Ten-man Colchester United were on the wrong end of a heavy home defeat this afternoon after losing 4-1 at home to Cheltenham Town.

Colchester head coach John McGreal made three changes to his starting line-up.

Kurtis Guthrie was handed his first league start for the U’s since February 2017 while Brandon Comley and Kyel Reid also returned to the starting line-up.

Leading scorer Sammie Szmodics dropped to the bench, as did Cole Kpekawa and Sean Murray while Doug Loft was also among the substitutes after recovering from a shoulder injury.

Colchester started brightly and Guthrie had the ball in the net in the third minute after being sent through on goal but pushed Emmanuel Onariase into his keeper Scott Flinders in the process and the effort was disallowed.

Frankie Kent’s low shot from eight yards was saved by the legs of Flinders after Cheltenham failed to clear Kyel Reid’s 12th-minute corner but Cheltenham came into the game a little more, after that.

Danny Wright’s header from Joe Morrell’s cross was well held by U’s goalkeeper Sam Walker, who denied the same player again soon after following Carl Winchester’s free-kick into the area.

Colchester made the breakthrough five minutes before half-time.

Guthrie held off Morrell and unleashed a superb shot from 25 yards that flew in for his first goal since February 25, despite Flinders’ best efforts to keep it out.

But three minutes later, Colchester were reduced to ten men when Kyel Reid was sent off after raising his arm to Joe Morrell in an off the ball incident, prior to a free-kick deep in the Cheltenham half.

It left the U’s up against it in the second half and the Robins started as they meant to go on, after half-time.

Kevin Dawson’s downward free header was comfortably saved by Walker before the visitors equalised just before the hour mark through Cheltenham debutant Sanmi Odelusi, who was a Colchester player before being released by the club last month.

He bundled home after Walker had initially kept out Eisa’s low drive and almost scored again eight minutes later when he was denied by the U’s goalkeeper, after substitute Cole Kpekawa’s error had presented him with a chance to shoot.

Walker palmed away Joe Morrell’s fine effort for a corner before Cheltenham took the lead with 20 minutes remaining through Nigel Atangana, who bundled the ball home after Tom Eastman had failed to cut out Sellars’ drive from the left.

Things got even worse for Colchester with ten minutes to go when Sellars drove home low under Walker and in after he had been picked out in space by Dawson.

And Colchester’s misery was complete five minutes later when Eisa slotted low past Walker after his run had been picked out by Winchester, to ensure a miserable afternoon for the hosts.