Chris Beech couldn’t hide his delight at the character Carlisle United showed to see off Colchester.

The Blues boss said the way his side came back at their opponents, having lost a two-goal lead, was first-rate.

United’s persistence led to Aaron Hayden’s 81st-minute winner, after early Lewis Alessandra and Jon Mellish goals had been wiped out by Luke Norris.

Of their impressive second-half response, with their 3-2 win putting Carlisle fifth in League Two, Beech said: “It’s everything that encompasses being a good football player and a good team.

“You set up your stall, we sell our product, we’re doing really well in selling loads, and something happens, a hiccup.

“The reward the opposition got was very big compared to how we played for the reward we had on them in the way we were playing.

“But then they dealt with that and showed great character to come back at that point.

“That encompasses everything about being involved in football.”

United flew out of the traps and were good value for their two-goal lead, with Alessandra getting his first league goal of the campaign and in-form Mellish scoring for his fourth consecutive game.

The intensity of Carlisle’s play in the opening 45 minutes was a highlight of their season so far, and Beech said: “That was the fruits of hard labour, of what we’ve set up to do.

“I was really pleased with that, because we work hard prepping for games, and we have a plan, but the players have to follow it through.

“The lads represented a real proud, hard-working, honest performance for the supporters, that’s what I was really pleased with.”

Norris’s header shortly before half-time gave Steve Ball’s side a way back into the contest before the striker levelled from the spot after the break.

“I said [at half-time] I don’t think they’ll win the game, but I think we have a chance of losing it, because there was a little bit of panic after their first goal," Beech added.

“I know it was only a couple of minutes before half-time but even the set-up for the retake on the halfway line, we didn’t even get that right. It’s amazing what a goal does to psychology.

“We settled down at half-time. They scored a penalty but we continued to have waves of attacks and we should have won the game a bit more comfortably.

“It was a full team performance, including a last minute save from Farms [Paul Farman] – the only ball my centre halves didn’t really win on first contact. They let it bounce and got on the inside track.

“George Tanner did great not to bring [Callum Harriott] down for a penalty, and put pressure on the shot. Ironically Aaron, who wins most things, missed the header but made up for it with the support of Farms on the save to keep the ball out of the box, and got fouled doing it.”

It’s three straight league wins for Carlisle for the first time since December 2018-Jan 2019 under John Sheridan and caretakers Tommy Wright and Paul Murray.

It’s also four straight home league wins for the Cumbrians for first time since that spell too, which also included Steven Pressley’s first game.

Mellish, meanwhile, has put himself within two games of equalling a club record for scoring in consecutive games, having netted against Barrow, Sunderland, Port Vale and Colchester.

If he bags at Oldham on Tuesday and Grimsby next weekend it will be six-in-a-row – a mark set in United’s history by Jimmy McConnell, Hugh Fletcher, Hugh McIlmoyle, Ian Stevens and Danny Grainger.

Beech said former centre-half Mellish’s form is a result of “being constantly on the move”, adding: “I wasn’t the best of football players but was renowned for scoring goals from those situations in games.

“It can take your career to high places. That’s what Jon does – well, he does now he plays in midfield.”

Beech also paid tribute to sub Gavin Reilly for his contribution after being left out of the starting line-up.

The Scottish frontman was the only player dropped from the team that beat Port Vale, as Beech brought Joshua Kayode back in.

United’s boss said that tough decision was an example of Carlisle’s progress.

He said: “When you get a job, you’re trying to stop the team losing, because it was losing, then keep the team in League Two, get away from the bottom, then deal with all the situation in the summer, then the pandemic…

“So to get to this point, it was the first day [on Friday] that I feel like I’ve dropped a player that doesn’t deserve to not play.

“That’s the distance we’ve come as a football team, and the players have to understand that as they keep trying to progress as a team.

“Like any family, you can undo good work through selfish behaviour. We have to be forgiving. If there’s anybody who deserves these three points, it’s Gav.”