Colchester United exited the Papa Johns Trophy after a 2-1 defeat to League One Bristol Rovers at the JobServe Community Stadium.
All three goals came in the second half, with the visitors opening the scoring – Connolly was the man to break the deadlock after a neat set piece.
But Bloomfield’s side fought back, with Freddie Sears levelling the tie with five minutes of normal time to play.
There was time for a winner though, with seven minutes of injury time, and Harvey Saunders was the man to get it for the visitors as they progressed to the last sixteen of the Papa Johns Trophy.
Matt Bloomfield named a team with just one change from Saturday’s resounding home victory against Doncaster Rovers. Sam Hornby picked up a knock at the end of the game, with Kieran O’Hara taking his place amongst the starting eleven, with the recalled Ted Collins named on the bench.
Both teams were looking to book their place in the last sixteen of the Papa Johns Trophy, and it was the visitors who edged the better of the first half chances.
The first, and best of the half, for Bristol Rovers fell for John Marquis after just five minutes of play. The striker found space in the centre of the penalty area to connect with a cross from the left flank and should have scored, but his header was straight at O’Hara.
Returning to the starting line-up, O’Hara was called into action again ten minutes later. This time, a looping long-range effort looked destined for the top corner, but the Irishman was able to fly across and push Collins’ shot around the post.
The U’s had their best chance of the game after twenty-two minutes had been played. After bagging his first professional goal on Saturday afternoon, Tovide rose highest to win the header from Alan Judge’s corner, but powered his effort narrowly wide of the mark.
There was some concern for Ossama Ashley who needed treatment from the physio after half an hour of play, but he was able to continue to half time before being replaced. And the scores remained level until the break.
Emyr Huws was the man to take Ashley’s place in the centre of midfield for the second half, as Bloomfield looked to ease the Welshman back into the team.
Eight minutes after the restart though, it became a tough challenge for the U’s as Joey Barton’s side took the lead. James Connolly converted from a well-worked free kick with a header at the back post, giving the League One side a slender advantage.
And the U’s reacted with immediate changes; Samson Tovide and Alan Judge were withdrawn, with Freddie Sears and Matty Longstaff brought on in their place.
The visitors were forced into a change of goalkeeper with twenty minutes to play after Anssi Jaakkola had picked up an injury. James Belshaw was brought on in his place, but the U’s struggled to break down a stubborn travelling defence to test the replacement.
Matt Bloomfield used his final roll of the dice with Noah Chilvers and Dan Chesters brought on in the final exchanges of the game, and the U’s were back on level terms with five minutes to play.
Freddie Sears netted for the home side, converting from a break down the left flank. The U’s number eleven cut inside before slotting home low below Belshaw as the game headed to its conclusion.
Noah Chilvers could have had the U’s second a minute later when Dan Chesters picked him out at the back post, but there was a man on the post to deny him.
But in seven minutes of stoppage time, the visitors bagged a late winner. A scramble in the penalty area allowed substitute Harvey Saunders the opportunity to put the ball into an empty net, ending the U’s Papa Johns Trophy campaign.
The U’s have a free weekend now, but return with a trip to Mansfield Town on Saturday 3rd December.
Colchester United starting XI: O’Hara, Chambers, Smith, Hannant, Judge (Longstaff 54’), Ashley (Huws 46’), Newby (Chesters 81’), Tchamadeu, Kazeem, Tovide (Sears 54’), Nouble.
Subs: Collins, Sears, Chilvers, Eastman, Chesters, Longstaff, Huws.
Bristol Rovers starting XI: Jaakkola (Belshaw 67’), Connolly, Finley (Rossiter 70’), Marquis, Collins (Saunders 70’), Loft (Coburn 46’), Clarke (Hoole 81’), Evans, McCormick, Gibbons, Thomas.
Subs: Belshaw, Kilgour, Westbrooke, Rossiter, Saunders, Hoole, Coburn.
Attendance: 669 (50)