JOHN McGreal has called on Colchester United’s players and staff to pull together after they dropped out of League Two’s play-off places.

The U’s surrendered a lead to lose for the second successive week, following their 2-1 reverse at Crewe Alexandra.

Colchester have won only one of their last seven matches and now found themselves in eighth spot, following back-to-back defeats.

He said: “We’re a team, we’re a unit, we’re one and we have to stand up to that together, because those comments (about throwing away leads) will get thrown at us now as a team.

“We have to continue to work hard and the only way to prove them wrong is the 90 minutes on a Saturday or a Tuesday.

“You can do it in training all day but once you step over the line – and that’s me as well – as a group, you have to do it together.

“We haven’t been able to do that over the last week but we’ll get it right.

“We’re a team and a unit as one and we have to turn the corner together.

“We’ll keep working hard and I’m a firm believer that if you are, you get the rewards.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team and the big thing is to get back to the training ground and work even harder.

“I try and take the positives and we're still in a great position in this league.

“Everyone beats each other in this league and I’m sure Crewe will have aspirations of getting in and around the play-offs.

“It’s back to the drawing board and we know that we have another tough game (at Northampton Town) next week.”

Colchester had led at half-time at Crewe, thanks to Sammie Szmodics’ well-taken early opener.

But Charlie Kirk equalised soon after the break and Eddie Nolan’s late header secured Alex victory, with three minutes remaining.

"It's a repeat of last week (against Mansfield),” said McGreal.

“It’s the mental side of it at the minute.

"We played some good football in the first half and created lots of opportunities.

"We could have been 2-0 or 3-0 at half-time and Sammie (Szmodics) and Mika (Mandron) both had great chances.

"The only way they were going to get back in was from our ill-discipline from the free-kicks but on the other side of it, I thought we defended it.

"We went in at half-time and said all the right things - stay on the front foot, keep after them, keep the right shape but within two minutes after half-time, a throw-in, cross, man back post, things we've spoken about all week and you find yourself 1-1.

"The team talk at half-time about taking the front foot as though we’ve started the game goes out of the window.

"You’re trying to keep that belief and I thought we weathered the storm after that and got more of the ball but we were wasteful in the second half, which we hadn't seen in the first half.

"That comes with an edginess and nervousness after what happened last week.

"The game was petering out into a 1-1 and to come here (and lose) after what we did in the first half and after what happened last week, it really hurts.”