Colchester United head coach John McGreal on Port Vale defeat

COLCHESTER United boss John McGreal admits his players now face a 'test of character' after they suffered back-to-back league defeats for the first time this season.

The U's lost 3-0 at Port Vale this afternoon, after Mark Cullen's brace and Tom Conlon's strike inflicted a heaviest league defeat in nearly a year on McGreal's side, following a lacklustre and error-ridden display at Vale Park.

Colchester remain in the League Two play-off places despite the loss but boss McGreal admitted it was a disappointing day.

McGreal said: "It's a poor performance - there's no getting away from it.

"You go from beating the top (against Plymouth) last week and everyone being in a really good place and performing well and it can bite you on the backside if you don't stick to your habits and you make indifferent decisions and that's proved the case.

"We've seen that in the last 20-30 minutes against Grimsby and throughout the game today.

"We've built ourselves into a healthy position but we've just come off it of late and had a couple of defeats, which we haven't had and it's now a test of character for the team and individuals."

Colchester fell behind to a strike from Conlon, who duly capitalised by slamming the ball home into the near post after some poor defensive play by the visitors.

Cullen made it 2-0 early in the second half when he calmly lifted the ball past keeper Dean Gerken.

And Cullen wrapped up Vale's win with 18 minutes to go when he picked up possession just outside the area before curling a superb low shot past Gerken and into the net.

McGreal added: "They say goals change games and we seem to be giving poor goals away, at this minute.

"We conceded poor goals at the wrong time but you have to give Port Vale a lot of credit for the way they set up against us on the press, which I thought worked really well for them.

"They were better than us but needless to say, I thought some of the turnovers that we gave were uncharacteristic from our players.

"They are uncharacteristic mistakes from the players, which we haven't seen from them this season.

"We gave away poor goals and there was indecision from players at times.

"It's out of character with some of the individuals in those areas.

"We didn't overly create much but we had a ton of corners and probed once or twice.

"But it's a really disappointing performance and I feel sorry for the fans especially, making their way through the elements to get here today."