COLCHESTER United suffered back-to-back defeats in League Two for the first time since October after slumping to a 3-0 loss at Port Vale this afternoon.

The U’s play-off hopes were dented at a wind and rain-swept Vale Park, after Mark Cullen’s brace and Tom Conlon’s strike condemned them to a hugely disappointing defeat.

It was Colchester's heaviest league defeat since March and there were very few positives for U's boss John McGreal to take from what was a lacklustre display, on the road.

McGreal had made one change to Colchester's starting line-up for their game against Vale.

Courtney Senior returned to their starting line-up in place of Callum Harriott, who dropped to the bench.

Tom Lapslie and Paris Cowan-Hall both missed out through injury.

The hosts started well and Colchester keeper Dean Gerken was called into action in the eighth minute when he pushed away Cristian Montano’s powerful shot after the Vale man had found space in midfield and driven towards goal.

Vale went close again four minutes later through Conlon, who collected a short corner from Rhys Browne and drove in a shot from just inside the area which hit the side netting.

But Colchester eventually fell behind in the 14th minute – and a lot of it was down to their own making.

Gerken’s poor throw was not dealt with properly by Tom Eastman and Ryan Jackson on the edge of their own area and after Browne had collected possession and picked him out, Conlon duly capitalised by slamming the ball home into the near post.

Vale immediately went on the hunt for more goals, after that.

Montano's beautiful curled effort whistled just past the upright after Browne had laid the ball off before Colchester registered their first meaningful effort on goal, on the half hour.

Harry Pell's shot was cleared off the line by Leon Legge after the Vale defender had initially cleared Cohen Bramall's low cross into the U’s midfielder's path, on the edge of the area.

Theo Robinson's acrobatic attempt from Bramall's corner was then deflected away for a corner but it was Vale who finished the first half as they had started it – on the offensive.

Cullen's long-range effort flashed over the bar after Jackson had given the ball away inside his own half and just before the break, Shaun Brisley's close-range effort from David Worrall's corner was pushed away by Gerken for a corner, as the U’s went in at the interval behind.

Vale almost doubled their lead five minutes after the break when Legge’s far-post header from Worrall’s corner bounced just wide of the target.

But Colchester fell further behind in the 54th minute when Cullen calmly lifted the ball past Gerken and into the net, after Worrall's lofted pass had sailed over Eastman's head and into his path.

Vale went close again just after the hour when Browne controlled well but could not keep his shot down from a tight angle, after Conlon had picked him out in the area.

Luke Norris swept a shot wide after exchanging passes with fellow substitute Kwame Poku in the area.

But Colchester fell further behind with 18 minutes remaining when Cullen picked up possession just outside the area before curling a superb low shot past Gerken and into the net, for his second of the game.

Norris stabbed wide of the target after Nouble had curled a ball into the Vale box with ten minutes remaining, as the U's crashed to defeat.