COLCHESTER United head coach Steve Ball says he opted to select Tom Eastman at right-back against Cambridge United to boost his side’s physicality.

Long-serving Eastman, who has excelled as a centre-back at the U’s since joining them back in 2011, returned from injury to start in the 1-1 draw ahead of regular right-back Miles Welch-Hayes, who was not included in the 18.

Welch-Hayes has started 16 of Colchester's 22 league games this season and featured in their 0-0 draw with Cheltenham Town, their last game before an enforced three-week fixture break.

Ball says the former Macclesfield Town defender has performed well so far, in the current campaign.

But on the back of a winless run, the U’s boss says he felt his team needed extra ‘presence and physicality’ against an in-form Cambridge side who lie third in League Two.

Ball said: “I have to manage a squad and at the minute after recent defeats and not getting that win, I felt we were lacking a bit of presence and physicality in the team.

“Miles has done really well this season and he’s been part of some really good performances but at the minute in time, I’ve gone a different way in that position and also, I just felt on the bench we had lots of defensive cover.

“I thought if Tom went down, we’d have cover and the same with a centre-half, you can move Tom across.

“So I just felt it wasn’t a game for Miles but it’s a 46-game season and we’re not even halfway through it, so no big deal.”

Eastman returned from an ankle injury against Cambridge and almost grabbed a late winner for Colchester, in the 1-1 draw.

The reliable defender played at right-back as a youngster at his former club Ipswich Town under Roy Keane and boss Ball had no qualms about playing him in a different position.

“People might question that but he played there as a kid at Ipswich, he’s comfortable on the ball and at the minute, I feel the team needs a bit more physicality,” added Ball.

“Tom’s a 6ft 4in centre-half playing at right-back and that gives us a different edge.

“But as we all know with Tom Eastman, when we played a three many years ago here he likes to step in and play as that right-sided player.

“I thought he did well.”