Colchester United's League Two play-off hopes were dealt another blow this afternoon after they were beaten 2-0 at home by in-form Tranmere Rovers.

The U's suffered a third successive loss and a fourth defeat in five matches, after losing at the JobServe Community Stadium.

Colchester head coach John McGreal made three changes to his side for the game against Tranmere.

Dillon Barnes returned in goal for his first start since December 15 and there was also a welcome return for midfielder Tom Lapslie in midfield, following his hamstring injury.

There was also a return for Abo Eisa in attack for the U’s.

Frank Nouble missed out through suspension after having his ban extended by two matches following his dismissal against Forest Green and goalkeeper Rene Gilmartin was ruled out by a knee injury, while Tom Eastman was also sidelined with a calf injury.

Connor Jennings fired into the side netting from a tight angle early on for Tranmere, who had claimed five straight wins going into the game.

But Colchester made the brighter start, with Courtney Senior curling a free-kick just over from 20 yards and Sammie Szmodics’ first-time shot from the edge of the area flying just over after good link-up play between Senior and Ryan Jackson.

It was a bright start from the U’s, who looked the more likely to open the scoring early on and had plenty of the ball in the visitors’ half.

But Norwood was always a menace and came agonisingly close to netting at the far post after 20 minutes, after Jennings helped on Ollie Banks’ cross in the area.

And Colchester fell behind midway through the first half when after Norwood latched onto David Perkins’ excellent defence-splitting pass and confidently lifted a shot past Barnes and in.

The goal came somewhat against the run of play but it was a great finish and Norwood’s 28th goal of the season.

Colchester tried to respond quickly to the goal, with Frankie Kent heading over from Eisa’s inswinging free-kick, Ryan Jackson’s fierce 25-yard drive flying just over the bar and Eisa's low shot from the edge of the area saved low down by keeper Scott Davies, just before half-time.

The U’s went in trailing at the break and things got even worse for them after just 43 seconds of the second half.

Former Colchester midfielder Perkins fired in from close range after Barnes had clawed out Jennings’ effort, following Jake Caprice’s break down the right.

It was a body blow for the hosts and not for the first time in recent games, left them with a mountain to climb to get something from the game.

Szmodics’ long-range effort flew straight at Davies for the U’s and the home side came even closer to scoring just past the midway point of the second half.

Eisa's curled free-kick was pushed onto the inside of the post by Davies and cleared from under his own bar by Caprice.

Luke Norris and Brennan Dickenson were both sent on by boss McGreal in a bid to get his side back into the game.

But at the other end, Barnes saved Norwood's long-range free-kick as the clock ticked down, as Colchester fell to another defeat.