COLCHESTER United suffered their first league defeat of the season this afternoon after they lost 3-2 at Carlisle United.

Luke Norris's brace either side of half-time had seen the U's recover a two-goal deficit at Brunton Park, after goals from Lewis Alessandra and Jon Mellish had given the hosts a 2-0 lead inside the opening half hour.

But Aaron Hayden struck with nine minutes remaining to secure all three points for Carlisle and leave Colchester beaten.

Colchester head coach Steve Ball made two changes to his starting line-up.

Skipper Harry Pell returned from injury to start for the first time since the opening day of the League Two season while Norris made his first league start of the campaign.

Ben Stevenson missed out through injury while Courtney Senior dropped to the bench.

Carlisle, who had won their last three league games heading into the match, made the stronger start.

The Cumbrians were dominant in the opening stages, which was a sign of things to come for the majority of the first half.

Colchester found themselves behind in the fourth minute when Alessandra’s cross flew into the far corner of the net, following good link-up play between Gime Toure and Nick Anderton.

In the minutes that followed, Joshua Kayode almost got on the end of a corner and Alessandra's effort went over the bar as Carlisle continued at a fast pace.

Pell was forced to head the ball over for a corner after Kayode’s long throw had been allowed to bounce in the area, causing confusion for the U’s.

And although Cohen Bramall was denied by an offside flag midway through the first half following Tommy Smith’s fine pass, the offside flag had been correctly waved.

Colchester struggled to deal with Carlisle’s high energy and high press and the visitors fell further behind just before the half hour mark.

Callum Guy won possession on the halfway line allowing Carlisle to break and Alessandra drove forward and cut back for Mellish who slotted home a right-foot shot, for 2-0.

Colchester gave the ball away cheaply on too many occasions and struggled to stick with their runners.

But as the first half drew to a close, the U’s upped their game.

Norris was just unable to connect with Bramall’s free-kick and only Hayden’s fine defensive header denied Norris at the far post, following Jevani Brown’s cross.

Harriott’s shot was pushed away by Farman but from the resultant corner, Colchester pulled a goal back in the 44th minute.

Norris nodded in from two yards, after Pell had helped the ball on in the area.

It meant that Colchester became the first League Two side to score at Brunton Park since they achieved the feat in a 3-0 win, back in March.

Kwame Poku’s fierce effort was palmed away by Farman deep into first-half stoppage-time, as the U’s went in at the break trailing by one goal.

Anderton’s delivery clipped the crossbar before sailing to safety early in the second half before Colchester were awarded a 51st-minute penalty after Poku’s cross had been inexplicably handled in the box by Rod McDonald, with Norris lurking.

Norris duly slotted home for his second of the game to complete an unlikely comeback from Colchester, given the manner in which the Cumbrians had dominated the majority of the first half.

U’s keeper Dean Gerken palmed the ball away for a corner and the visitors had a let off midway through the second half when Joe Riley’s effort flashed dangerously across the face of goal for Carlisle, as the contest began to get a little stretched.

Mellish missed another gilt-edged chance when he fired wide with only Gerken to beat with 12 minutes remaining, prompting boss Ball to send on Courtney Senior and Miles Welch-Hayes for Brown and Miquel Scarlett.

But Colchester eventually fell behind again, with nine minutes remaining.

Bramall cleared Hayden's effort off the line but the U's reprieve was only short-lived as Hayden nodded in at the far post to restore Carlisle's lead, after Anderton had been denied.

Substitute Josh Bohui was denied brilliantly by Farman deep into stoppage-time and the U's were unable to come back again to taste their first league defeat of the season.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Scarlett (sub Welch-Hayes, 78), Eastman, Smith, Bramall, Chilvers, Pell, Poku (sub Bohui, 83), Brown (sub Senior, 78), Harriott, Norris.

Subs (not used): Sowunmi, Marshall-Miranda, Gambin, George.

Carlisle United: Farman, Tanner, Anderton, Hayden, Riley (sub Furman, 83), Guy, Alessandra (sub Malley, 90), Mellish, McDonald, Kayode, Toure (sub Reilly, 68).

Subs (not used): Dewhurst, Devine, Hunt, Charters.

Referee: Martin Coy.

Goals: Colchester: Norris (44, 52). Carlisle: Alessandra (4), Mellish (29), Hayden (81).

Bookings: Colchester: Pell (foul, 34), Harriott (unsporting behaviour, 61). Carlisle: Riley (foul, 21), Mellish (unsporting behaviour, 61), Guy (foul, 64).

U's man of the match: Luke Norris.