PARIS Cowan-Hall scored twice as Colchester United kicked off their Trophy Group A campaign on a winning note with an impressive 3-2 victory at League One side Gillingham tonight.

Cowan-Hall also had a hand in Theo Robinson’s strike for a much-changed U’s side, who were victorious at Priestfield to make it four straight wins in all competitions.

Brendan Wiredu, signed on loan from Charlton Athletic yesterday and youngster Kwame Poku were both handed their U’s debuts.

And new signing Robinson, along with Cowan-Hall, Omar Sowunmi and Noah Chilvers, made their first-ever competitive starts for Colchester.

In total, U’s boss John McGreal made a total of nine changes to his starting line-up, following last weekend’s 1-0 win at Oldham in League Two.

The team had little more than 50 league starts between them for the U’s with Brandon Comley, who departs for international duty with Montserrat tomorrow, skipper for the night.

Gillingham registered the game’s first effort on target in the second minute when Mikael Ndjoli hooked a shot well over the bar.

But Colchester opened the scoring in the eighth minute through Cowan-Hall, who prodded home from close-range after Robinson's effort had been saved by Walsh, following a well-worked move.

U’s keep Ross did well to get down low and save Regan Charles-Cook’s long-range effort a few minutes later, following a short free-kick from the hosts.

Indeed, Gillingham responded well to going behind early on.

At the other end, Colchester should really have doubled their lead when Robinson mis-kicked his effort at the far post after being picked out by Cowan-Hall, following another bright move.

But Gillingham equalised midway through the first half through their skipper Stuart O’Keefe, who lashed home from the edge of the area after the U’s had only partially cleared their lines in the area.

It was the first goal that keeper Ethan Ross has conceded for the first team, in his fourth senior appearance for the U’s.

Gillingham looked the more likely side to grab another goal before half-time, with Charles-Cook’s hopeful effort flying well over the bar and Ndjoli exchanging passes with former U’s striker Mikael Mandron before advancing towards goal and forcing Ross to make a save at his near post.

But the sides went in level at the break and in the opening minutes of the second half, O’Keefe's effort from the edge of the area flew wide after a good move by the hosts.

However, Colchester restored their lead ten minutes after the interval through Robinson, who stroked a fine low shot past Walsh and inside his far post after collecting possession in the hosts’ area.

And it was 3-1 seven minutes later when Cowan-Hall lifted a shot into the roof of the net from inside the area, after Poku and Ryan Clampin had combined well to help pick him out.

The impressive Poku fired a shot straight at Walsh at his near post after driving at the Gills defence, as the U’s played with confidence.

But Gillingham pulled a goal back with 12 minutes remaining through Mandron, who headed home substitute Olly Lee’s corner from close range.

And the hosts almost levelled three minutes later when Ross pushed away substitute Alex Jakubiak's low shot for a corner at his near post.

Lee curled a free-kick just wide for the hosts from the edge of the area soon after, as they went in search of an equaliser.

Substitute Courtney Senior dragged a shot wide late on for Colchester and although six minutes of stoppage time were added at the end, the visitors held out to claim a fourth straight win.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Ross, Wiredu, Sowunmi (sub Eastman, 60), Kensdale, Clampin, Comley, Chilvers (sub James, 82), Cowan-Hall (sub Senior, 76), Brown, Poku, Robinson.

Substitutes (not used): Hasanally, Stevenson, Nouble, Vose.

Gillingham: Walsh, Hodson, O’Keefe, Ogilvie, Cisse (sub Jakubiak, 70), Marshall, O’Connor, Tucker, Ndjoli (sub Lee, 70), Mandron, Charles-Cook (sub Byrne, 73).

Substitutes (not used): Ehmer, Fuller, Jones, Bonham.

Referee: David Rock.

U’s goals: Cowan-Hall (8, 62), Robinson (55).

Gillingham goals: O’Keefe (23), Mandron (78).

U’s bookings: Wiredu (foul, 75).

Gillingham bookings: None.

U’s man of the match: Paris Cowan-Hall.