COLCHESTER United’s under-23s slipped to just their third defeat of the season on Monday afternoon, at the hands of a strong Crystal Palace side at Copers Cope Road.

The U’s went into the game just one point behind the Eagles, having beaten Queen’s Park Rangers 5-1 last time out, but were met with a very tricky task, as Palace named a starting 11 bolstered by senior players with a wealth of experience.

Eagles centre-back Jairo Riedewald started last season’s Europa League final and has Champions League experience, while left-back Pape Souare is a French Ligue One winner and striker Bakary Sako boasts 21 international caps.

It took Palace just six minutes to breach the U’s defence as 22-year-old Sullay Kaikai latched onto an excellent ball over the top from Michael Phillips and tapped home.

Sako added the second ten minutes later, stabbing the ball into the net from close range after Phillips knocked down a Kaikai corner.

The corner taker then added his second and Palace’s third just minutes before half-time, again being set up by young midfielder Phillips.

Kaikai was denied his hat-trick around the hour mark as his strike rattled the crossbar, but he wasn’t to be kept out for the remainder of the game, as he notched his third goal just three minutes before the final whistle, guiding a header into the far corner after an excellent cross from Wan Bissaka.

The result leaves Colchester's young guns in sixth place in the Professional Development League table.