out.

“The main thing for any player is to win games but as a defender, it was great to get a clean sheet,” he said.

“That was perfect coming back into the team and conceding a late goal would have been really annoying.

“But we’ve dug in and kept the clean sheet – we had a few chances ourselves and I think we maybe should have won the game.

“Personally, I think we should have finished them off in the first half I think but we kept a clean sheet and we go into the next game six unbeaten.

“We’re a hard team to beat at the moment and the squad is good.

“We work very hard in training and work on defending a lot, so it’s paying off in games.”

Kpekawa is vying for a place in the Colchester defence along with the likes of Tom Eastman, Frankie Kent and Ryan Inniss – but has stressed that is driving him on.

“There’s a lot of competition for places but that pushes me and makes me work even harder,” added the 21-year-old.

“If we want to win promotion, we need a good squad to compete.”