COLCHESTER United's League Two play-off hopes suffered another blow this afternoon when they were beaten 3-0 at Exeter City.

Goals from Matt Jay, Lee Holmes and Nicky Law gave the Grecians all three points at St James Park, helping them leapfrog the U's in the table.

It was a third defeat in four matches for Colchester, each of them by a 3-0 scoreline.

The only real bright spot for the U's on an otherwise disappointing day was the debut for 16-year-old winger Todd Miller, who became the youngest player ever to represent the club.

Colchester head coach John McGreal made one change to his starting line-up for their game at Exeter.

Skipper Luke Prosser returned in a 3-4-2-1 formation, with Frank Nouble missing out due to suspension.

Ben Stevenson was passed fit to play after his groin injury while 16-year-old winger Todd Miller was among the substitutes.

Colchester, playing against the strong wind in the first half, were well organised and gave Exeter few glimpse of goal in a pretty uneventful opening 45 minutes.

Mikael Mandron fired a tame shot straight at Exeter keeper Christy Pym in the opening minutes, after skipper Luke Prosser’s free-kick had picked him out.

Chances were at a premium for both sides though in the first half, although Exeter did go close just after the half hour mark when Ryan Bowman's acrobatic kick flashed inches wide after Nicky Law had done well in the build-up for the hosts.

Mandron's glancing header from Courtney Senior's corner sailed wide at the near post, late in the first half.

But Colchester fell behind just before the interval when a long punt from the back saw Ryan Bowman challenge Prosser on the edge of the area and Matt Jay sent a superb half-volley past Gilmartin and into the empty net, to give the hosts the lead.

The U's felt a free-kick should have been given for a foul on Prosser but the visitors went in at the break trailing.

Colchester needed a response and had a golden opportunity to equalise, in the opening two minutes of the second half.

Good play between Senior and Kane Vincent-Young released Sammie Szmodics in the area but he was denied at point blank range by keeper Pym.

At the other end, Lee Holmes’ low shot from the edge of the area was saved by Gilmartin.

And the U's keeper was called into action again soon after when he denied Holmes, after Bowman had pounced on Frankie Kent's under-hit pass midway inside his own half and squared the ball to him.

Just before the hour, Exeter had another chance to double their lead when Bowman latched onto a long ball from defence and attempted a low shot that grazed the far post.

But Colchester did fall further behind just before the midway point in the second half when Holmes raced onto Jay's pass and dinked the ball past the onrushing Gilmartin and inside the near post.

The U's twice came close to pulling a goal back with 20 minutes remaining when Pym made a fine flying save from Mandron's goalbound effort while seconds later, the Exeter keeper pushed away Szmodics' low shot.

U's boss McGreal then made changes, bringing on winger Abo Eisa for skipper Prosser and switching to four at the back.

With 15 minutes to go, Mandron's low shot fizzed inches wide of the far post, as Colchester pushed for a route back into the game.

But the fixture was over as a contest with 14 minutes remaining when Exeter scored a third.

The impressive Law poked the ball past Gilmartin from close range, after Hiram Boateng had run at the U's defence and picked him out well.

Only fine saves from Gilmartin in the space of a minute from Wilson and then Jay prevented Colchester from falling further behind, as the clock ticked down.

Ryan Jackson’s low shot was well saved low down by Pym who also denied Mandron in the closing stages but the U's suffered defeat.