COLCHESTER went with a tried-and-tested approach after John McGreal’s summer exit.

McGreal left the Essex club in July after their play-off defeat to Exeter and Ball stepped up from number two to take the helm.

It is the fourth time running that the U’s have promoted from within as the 50-year-old former Arsenal trainee takes his first management role.

Chairman Robbie Cowling has admitted that belts must be tightened in light of the pandemic and the club must lean more on the academy.

Four senior players have left since last season with Fulham’s England under-20 international striker Martell Taylor-Crossdale the most eye-catching arrival.

After finishing sixth last term, Ball has to pick up with a smaller squad and that depth will be tested over the frantic format of the coming season.

But they did put up a good fight against Reading in their Carabao Cup opener before going down 3-1 to Lucas Joao’s hat-trick.

Ball was able to make five changes for the EFL in midweek when they were beaten 2-0 at Portsmouth and felt they competed well again.

He said: “For 35 minutes, I’m sitting there thinking I’ve got a really hard decision to make for the weekend.

“I have a good group and anyone who watched the game, certainly the first half will see a real proof of what I’m trying to do.

“I want them to try and make my decisions harder for the weekend.

“I know the team in my head already and I have a plan set up for Bradford so there are certainly boys there who I know can step up to it.”

Striker Luke Gambin is pushing to start after rushing back from international duty with Malta to play at Fratton Park.

Ball added: “He’s started two games in four days for Malta and he epitomizes what I want out of this football club – a real desire to play.

“He had a bit of a stop-start year last year but he’s one that I have so much time for.”