COLCHESTER United head coach Steve Ball admitted he was ‘shocked, disappointed and hurt’ following his side’s humiliating 6-1 defeat at Exeter City.

The U’s crashed to their heaviest defeat in five and a half years after losing heavily at St James Park.

Ryan Bowman scored a hat-trick and Matt Jay bagged a brace for the Grecians, while Joel Randall was also on target.

Michael Folivi came off the bench to score in the second half for the U’s, but it could not mask what was a bleak night for the visitors.

Ball said: "I'm shocked, disappointed and hurt.

“The way we’d performed this season had been excellent and we’ve come here fully prepared.

“We couldn't have prepared better – yes, we’ve had a long journey today but there’s zero excuse for that.

“From first to last minute, we've shown a lack of everything which I've not seen in the team this season and we've been punished severely.

"It's a huge learning curve for all of us, me included.

“We have to go and watch it over again and deal with it properly and in a sensible manner but certainly learn from it.

"Exeter were very, very good – they were very aggressive with their high press part of the game.

“But it wasn't about shape for us - it was about lack of desire to do the fundamentals of the game which is defend properly and get back behind the ball and do your defensive job from top to bottom of the team.

“It’s nothing to do with shape – it’s about hunger to do the job.”

Ball made a triple substitution with Colchester trailing 1-0 at the break at Exeter, bringing on Folivi, Callum Harriott and Luke Norris having earlier changed formation several times in the first half.

"I had to change it,” said U’s boss Ball.

“Anybody watching that game for the first 15 minutes will have seen we had no joy at 4-3-3, 3-4-1-2, 3-4-3.

“We went back to 4-4-2 - I tried everything but I shouldn't be doing that. I shouldn't need to do that.

“I’ve not done it much this season, as such and I need to go away and watch everything back very closely and look at really disappointing levels of people wanting to do their jobs.”