Former Colchester United player Alex Gilbey inspired a late turnaround for MK Dons to deny the U’s their first points of the 2023/24 campaign.

The U’s were 2-1 up with three minutes of normal time to spare, but Gilbey and then substitute, Matthew Dennis, snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the visitors.

After just eight minutes, Cameron Norman picked out Mo Eisa, who, from six yards, headed the visitors into an early lead, as his effort just trickled beyond the hands of Owen Goodman in the Colchester goal. 

Eisa's headed effort was the first League goal scored by MK Dons at the Jobserve Community Stadium since Deli Ali back in 2015. 

But in an instant, two minutes after going a goal down, the U’s turned the tide.

Jayden Fevrier’s surge through a host of Dons defenders on the left hand side, before glancing the ball across the goal, was met by Joe Taylor to level.

And then within three minutes of equalising, Taylor inched the U’s ahead, getting on the end of another cross, this time from Junior Tchamadeu down the right-hand side, and lashing the ball into the top left-hand corner from close range as the away team looked in bemusement at their quickly-fading lead.

The U’s squandered promising opportunities in the second half to secure their victory, with Tchamadeu’s effort on the edge of the box being parried away by Craig Macgillivray.

The visiting keeper was also kept busy by Al-Amin Kazeem’s forceful effort, which he tipped over the bar, and Taylor also went close, dispossessing former Colchester skipper Tommy Smith but blazing his effort wide.

But in the final stages, a potential win unravelled with home-grown Colchester player Gilbey pouncing upon a deft ball over the top by Ash Hunter to strike the ball past a helpless Goodman and into the top-right hand corner. 

Gilbey, evidently charged, got the away support bouncing again before in the dying stages of an 11-minute stoppage time period, substitute Dennis trickled the ball into the bottom left-hand corner to break Colchester hearts.

Ben Garner, frustrated at the U’s performance in their 2-0 defeat to Wimbledon on Tuesday, will be impressed by what he saw of 19-year-old Bradley Ihionvien, who lasted 78 minutes on his professional debut, making an impression as the U’s led a high press throughout.

But this latest defeat both ensures that Colchester remain at the foot of the League Two table, as the only club failing to get off the mark this campaign, and seals their worst start to a league campaign (with three successive losses) since the 2006/7 season, their debut year in the Championship. 

Colchester United: Owen Goodman, Connor Hall, Tom Dallison (Al-Amin Kazeem 53), Noah Chilvers, Arthur Read, Mandela Egbo, Junior Tchamadeu, Nico Lawrence, Joe Taylor (Donell Thomas 88), Jayden Fevrier, Bradley Ihionvien (Mauro Bandeira 78). Unused subs: Tom Smith, Will Greenidge, Matt Jay, Alex Newby.

Goals: Taylor 10, 13.

Booked: Ihionviven 41, Fevrier 45+2, Chilvers 67, Tchamadeu 81, Egbo 85.

MK Dons: Craig Macgillivray, Cameron Norman, Jack Tucker, Warren O’Hora, Jonathon Leko (Matthew Dennis 63), Alex Gilbey, Mo Eisa (Brooklyn Ilunga 90+11), Tommy Smith (Connor Grant 77), Ethan Robson (Ash Hunter 63), Daniel Harvie, Dawson Devoy. Unused subs: Nathan Harness, Nathan Holland, Max Dean.

Goals: Eisa 8, Gilbey 88, Dennis 90+10.

Booked: Eisa 45+5, Harvie 81, Gilbey 84, Grant 90+6.

Referee: Carl Brook

Attendance: 3857 (including 569 away fans).