Colchester boss Ben Garner expects new signing Cameron McGeehan will get better and better after lasting almost an hour in his first game since April.
The 28-year-old joined the U's as a free agent, having been released by Belgian club Oostende.
And he was included in the starting line-up for Saturday's 2-0 home victory over Tranmere Rovers in League Two.
"Those minutes will be so valuable for him, his first game in a long, long time," Garner told BBC Essex Sport.
"He'll be so much better for that and it was a really strong start from him."
McGeehan scored four goals in 21 games for Oostende in 2022-23, in the second tier of Belgian football, and also won his first international cap for Northern Ireland, against San Marino.
He has joined a Colchester side that had won only one of their five previous League Two games.
McGeehan was replaced by transfer deadline-day signing Jay Mingi, who made his debut from the bench, while centre-back Zach Mitchell got through his first 90 minutes for the club after arriving from Charlton.
"I thought Zach Mitchell's debut was as good as I've ever seen at any club," said Garner.
"He's only 18, obviously I knew Zach previously and gave him his debut at Charlton last season, so we knew what we were getting in terms of character.
"He's lifted the group. He's as brave as a lion with and without the ball. He's everything I like to see in a player in terms of courage and intensity."
Colchester are next in action with a home game against third-placed Mansfield Town on Saturday.