Fiacre Kelleher says Matty Etherington deserves a lot of credit for helping Colchester United get back on track in League Two.

Etherington was confirmed as the club's new permanent head coach on Thursday, having seen them take 10 points from a possible 12 while in interim charge.

And fit-again centre-back Kelleher praised his appointment, as they prepare to visit leaders Stockport County this weekend.

"To be fair to Matty, he has let everybody play their game to a certain extent, to a point where they can feel comfortable on the pitch again," said Kelleher.

"You can see from the last four games everybody seems to be in a really good place and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

"We know the face so he's not unfamiliar, we know how he works.

"He has just made everybody feel comfortable, which is a massive thing.

"He's allowed us to have a bit of say in what we thought could change and could help us. He has taken all that on board and I think that's showed out on the pitch with the results."

Kelleher had not played a first-team game since early September, due to a groin injury, before a late substitute appearance against Sutton last weekend.

But he is glad to be returning to the scene with U's on an upward trajectory and their managerial situation now settled, following the departure of former boss Ben Garner.

"It's suiting me now, coming back into the team and environment where the lads are in a really good place," he added.

"I don't think you can clear your mind completely [regarding managerial uncertainty].

"You have to - when you're out on the pitch - work past that.

"I suppose it's always there in the back of people's minds, whether or not he likes me, that's in everybody's head.

"It can be tough but so far Matthew has been brilliant with everybody.

"He's made everybody feel a part of it, which is very important.

"It makes the group a lot happier and when everybody is pushing in the right direction, it makes things a lot easier for everybody.

"He's given the players a real boost, especially in the changing room."

U's have won on their travels to Grimsby and Accrington Stanley - where Etherington had to stand down from matchday duties after former club Crawley Town highlighted issues relating to his contract with them.

And Kelleher hailed those performances as they start to look further up the table.

"Grimsby, Accrington, both really good performances, probably classic away performances," he said.

"We defended our goal really well. Of course we will miss Joe [Taylor, Wales U21 duty], his speed at the other end of the pitch, but we've plenty of players ready and in good form to step in for him.

"We don't have to put a goal in place as such but it's nice knowing we don't have to look over our shoulders, especially with the young group that we have.

"They're in a more comfortable place now where they don't have to worry about falling into that bottom two.

"I think this will bring out the best in everybody and we can start to look up."

Kelleher's availability - after getting minutes with the under-21s - comes at a pertinent time, with Connor Hall now sidelined with a groin injury of his own.

And the 27-year-old is ready to play his part in helping to maintain Colchester's momentum.

"I'm sure I'll have to earn my chance because the lads are playing really well," he added.

"Same as last year, I'm always somebody who is ready.

"I've been around long enough now so I know what I need to come in and do, once I do get in there.

"Mentally I'm in a really good place, physically I think I'm there now as well, so just ready to go whenever."