Colchester United boss Ben Garner was left to rue missed opportunities and the youth of his squad after a dejecting 3-2 loss at home to MK Dons.

Leading 2-1 with only a few minutes of normal time to spare, U's snatched defeat from the jaws of victory as the visitors struck a late double.

Former U's player Alex Gilbey levelled in the 88th minute, before Matthew Dennis clinched victory in the 10th minute of stoppage time to leave the hosts empty handed.

"We were so young at the end, we were so young on the pitch, we were missing four of our senior players today and it showed in the closing stages," said Garner, who felt his side could have totally avoided both goals and were bereft of ‘basics’ that would otherwise have seen them through to victory.

"There wasn’t a massive threat from the second half [from MK Dons] and we were pretty comfortable," he added.

"And then Owen [Goodman] kicks the ball forward and within six seconds it’s in the back of our net. It’s just pure basics of being solid and landing the second ball in midfield and tracking runs, we didn’t do it. 

"It cost us the second goal and equally poor for the third goal. 

“I am looking at the bench and we’ve got no seniority in terms of our defensive position. We should still see that out and land on second balls and track runs - the basics.”

The hosts had missed a host of chances to secure victory in the second half, having seen Joe Taylor's brace cancel out an early MK Dons goal, which was noted by Garner.

"Whatever level of football you play at, you see the game out,” added Garner, after Taylor, Junior Tchamadeu and Al-Amin Kazeem all went close, but failed, to make the score 3-1.

Garner, animated on the touchline, was also incensed with some of the decisions made by referee Carl Brook, feeling the home side should’ve been awarded a late penalty.

“I’m also really disappointed with the penalty decision at 2-2, it is a blatant penalty not given," he said. "We certainly haven’t had things go for us in the early stages of the season with decisions."

Despite a third successive loss leaving them languishing pointless at the foot of the League Two table, Garner could see the positives that can be carried through to the upcoming games.

Saturday’s performance was a massive step up compared to the 2-0 home defeat to Wimbledon, but there is no doubt the latest loss will be a lesson to the squad, who looked so promising and on the verge of a league victory.

"A massive amount can be learnt, there were some really positive elements to it," said Garner.

"We’ve got to pull up our sleeves and fight and push at Gillingham next week."