COLCHESTER United's under-18s lost 4-0 to Crystal Palace in their opening match of the season, at a windy Florence Park, writes BRIAN WALLER.

Liam Bailey's side suffered a heavy defeat against the Eagles in their Professional Development League Two opener - but for 75 per cent of the match the U’s youth were in this game.

Colchester almost scored after 14 minutes when Billy Cracknell's header flew just over the bar.

But Palace threatened soon after, with keeper Chandler Hallett diverting Brandon Aveiro's effort just wide of his right hand post.

Aveiro went close again for Palace soon after with a shot that flew inches wide, as the sides went in goal-less at the break.

After the interval, the U’s had to defend into the wind but still created some good chances.

Sam Cornish's dangerous ball in from the right was nearly stabbed in at the near post by Tom Stagg.

And although Tetteh-Quaye Addy's curled effort flew just over the bar for Palace, the hosts continued to threaten.

Colchester came agonisingly close to scoring when Al-Amin Kazeem's ferocious shot beat Palace keeper Jacob Russell but hit a post and came out again.

At the other end, Rob Street's cross sailed wide of the far post before midway through the second half, Palace took the lead.

Aveiro's shot bounced back off Hallett into the path of Street who put the rebound away, midway through the second half.

Colchester almost equalised when Palace keeper Jacob Russell saved Stagg's effort down to his left.

But Palace doubled their lead with 17 minutes remaining through Street, who scored from the rebound after Hallett had saved well from Ajayi.

Russell pushed away Cracknell's powerful back-post header soon after and Cornish's effort flew just wide of the keeper’s right hand post.

But Palace effectively wrapped up victory with ten minutes remaining through Ajayi, who curled a low shot past Hallett and in after a superb long run forward by centre-back Jude Russell.

And their victory was complete when Street completed his hat-trick late on, driving a shot into the net after Ajayi laid the ball back to the centre.

Stagg's shot was saved by Russell before the end, as Colchester's youngsters were beaten.

U's under-18: Hallett, Kane, Cracknell, Terry, Kazeem, Cornish, Freitas-Gouveia, Kennedy, Thomas, Trialist, Stagg. Substitutes: Tovide, Sayer, Parish, Asare-Williams, Collins.