COLCHESTER United were beaten at home in the league for the first time since October after Grimsby Town came back twice to claim a 3-2 victory tonight.

Charles Vernam proved a thorn in the U’s side all night, scoring a hat-trick to damage the hosts’ automatic promotion hopes.

Colchester had led twice in the game through Luke Prosser and Theo Robinson but Ian Holloway’s side twice came from behind to claim the points, at the JobServe Community Stadium.

It was a hugely disappointing result for John McGreal’s men, especially coming after such an impressive result and performance against Plymouth Argyle, just three days earlier.

Colchester boss John McGreal kept an unchanged starting line-up for the visit of Grimsby.

That meant that midfielder Harry Pell shrugged off an injury to start, while Ben Stevenson continued in the number ten role.

Buoyed by their splendid win over Plymouth Argyle three days earlier, Colchester started brightly.

Frank Nouble fired straight at Grimsby goalkeeper James McKeown inside the area, after Ben Stevenson had picked him out.

But at the other end, U’s defender Tom Eastman was called upon to make a brilliant block to deny Charles Vernam in the area after Ryan Jackson had headed the ball straight to the Grimsby attacker.

Colchester had a big penalty shout rejected in the 16th minute after Grimsby defender Luke Waterfall appeared to handle Theo Robinson’s shot at point-blank range, from Jackson's cross.

But the U’s were ahead barely a minute later.

Skipper Luke Prosser drilled home a low shot into the bottom corner after Grimsby had only partially cleared away Cohen Bramall’s corner, for his third goal of the season.

But Colchester’s lead lasted barely four minutes.

Vernam equalised for Grimsby with a fine right-foot shot from outside the box that sailed into the bottom right corner, from Matt Green’s assist.

Vernam almost scored again just before the half hour when he ran at the U's defence before unleashing a low shot that U’s keeper Dean Gerken did well to turn around the post.

And soon after, Elliott Whitehouse tried his luck with a 30-yard low strike that flashed just past the post.

But Colchester restored their lead in the 43rd minute through Robinson, who pounced to score from close range after keeper James McKeown had only parried Eastman's low shot.

It meant that the U’s went in at the break ahead but Grimsby were very much still in the game and came close to an equaliser ten minutes after half-time when Vernam fired a tame shot straight at Gerken from a good position, from Bradley Garmston’s cross.

The Mariners made a double change soon after, sending on target man James Hanson and former U’s loanee Billy Clarke in a bid to find another equaliser.

And it came in the 66th minute when Vernam swept home at the far post after Elliott Hewitt’s cross was allowed to sail across the face of the Colchester box.

Prosser felt as though he had been fouled by Hanson in the build-up to the goal and was booked after taking his protests too far.

Colchester were pegged back and it got even worse for them, three minutes later.

Buoyed by his earlier goals, Vernam collected possession just inside the Grimsby half and brilliantly danced past several players before slotting a low shot home, despite Gerken’s attempts to keep it out.

It was an amazing turnaround by Grimsby and although Courtney Senior and Kwame Poku were both sent on in the latter stages in an attempt to salvage an equaliser.

Prosser had an effort cleared off the line in stoppage time for the hosts and Colchester were beaten.


Colchester United goals: Prosser (17), Robinson (42).

Grimsby Town goals: Vernam (21, 66, 69).

Colchester United bookings: Prosser (unsporting behaviour, 67), Stevenson (foul, 79), Bramall (foul, 90).

Grimsby Town bookings: Green (foul, 50), Vernam (foul, 88).

Colchester United: Gerken, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Bramall, Pell (sub Norris, 71), Comley (sub Poku, 83), Nouble, Stevenson, Harriott (sub Senior, 84), Robinson.

Substitutes (not used): Sowunmi, Clampin, Gambin, Ross.

U’s man of the match: Theo Robinson.

Grimsby Town: McKeown, Hewitt, Ohman, Waterfall, Garmston (sub Hanson, 59), Benson, Glennon, Green (sub Clarke, 59), Vernam, Tilley (sub Wright, 77), Whitehouse.

Subs (not used): Pollock, Grandin, Hendrie, Russell.

Referee: Will Finnie.

Attendance: 2,954.

NEXT UP: Port Vale v Colchester United, League Two, Saturday, 3pm.