A LATE equaliser denied Colchester United a precious win this afternoon after they played out a 1-1 draw with fellow strugglers Barrow.

It looked as though the U’s were on their way to a precious win after Callum Harriott had given them a first-half lead.

But substitute Tom Beadling’s 88th-minute strike rescued a point for the Bluebirds at the JobServe Community Stadium.

It was an agonising conclusion for Colchester, who had led for so long.

It means the U's lie six points above the League Two relegation zone, with six games remaining.

Colchester interim head coach Hayden Mullins made two changes to his starting line-up for his first home game in charge.

Jevani Brown and Callum Harriott both returned at the expense of midfield pair Tom Lapslie and Noah Chilvers, who dropped to the bench.

It was an attacking line-up for Colchester in their search for a vital three points but the visitors were the first to try their luck in front of goal, with Scott Quigley’s fifth-minute effort from the edge of the area flying wide of the target.

At the other end, Ryan Clampin registered Colchester’s first effort on goal when he exchanged passes with Harriott before advancing towards goal and planting a shot well over the bar from the edge of the area.

Colchester had the ball in the Barrow net in the 20th minute when Brendan Wiredu tapped in from close range after Tom Eastman had helped on Clampin’s header but referee John Busby ruled that Barrow keeper Joel Dixon had been fouled, in the build-up.

Barrow came close to going ahead just before the half hour mark through Quigley, who fired a low cross-shot wide of the far post after Jason Taylor had released him clear of the Colchester defence.

However, the U’s took a precious 33rd-minute lead through Harriott, whose low shot flew in after Frank Nouble had helped Courtney Senior’s delivery into his path.

It was very nearly 2-0 to Colchester, a minute later.

Wiredu somehow failed to convert from four yards, after keeper Joel Dixon had failed to properly hold onto Nouble's low shot.

It was a good opening 45 minutes for the U’s, who deserved their lead at the break and were generally the better side in the first half.

Colchester started the second half brightly too and felt they should have had a penalty just after the interval when Senior fell under Kgosi Ntlhe’s challenge in the area but referee John Busby waved away the claims.

Barrow substitute Josh Kay's low shot from inside the box was well dealt with by Dean Gerken just after the midway point in the second half, as the game remained delicately poised.

And another substitute – Tom Beadling – fired a good chance wide of the far post soon after for the visitors.

But as the game became stretched, both sides saw opportunities open up and Nouble wastefully fired wide for Colchester after being sent through on goal by Wiredu’s pass.

It looked as though Colchester would go on and claim a precious victory but Beadling struck home a fine low shot from Luke James’ assist, to deny the hosts victory.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Welch-Hayes, Eastman, Smith, Clampin, Pell, Wiredu, Senior (sub Tchamadeu, 83), Brown (sub Lapslie, 68), Harriott, Nouble.

Subs (not used): Doherty, Stevenson, Chilvers, Folivi, George.

Barrow: Dixon, Brough (sub Kay, 43), J Taylor (sub C Taylor, 60), Jones, Ntlhe (sub Andrew, 75), Barry, Thomas, James, Devitt (sub Beadling, 60), Banks (sub Eardley, 60), Quigley.

Subs (not used): Moloney.

Referee: John Busby.

U’s man of the match: Tom Eastman.

Goals: Colchester: Harriott (33). Barrow: Beadling (88).

Bookings: Barrow: C Taylor (foul, 83).