Colchester United head coach John McGreal admits Kyel Reid's red card just before half-time was a "pivotal" moment in his side's 4-1 home defeat against Cheltenham Town.

Reid, who is due to see his loan from Coventry City expire this month, was dismissed after raising an arm towards Robins' Joe Morrell just before a U's free-kick, in the closing stages of the first half at the Weston Homes Community Stadium.

It left Colchester, who had been leading 1-0 thanks to Kurtis Guthrie's fantastic long-range strike, having to play more than half of the game with only ten men.

And Cheltenham fully capitalised on their advantage, with goals from former Colchester attacker Sanmi Odelusi, Nigel Atangana, Jerell Sellars and Mohamed Eisa giving the visitors a big victory.

McGreal said: “The sending off was pivotal, just before half-time and there’s no excuse for what he’s done.

“He’s let everyone down – we’ve looked at the video and there’s no complaints.

“He’s raised his arms which you can’t do and he’s done it not only one, but twice.

“Kyel said that the lad stood on his foot – I don’t want to hang the lad out to dry but it was pivotal."

Colchester had been buoyed before that by Guthrie's excellent strike on his first league start since February, 2017.

McGreal said: “Kurtis has been waiting to come back – we know what he can do and it’s a great strike for him on his comeback, after such a long time out.

“I thought his performance lasting the 90 minutes shows the type of player that he is."

McGreal has backed his players to respond to the setback, after they missed the chance to move into the automatic promotion places today.

He added: “The boys have put in an unbelievable shift over the last few weeks and I’m proud of them.

“We’ve had three defeats in 18 – we could have done better but now I want to get another run going and get everyone behind us again.

“We were comfortable in the first 15 to 20 minutes of the second half but we conceded a poor first goal and the goals we conceded aren’t ones that we generally concede.

“We’d kept three successive clean sheets in a row and there’s a reason for that.

“It’s been a bit of a shock with the sending off and it’s affected us and we had to chase the game in the second half, which is a tough ask with ten men no matter which division you are in.”