JOHN McGreal admits the absence of key players is contributing to Colchester United's slump in form which is threatening to extinguish their League Two play-off hopes.

The U's fell to a third straight defeat - and a fourth loss in five matches - after losing 2-0 at home to in-form Tranmere Rovers.

They now lie four points off the top seven, with seven games to go.

Goals from James Norwood and David Perkins resulted in another defeat for Colchester, who were without Harry Pell, Brandon Comley, Tom Eastman and Rene Gilmartin due to injury and Frank Nouble because of suspension.

U's boss McGreal said: "We're lacking in numbers and lacking in big players and also loss of form in certain individuals but we have to keep going.

"Looking at what's happened over the last three weeks, we've had big, big players missing and big personalities missing.

"But I keep saying it - it gives someone else an opportunity and I don't try and moan about injuries and stuff.

"People are forgetting about (Brandon) Comley - instead of being a three or four-week injury, it's now another three or four weeks from this moment in time.

"With Pelle (Harry Pell) and (Frank) Nouble being out we miss those big players and it's going against us at the minute but we'll continue to work hard."

Meanwhile, boss McGreal felt winger Abo Eisa was a goal threat for Colchester against Tranmere after the on-loan winger shone on his return to the team.

Eisa, on loan from Shrewsbury Town, earned the man-of-the-match award for the U's after an eye-catching display.

“I thought Abo was a bit of a goal threat for us.

“He took on the full-back a few times and got into a central position, getting a few shots away.

“They’re the things we’ve been saying to him in training and he’s been able to do that.

“He hit the post and we need those big players to come to the party to get us that goal start.

“That will give us confidence but we’ll continue to work hard."

Colchester's under-23s are in action tonight, at the JobServe Community Stadium.

Kevin Horlock's side play host to Leeds United in Professional Development League Two, kick-off 7pm.