COLCHESTER United head coach Steve Ball admits it was a ‘tough decision’ to leave striker Luke Norris out of his starting line-up against Forest Green Rovers.

The 27-year-old forward scored a brace in his first league start of the season at Carlisle United last weekend but found himself on the bench for the game against Rovers, which the U’s won 1-0 at the JobServe Community Stadium.

Norris has recently returned from a knee injury sustained in pre-season, which had threatened to keep him sidelined for around three months.

The former Swindon Town striker returned in half that time and with games currently coming thick and fast for the U’s in League Two, boss Ball says he had to consider Norris’s future fitness in picking his team.

Ball said: “I’m managing Luke Norris.

“He’s been out for six or seven weeks with a knee injury.

“It should have been ten to 12 weeks but he got himself back which was fantastic for us and for Luke.

“It was his first (league start) for seven or eight weeks, at Carlisle.

“Luke did excellent and scored two really good goals – the penalty and then a great header at the far post.

“I couldn’t have asked for any more from a striker.

“It was a tough decision – Luke wasn’t happy and I don’t expect him to be happy.

“But I’m here to do what I think is best for Luke and the football club and I did it (against Forest Green) to manage Luke’s fitness.

“He’s had a really nasty medial knee injury which could have kept him out for three months - he did great to get back but I’m not going to then play him if I feel it might affect future fitness situations.

“I took advice from the sports science team and the fitness coaches here and that was a call that I made.

“I think it was the right call – Luke probably won’t!

“But I don’t expect anything else.

“I want hungry, aggressive players who want to play for me and he came on and did really well.

“I rate Luke and I respect Luke.

“I thought two games in four days was a big ask and he came on and did well.”

Colchester bounced back to winning form with victory over previously unbeaten Forest Green, thanks to Noah Chilvers’ second-minute winner.

The U’s claimed their third league clean sheet in seven matches, having conceded seven goals in their three games prior to Forest Green.

“I’m going to class it as a really good defensive performance,” said Ball.

“There was a lot of talk about the three goals conceded against Carlisle and against Oldham but they weren’t goals where they had cut us open; they were more sloppy individual errors or turnovers in possession.

“But to get a clean sheet against probably the best attacking side in the league is brilliant for confidence as well.

“I can think of a few (similar) games over the years – we beat Mansfield 2-0 and got battered and another one was against Wycombe when George Elokobi scored that goal into the top corner and we were hanging on.

“These things are in my mind and it’s really good for me to have those memories and situations, because you can act on that.

“But listen, I don’t want to be hanging on in games.”