Colchester United fell to a 3-1 defeat in the first game of the New Year at Crawley Town, with Freddie Sears on target for the visitors.
The U's were unable to take their chances before the hosts got their noses in front in the first half, with Ashley Nadesan and Joel Lynch firing the Red Devils into a two-goal lead before the break.
Ashley Nadesan bagged his second and Crawley's third of the match ten minutes after the start of the second period, before Freddie Sears got his tenth of the season with a consolation goal with eleven minutes of the game remaining.
Hayden Mullins named a starting eleven with four changes to the last game, three weeks ago at Walsall, with Noah Chilvers, Tom Eastman, Armando Dobra and Cameron Coxe coming into the line up.
They replaced Luke Chambers, Luke Hannant, Sylvester Jasper and Charlie Daniels with all but the latter being named on the substitutes bench for Colchester United. Ted Collins was also included in the matchday eighteen for the first time, after some impressive performances in goal for the U23s.
The game exploded into life with chances aplenty at either end of the pitch within the opening five minutes. The hosts were the first to register an effort on target, with Nichols' header back across goal palmed away by Turner, low down to his left.
And the U's had a good couple of opportunities at the other end of the pitch moments later, with Dobra's penalty appeall waved away by the referee after Alan Judge's good cut back. The Irishman was at the heart of the action with a cross to Eastman that the centre-back headed just wide of Morris' goal a minute later.
Judge had an effort of his own, the best so far when Sears spotted his run and played a clever ball through the middle. The onrushing Glenn Morris was able to deny Judge who had perhaps taken just a touch too many before the Crawley defence was able to clear their lines.
But it was the hosts who put their chance away after quarter of an hour had been played, with Ashley Nadesan on target for Crawley. Nichols got the better of Tom Eastman down the inside left channel and delivered a cross to Nadesan to head beyond Turner and give his side the lead.
Crawley Town enjoyed a good spell after their opening goal and should have doubled the lead two minutes later. Kwesi Appiah was picked out after a good set piece, but saw his low effort saved by Turner down to his left.
The U's created a couple of chances to level the score ten minutes later with Tchamadeu bursting forward from the back line to play the ball through to Dobra. The Ipswich-loanee tried to weave his was through before delivering a cross that was put behind by the home defence.
And from the corner, Tommy Smith was just inches away from getting his head to the ball. The skipper had lost his marker and looked in space to win the header, but couldn't quite reach as Crawley Town maintained their advantage.
But the hosts extended their lead with ten minutes of the first half to play, with Joel Lynch finding the back of the net. The centre-half capitalised from a Tilley cross that was knocked down by Francillette, smashing the ball in from close range.
The half time break couldn't come soon enough for the U's who were trailing by two goals after the first forty-five minutes.
At the break, Hayden Mullins opted for one change to his side, replacing Armando Dobra with Luke Chambers, also switching the formation to a 3-4-3 to try and get his side up the pitch more.
Ten minutes after the start of the second half though, it was the hosts who added a third to their tally as Nadesan nabbed his second of the game. Appiah dinked the ball to the forward at the back post, who nodded the ball into the corner in front of the celebrating home fans.
Alan Judge again went close for Colchester United, again foiled by Glenn Morris in goal for the hosts. Syl Jasper's curling cross left Judge stretching as he shot first time towards the near post, with Morris able to get his foot to the ball, putting it behind.
With just over ten minutes to play, the U's did get a goal back, with Freddie Sears netting his tenth of the season. Syl Jasper beat Ferry and delivered the ball at pace to Sears who cleverly directed the ball in off the near post to make it 3-1.
And Hayden Mullins' side hit the woodwork a minute later. Luke Chambers got his head to the ball, with a looping effort that bounced off the inside of the post with Sears and Wiredu unable to put the ball over the line from close range with a whole host of defenders there.
But the U's were unable to rally and make a grandstand finish at the People's Pension Stadium, falling to defeat in the opening game of 2022.
Colchester United remain in twentieth position with twenty-two points from twenty-one games, with a break from league action for Mullins' side now.
Up next for the U's is a trip to Sutton United in the last sixteen of the Papa John's Trophy, with a quarter final spot at stake for the two League Two sides in South London on Tuesday evening.
Crawley Town starting XI: Morris, Tilley, Francillette, Craig, Lynch, Ferry (Grego-Cox 90'), Francomb, Powell, Nichols (Bansal-McNulty 83'), Appiah, Nadesan (Ashford 83').
Unused subs: Nna Noukeu, Matthews, Marshall.
Colchester United starting XI: Turner, Smith, Wiredu (Hannant 83'), Skuse, Judge, Sears, Chilvers (Jasper 56'), Eastman, Dobra (Chambers 46'), Tchamadeu, Coxe.
Unused subs: Collins, Kennedy, Tovide, Cooper.