Tom Lapslie has firmly established himself as a committed, tough-tackling midfielder for Colchester United over the last three years.

So it was somewhat ironic that the U’s stand-in skipper’s first red card of his professional career should ultimately come as a result of an innocuous handball incident, in his side’s 0-0 draw at Coventry City.

It was also pretty harsh; rightly or wrongly, seeing players handle the ball in the expectancy of being awarded a free-kick like Lapslie did is pretty common place in the game these days.

Lapslie is not the first to do it and he will not be the last, which made referee Michael Sailsbury’s controversial decision to send him off pretty exasperating.

That Mr Salisbury’s assistant referee had signalled a foul for the incident that led to the U’s youngster handling the ball was probably even more galling, particularly as it left Colchester facing up to the prospect of playing the final 20 minutes of the game with only ten men on the field in a finely-balanced contest.

Typically for him, a shell-shocked Lapslie commendably shook off his disappointment to talk to the media shortly after the final whistle at the Ricoh Arena.

The 22-year-old spoke maturely and honestly as always, despite his obvious frustration.

Nevertheless, Lapslie now faces another suspension, barely four weeks after serving his last one.

The former U’s academy product’s ban last month for amassing five bookings prompted John McGreal to urge him to erase any unnecessary cautions out of his game.

That might have seemed a little harsh for some given the combative nature of Lapslie’s role but in fact, it was a huge compliment from the U’s head coach.

McGreal knows how important Lapslie is to his side; the fact that he has led Colchester for much of this season in the wake of club captain Luke Prosser’s prolonged absence says much about highly he is regarded.

The responsibility Lapslie has been afforded – and the way he has embraced it – has made him a key player in Colchester’s squad.

He will be missed against Crewe Alexandra this weekend, especially if Doug Loft is still sidelined with a hamstring injury.

But every player suffers setbacks during his or her professional career and with 75 professional appearances under his belt, Lapslie must take solace from the fact that he has come a long way, in a short space of time and has a bright future in the game.