A MUCH-CHANGED Colchester United side fell to a 1-0 defeat to West Ham United’s under-21s in their EFL Trophy Group A clash at the JobServe Community Stadium tonight.

Conor Coventry’s excellent long-range strike just after the hour mark proved the difference between the two teams, as the U’s fell to their second successive group defeat in the competition.

Steve Ball had said he would make changes to his side for this game.

And the Colchester head coach was certainly true to his word, making eight alterations in total from the team that had started at Barrow, last weekend.

Luke Norris captained the side as he continued his recovery from injury, while the likes of Paris Cowan-Hall, Sammie McLeod, Ollie Kensdale and Miquel Scarlett also got a chance to impress.

Colchester made a lively start and were almost ahead in the opening seconds when Goncalo Cardoso nearly headed into his own net from Courtney Senior's corner.

But West Ham, managed by former U’s academy coach Dmitri Halajko, served a warning a few minutes later through Oladapo Afolayan advanced towards goal before drilling a low shot straight at U’s keeper Shamal George.

Colchester had another sniff of goal when Norris latched onto Cowan-Hall's clever back-heel but the U’s striker could not get any power behind his shot and it rolled tamely to Hammers keeper Joseph Anang.

Omar Sowunmi then made a great block in the area to deny Bernando Rosa, who was looking to shoot on sight.

The Hammers came even closer to scoring just after the half hour mark when Emmanuel Longelo raced towards goal before lashing in a shot which rattled the outside of a post before going to safety, after a devastating counter attack by the visitors.

Rosa's low 30-yard strike then sailed straight at George as the visitors pressed for a goal before half-time.

And the U’s keeper was called into action again just before half-time when he smothered at the feet of Akinola, who had been picked out by Cardoso’s fine run and pass.

The teams went in level at the break but Colchester almost took the lead in the opening minutes of the second half when Norris dragged a shot wide off balance, after shrugging off Cardoso in the area.

And the U’s should have hit the target soon after when Kensdale ballooned a shot high over the bar from inside the area after Senior had picked him out from a short corner.

Norris’s first-time volley flew wide of the far post and soon after, Noah Chilvers did well to advance towards goal and turn Baptiste before firing in a powerful shot that keeper Anang parried.

But Colchester fell behind on the hour mark when the impressive Coventry let fly with a 25-yard strike that flew into the net, leaving keeper George with no chance.

Harvey Sayer became the latest Colchester academy player to make his senior debut when he replaced Miles Welch-Hayes, midway through the second half.

George parried away Afolayan’s header following a free-kick with nine minutes remaining but one goal proved enough to win it for the Hammers under-21s.

COLCHESTER UNITED: George, Welch-Hayes (sub Sayer, 66), Sowunmi, Kensdale, Scarlett, Chilvers (sub Marshall-Miranda, 66), McLeod, Cowan-Hall, Gambin, Senior, Norris (sub Brown, 71).

Substitutes (not used): Cracknell, Tovide, Poku, Coulter.

U’s man of the match: Omar Sowunmi.

West Ham United U21: Anang, Akinola, Baptiste, Cardoso (sub Ashley, 60), Longelo, Coventry, Lewis, Rosa, Chesters (sub Adarkwa, 90), Dju, Afolayan.

Substitutes (not used): Hegya, Okotcha, Appiah Forsan, Sawyer, Greenidge.

Goals: West Ham: Coventry (61).

Bookings: Colchester: McLeod (foul, 64). West Ham: Cardoso (foul, 40).

Referee: S Purkiss.