COLCHESTER United suffered their first away league defeat of the season tonight when they were beaten 2-0 at Tranmere Rovers.

The hosts fully deserved their victory at Prenton Park, as second-half goals from Josh Hawkes and skipper Peter Clarke secured them the three points.

For Colchester, it was another disappointing display, as they fell to a second successive defeat.

Hayden Mullins' side are now without a win in four league games, having not scored in that time.

Colchester made four changes to their starting line-up for their game at Tranmere.

Brendan Wiredu, Tom Eastman, Luke Hannant and Ryan Clampin – who started his first game since August 17 - all returned to the side.

Tommy Smith and Armando Dobra were both away on international duty, while Charlie Daniels missed out due to injury and Noah Chilvers dropped to the bench.

Colchester, watched by their former players Neil Danns and Steven Gillespie, made a solid start to what was a somewhat scrappy opening 45 minutes.

But at the first half progressed, the hosts began to get into their flow.

As a result, the U’s were forced to defend and almost fell behind in the 18th minute when Birkenhead-born goalkeeper Shamal George, returning to his home-town club, did brilliantly to keep out Tom Davies' bullet header from a corner.

Tranmere continued to go on the attack and the hosts went close again, in the 27th minute.

Elliott Nevitt's close-range effort at the near post deflected inches wide for a corner, after left-back Calum MacDonald had done well to get down to the byline and cross.

Freddie Sears’ fierce shot was saved by goalkeeper Ross Doohan at his near post four minutes before the break, as Colchester went in at the break on level terms.

Tranmere started the second half strongly and almost took the lead five minutes after the interval when Davies' header from Hawkes' corner came back off the crossbar.

It was a big let-off for the U's but they almost took the lead themselves when Frank Nouble was denied what looked like a certain goal by a covering defender's challenge, after good link-up play between Clampin and Alan Judge.

However, Colchester fell behind in the 54th minute.

Hawkes found space on the edge of the U's area and tried a shot which deflected up off Judge's boot and into the net.

The hosts' tails were up and they almost doubled their lead soon after when Nevitt's low shot was pushed away for a corner by George, after some patient Tranmere build-up.

Colchester made a double change in the 66th minute, introducing Sylvester Jasper and Chilvers.

And Chilvers almost equalise soon after when his low 25-yard attempt flew inches past the post.

But Tranmere doubled their lead in the 71st minute through former Southend United defender Clarke, who powered in a superb header from Callum McManaman's cross into the area leaving George with no chance.

Colchester might have reduced the deficit almost immediately when Sears got a rare glimpse of goal in the Tranmere area but keeper Doohan was alert and out quickly to deny the U's striker.

Cole Skuse's header from Cameron Coxe's cross floated over the bar for the U's before 17-year-old Samson Tovide was sent on for his first league appearance for Colchester, in place of Frank Nouble.

Jasper's low cross-shot sailed across the face of goal and away for a goal-kick, as the U's were beaten.

MATCH FACTS: COLCHESTER UNITED: George, Coxe, Eastman, Chambers, Clampin, Skuse, Wiredu, Hannant (sub Jasper, 66), Judge (sub Chilvers, 66), Sears, Nouble (sub Tovide, 82).

Subs (not used): Tchamadeu, Kennedy, Cooper, Turner.

U’s man of the match: Cole Skuse.

Tranmere Rovers: Doohan, Dacres-Cogley, MacDonald, Clarke, Davies, Morris (sub Watson , 84), Spearing, Hawkes (sub Merrie, 90), Foley, McManaman (sub Feeney, 82), Nevitt.

Subs (not used): Knight-Percival, Maynard, Duffy, Murphy.

Referee: James Oldham.

Bookings: Colchester: Clampin (foul, 14), Nouble (foul, 31), Jasper (unsporting behaviour, 90).

Goals: Tranmere: Hawkes (54), Clarke (71).