Colchester United head coach John McGreal is hoping his side's 2-0 win over Newport County will provide the springboard for a sustained promotion challenge after they ended a six-game winless run.

Second-half goals from debutant Ben Stevenson and Tom Eastman gave the U's their first win of 2018 in League Two and helped them to close within five points of the top seven, with 15 games remaining.

McGreal said: “We chose a team to go and win a game of football – to combat what they had but also to have that little bit of guile.

“We’ve thrown down the gauntlet to the team and we want to have a right good go and try and get into the play-offs.

“It’s still tight and there’s still a large chunk of the season left with a good squad now.

“Newport do what they do really well and we’ve had to combat that.

“The first half was pretty even but I thought that in the second half, we came into our own a little bit a bit more and it was an excellent win.”

Stevenson, who signed on loan from Wolves on deadline day after joining the Championship side from Coventry City, came off the bench to score on his debut after replacing the injured Sean Murray in midfield.

“Ben got our first goal and he’s one that gives us something different in midfield," said McGreal, who confirmed Murray suffered an ankle injury against Newport.

“It could have been quite easy to put Tom Lapslie there after Sean Murray got injured but Ben showed a cute little flick for the goal and he doesn’t look fazed.

“He could be gracing the Premier League with Wolves next year if he continues to perform like he has been and it’s a hell of a coup for us to have him.

“We got on the end of a second phase for our second goal and Tom popped up like the poacher he is and put it into the bottom corner."

Courtney Senior was in fine form for Colchester on his first-ever home league start for Colchester and provided the assist for Stevenson's opener.

"I thought Courtney was outstanding," added McGreal.

"We're giving these boys opportunities and we've waited a long time for him.

"Now in the last six weeks, he's showing how talented he is and he gave us an explosive 70-odd minutes."