COLCHESTER United have dropped into the League Two relegation zone despite claiming a creditable 1-1 draw at Tranmere Rovers this afternoon.

Wins for Forest Green Rovers and Sutton United saw the U's fall into the bottom two, despite a battling point at Prenton Park.

Alistair Smith's excellent eighth-minute strike cancelled out Kieron Morris's opener for the hosts, with both goals coming in the space of a minute.

Both sides had their chances to win it after that but the points were shared.

Colchester boss Danny Cowley made two changes to his starting line-up.

Ellis Iandolo and Tom Hopper both returned to the team, with Tom Dallison and John Akinde dropping to the bench.

There was a late change among the U’s substitutes, with Samson Tovide dropping out in the warm-up and Conor Wilkinson replacing him on the bench.

Colchester went into the game having not won at Prenton Park since 2008 and fell behind in the seventh minute.

Kieron Morris headed in from close range following Rob Apter's accurate cross from the right, to give Tranmere the lead.

But it took Colchester less than a minute to equalise – and what a goal it was.

Alistair Smith brilliantly volleyed into the bottom corner of the net from the edge of the area from Brad Ihionvien’s knock down, to leave goalkeeper Luke McGee with no chance.

It was an instant response for the U’s but undeterred, Tranmere continued to press to restore their lead.

Colchester goalkeeper Owen Goodman tipped over Morris’s strike from the edge of the area.

And a few minutes later, U’s skipper Connor Hall cleared off the line, after Morris had headed Apter's effort towards goal.

Tranmere continued to press, with Apter’s curled effort flashing inches past the far post after he had found space on the edge of the U’s area and Connor Jennings also going close for the hosts with a similar effort, soon after.

Regan Hendry's half-volley from the edge of the area flashed over the bar for the hosts but Colchester came agonisingly close to scoring, just before half-time.

Cameron McGeehan was denied by goalkeeper Luke McGee from point-blank range, seconds after Ihionvien’s shot was blocked and McGee had initially pushed away Iandolo's strike.

Colchester went in at the break level and made a half-time substitution, with Noah Chilvers on for Ihionvien, with McGeehan pushed into a more advanced position in attack as a result.

The U's went close in the 56th minute when McGeehan's shot was touched onto the bar by McGee and over for a corner, after a good move by the visitors.

But at the other end, Goodman had to make a one-handed save midway through the second half to foil Morris, as both sides pushed for a breakthrough.

McGee did well to kick away Read's goalbound strike from the edge of the area as the clock ticked down and Josh Hawkes' effort struck the stanchion for the hosts, but the points were shared.

MATCH FACTS: COLCHESTER UNITED: Goodman, Hall, Mingi (sub Kelleher, 88), Iandolo, Read, Smith, Fevrier (sub Dallison, 59), Anderson, McGeehan (sub Wilkinson, 83), Hopper (sub Akinde, 84), Ihionvien (sub Chilvers, 46).

Subs (not used): Jay, Hornby.

Tranmere Rovers: McGee, O'Connor, Davies, Turnbull, J Norris, Apter (sub Hawkes, 73), McAlear, Hendry, Morris (sub Taylor, 90), Jennings, L Norris (sub Saunders, 63).

Subs (not used): Robson, Dennis, Merrie, Belehouan.

Goals: Colchester: Smith (8). Tranmere: Morris (7).

Bookings: Colchester: Fevrier (foul, 35), Hall (unsporting behaviour, 38), McGeehan (foul, 39), Mingi (foul, 77). Tranmere: Jennings (foul, 45), Hendry (foul, 90).

Referee: Scott Tallis.

Attendance: 3,923 (167 U's fans).