Colchester United's League Two play-off hopes were dealt a blow this afternoon after they lost 1-0 at struggling Crewe Alexandra.

Shaun Miller's goal on the hour mark gave Alex all three points at Gresty Road and inflicted on the U's a disappointing defeat, their first in six matches in League Two.

Colchester, who remain three points off the play-off places, struggled to create many clearcut opportunities throughout the 90 minutes.

And although Crewe, who had gone into the game three points above the relegation zone and without a win in six matches, did not look particularly dangerous themselves they grabbed the all-important winner.

Colchester head coach John McGreal made one change to his side for their game at Crewe.

Kane Vincent-Young dropped out of the side, with Ryan Jackson returning in his place at right wing-back after missing the Coventry City win with a quad injury.

Olamide Shodipo, signed on loan from QPR on transfer deadline day, was included in the Colchester matchday 18 for the first time but there was no place among the substitutes for leading scorer Sammie Szmodics.

Crewe, who started the game three points above the relegation zone, started brightly and in the opening stages, Callum Ainley went on a positive run down the U’s left and drove towards the area before drilling in a low shot that goalkeeper Sam Walker gathered on his goal-line.

But Colchester warmed to the task after that and came close to taking a ninth-minute lead through Drey Wright, when he collected Courtney Senior’s cross-field pass before advancing towards goal and trying a 20-yard shot that Alex goalkeeper Ben Garratt pushed away for a corner.

Ben Stevenson’s low drive from long range was easily gathered by Garratt soon after but Alex were in the game, with Nolan floating an effort just wide of the far post and then seeing his header from a free-kick into the box brilliantly turned over the bar by Walker.

Midway through the first half, Stevenson’s snap shot from the edge of the area sailed straight into Garratt’s arms after Ogedi-Uzokwe had done well to set him up.

But Crewe were efficient in getting players behind the ball whenever Colchester attacked and it was the home side who finished the first half marginally the stronger.

Indeed, Alex picked up where they left off in the second half, with Pickering’s effort from 20 yards flying wide of the far post after Colchester failed to clear a corner.

Colchester fell behind on the hour mark when Shaun Miller finished clinically past Walker from close range after Callum Ainley’s free-kick from inside the D had deflected into his path.

Brennan Dickenson was sent on immediately after the U’s fell behind for Courtney Senior and Liam Mandeville replaced Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe in attack, as the visitors looked for a route back into the game.

Mikael Mandron's header off balance from Jackson's cross sailed over the bar and Luke Prosser nodded a Wright cross into the side netting, as the U's searched for an equaliser.

And despite more than five minutes of stoppage time being added on there was no goal forthcoming and Colchester tumbled to a disappointing defeat.