COLCHESTER United were held to a second successive home draw this afternoon after they drew 1-1 with in-form Cambridge United, at a wintery JobServe Community Stadium.

The U’s had to be content with a point from their first game of 2021, after Greg Taylor’s own goal had cancelled out Harvey Knibbs’ early opener for the visitors.

It was an entertaining contest on a difficult surface and although their winless run in League Two has now been extended to six matches, the hosts can be pleased with their display against their high-flying opponents.

Colchester boss Steve Ball made five changes to his starting line-up for their first game in 18 days.

Skipper Harry Pell and leading scorer Jevani Brown returned along with Tom Eastman, Cohen Bramall and Callum Harriott for Miles Welch-Hayes, Ryan Clampin, Tom Lapslie, Michael Folivi and Luke Norris, who joined Stevenage last week.

There was no place on the bench for either Lapslie or Welch-Hayes, while Folivi missed out through injury.

An army of club staff did a sterling job in helping Head Groundsman David Blacknall clear the pitch of snow, prior to the game.

Colchester made a bright start and came close to taking a fourth-minute lead when Omar Sowunmi was denied at close range by keeper Dimitar Mitov in the six-yard box after Pell had helped on Bramall’s free-kick.

Tommy Smith nodded just over from the resultant corner and a few moments later, Brown fired into the side netting after good skill from Harriott had set him up as the U’s pressed.

But somewhat against the run of play, Colchester fell behind in the 12th minute.

Harvey Knibbs converted from close range after U’s keeper Dean Gerken had made a full stretch save to deny Paul Mullin’s fierce shot.

Cambridge’s goal had come seconds after Mullin had gone down under Smith’s challenge in the area, prompting strong penalty appeals from the visitors.

But Colchester kept working hard and they were rewarded six minutes before the break.

Bramall drove down the left and picked out Harriott, whose shot struck Cambridge defender Greg Taylor before sailing into the net from close range.

Sowunmi made an excellent challenge in the area to deny Knibbs what looked like a certain goal just before half-time, as the sides went in level at the break.

Colchester started the second half well, with the minutes that immediately followed the interval played out in the visitors’ half.

Ben Stevenson’s long-range strike flew wide before the U’s had a penalty appeal rejected just after the hour mark when Brown tumbled under Harry Darling's challenge in the area.

Eastman’s fierce shot was saved well by Mitov after Brown had done well to set him up in the area and Noah Chilvers’ free-kick went straight at the Cambridge keeper, as the home side looked for a winner.

With five minutes remaining, Mitov made a good save from Pell at point blank range following Bramall's cross into the six yard box.

But Mullin almost won it near the end for Cambridge with a cutback in the area and shot that flew inches wide of the far post, as the spoils were shared.

COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken, Eastman, Smith, Sowunmi, Bramall, Chilvers, Pell, Stevenson, Poku (sub Senior, 77), Brown, Harriott (sub Bohui, 90).

Subs (not used): Tchamadeu, Clampin, Marshall Miranda, Tovide, George.

Cambridge United: Mitov, Knoyle, Digby, Taylor, May (sub O’Neil, 78), Darling (sub Cundy, 78), Hannant (sub Ironside, 64), Knibbs, Dunk, Hoolahan, Mullin.

Subs (not used): Burton, Iredale, Okendina, Davies.

Referee: S Martin.

Goals: Colchester: Taylor (own goal, 39). Cambridge: Knibbs (12).

Bookings: Colchester: Harriott (unsporting behaviour, 37), Pell (foul, 54). Cambridge: Darling (foul, 4), Mullin (unsporting behaviour, 37).