COLCHESTER United head coach John McGreal has praised his players for “putting their bodies on the line” to help protect the team’s miserly defensive record.

The U’s have kept four clean sheets in their last seven league games and only conceded three in that time.

The most recent shut-out came in Saturday’s excellent 1-0 victory at Barnet.

It has put the team tenth in the table and only a couple of points behind seventh-placed Wycombe Wanderers.

“Clean sheets in this league are really important, because we do tend to get chances,” said McGreal.

“It was a great defensive performance against the likes of John Akinde, Simeon Akinola and Shaquile Coulthirst.

“They were a huge threat but I thought Ryan Inniss, Frank Kent and Tom Eastman dealt with it admirably and put their bodies on the line.

“Goalkeeper Sam Walker is also in a rich vein of form.

“He made a couple of good saves early on and they’re the type of shots that can get away from you and there’s a tap in.

“That was really good for us and it was good to have that confidence.”

McGreal was also delighted for goal hero Szmodics.

He says the attacker has had to be patient, in terms of battling back from injuries, and is now reaping the rewards for his determination.

“It’s been a lot of frustration with Sam with his injuries but now he’s put himself as our joint leading goalscorer and what a strike,” said the U’s boss.

“It was a goal that could have won any game of football in whatever division and I’m really pleased for him, because it’s been hard work for him to get back and we’ve had to look after him, over the last couple of games.

“We want to play him as much as we can as we know he’s a threat and we’re delighted for him.”

McGreal felt his side played with real pace at Barnet.

Drey Wright operated in a more central role with Kane Vincent-Young coming in as left wing-back.

“We wanted a bit more pace in the team and I think we saw that,” he said.

“There was a little bit of experience coming out of the team in Kyel Reid but we brought Kane in and moved Drey and that brought that pace.

“We’ve felt as though we’ve lacked that a little bit of late in that final third.

“Doug Loft and Brandon Comley also put in a lot of toil in that midfield and they’re keeping out the likes of (Tom) Lapslie and (Craig) Slater at the moment, who have done ever so well.

“You have to give them credit.”