COLCHESTER United are hunting a replacement for Rene Gilmartin – but may opt against hiring another goalkeeper player-coach.

The U’s are keen to bring in a new keeper, following Gilmartin’s departure to Championship club Bristol City.

Gilmartin served a dual role during his two-year spell at the JobServe Community Stadium, combining his playing duties with coaching the club’s other senior goalkeepers.

He took over from long-serving Ademola Bankole as the club’s goalkeeper coach, in 2017.

But Colchester may decide against appointing another player-coach this time around and instead, sign a shot-stopper who will concentrate purely on playing duties.

The U’s want a new keeper to contest the number one shirt with Ethan Ross and Dillon Barnes, who is yet to sign a new deal with the club.

Colchester have been linked with their former keeper Dean Gerken, who is a free agent after leaving Ipswich Town at the end of last season.

Gilmartin quit the U’s to join Bristol City earlier this week, after rejecting a new contract offer at the League Two side.

The 32-year-old's performances came in for criticism at times last season but U’s boss John McGreal says he enjoyed working with the Irishman.

“Rene was brilliant for me,” said McGreal.

“He rung a lot of the staff up here to say thanks.

“He did that dual role very well.

“He didn’t play in his first season with us, because Sam Walker was in the team.

“But in his coaching role, he improved Sam who then moved on to the Championship.

“Dillon started as our number one last season but young boys do have their indifferent spells and Rene played more games.

“His clean sheet record last season was very good but he had a couple of injuries and that blighted him a little.

“On the coaching side of it, he was great for me and Steve (Ball) especially on matchday and was another set of ears to listen and also to talk about things.

“He’s another one who’s gone onto better things with a move to a Championship club, from an opportunity at our football club.

“It just shows you how big clubs throughout the Football League are looking at what we do.

“We missed out on the play-offs by a point last season and we were a few minutes away but the club hasn’t stood still.

“It’s moving forward – the recruitment is there and the younger boys are coming through.”

Colchester play their first pre-season friendly at Isthmian League premier division side Bowers and Pitsea tonight (kick-off 7.30pm).

Summer signings Paris Cowan-Hall, Omar Sowunmi, Luke Gambin and Michael Fernandes could all feature for the U’s for the first time, with fellow new boy Jevani Brown due to arrive at the club on Monday.