RELEGATION-THREATENED Colchester United crashed to a 5-2 defeat in an incident-packed contest at Oldham Athletic tonight.

Goals from Conor McAleny, Alfie McCalmont and Carl Piergianni left the U’s with a mountain to climb at Boundary Park, as the hosts took a three-goal lead.

But Frank Nouble and Tom Eastman gave the visitors hope of rescuing a point with second-half strikes and they pushed hard for an equaliser, in the closing stages.

However, Davis Keillor-Dunn wrapped up Oldham’s win with two stoppage-time strikes, inflicting a defeat on Hayden Mullins’ side that leaves them still five points above the drop zone but with now only five games remaining, with their relegation rivals in action tomorrow.

Colchester made one change to their starting line-up, with Tom Lapslie was recalled in midfield in place of Jevani Brown, who dropped to the bench.

Prior to kick-off, a two-minute silence was observed following the sad death of His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Oldham had a penalty appeal rejected in the opening minutes when Dylan Fage tumbled under Ryan Clampin’s challenge in the area but referee Martin Coy waved away their claims.

But despite the reprieve, it was a sign of things to come for the U’s for the rest of the match as Oldham impressed.

The lively Dylan Bahamboula went close when he found space just outside the U’s area before drilling in a low shot which keeper Dean Gerken did well to stop.

Colchester tried their best to stop Oldham playing and pressed well and they almost got their rewards just before the half hour when home keeper Laurie Walker fluffed a back pass straight at Nouble but the ball sailed to safety.

But the Latics finished the first half strongly and two goals in the space of five minutes near the end of the half put the hosts in command.

Colchester fell behind in the 37th minute when McAleny converted from the spot, after Eastman had fouled Davis Keillor-Dunn in the area.

Buoyed by the goal, McAleny almost scored again a minute later when his first-time shot sailed wide of the post, after wing-back Fage had done well to pick him out on the edge of the U’s area.

But Colchester did fall further behind in the 42nd minute when McCalmont doubled Oldham’s lead with a fine free-kick from around 20 yards out that went in off a post.

It left the U’s with a mountain to climb in the second half and they almost fell further behind seven minutes after the break when Gerken pushed away McAleny’s shot for a corner after Bahamboula’s fine pass had dissected the U's defence.

Eastman cleared Bahamboula’s close-range effort off the line after Gerken had saved from both McCalmont and McAleny in quick succession, as the hosts pressed.

And Oldham did extend their advantage in the 56th minute through skipper Carl Piergianni, who smashed a shot into the net from close range after his first effort had been blocked following a corner.

It prompted interim boss Mullins to make a double change sending on Brown and Omar Sowunmi and switching to three at the back.

Gerken pushed Bahamboula’s effort onto his near post soon after but at the other end, Colchester struck the woodwork themselves when skipper Harry Pell’s 25-yard low drive came back off a post and Nouble fire the rebound wide of the target.

The U’s eventually did get a goal back in the 64th minute through Nouble, who finished smartly with a low shot past keeper Laurie Walker and into the opposite corner after Ryan Clampin had released him in space, down the left.

Michael Folivi and Noah Chilvers were sent on as Colchester desperately sought another goal.

It came with eight minutes remaining when Eastman’s low 25-yard drive could only be helped into the net by Walker, to give the U’s genuine hope of rescuing a point.

Colchester pushed hard for an equaliser in the final stages and they felt they should have had a penalty with four minutes remaining when Clampin tumbled under Walker’s challenge in the area.

But their appeals were waved away and Oldham wrapped up their victory in the 90th minute through Keillor-Dunn, who controlled on the edge of the area before smashing a powerful shot past Gerken.

There was still time for Keillor-Dunn to add a fifth for Oldham when he converted after Callum Whelan’s run had opened up a tiring Colchester defence, as the visitors were beaten.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Welch-Hayes, Eastman, Smith, Clampin, Pell, Lapslie (sub Stevenson, 79), Senior (sub Sowunmi, 58), Wiredu (sub Chilvers, 62), Harriott (sub Brown, 58), Nouble (sub Folivi, 62).

Subs (not used): Cowan-Hall, George.

Oldham Athletic: Walker, Clarke, Borthwick-Jackson, Piergianni, Whelan, Keillor-Dunn, Fage (sub Diarra, 87), Jameson (sub Adams, 51), McAleny (sub Garrity, 70), Bahamboula (sub Hilssner, 87), McCalmont.

Subs (not used): Ntambwe, Badan, Chapman.

Referee: Martin Coy.

U’s man of the match: Harry Pell.

Goals: Colchester: Nouble (64), Eastman (81). Oldham: McAleny (37), McCalmont (42), Piergianni (56), Keillor-Dunn (90, 90+5).

Bookings: Colchester: Eastman (foul, 41), Stevenson (foul, 90). Oldham: Piergianni (foul, 66), Bahamboula (foul, 68), Clarke (unsporting behaviour, 79), Adams (foul, 82).