Mathias Pogba squeezed home his 14th goal of the season to get Crewe back to winning ways at Colchester United. Pogba's low shot should have been kept out by the U's goalkeeper Sam Walker but it made it over the line after the powerful striker had turned smartly inside the box to get the shot off. The winning goal with just over 20 minutes left takes Crewe to 50 points.
Captain Luke Murphy had given Crewe Alexandra the lead via the penalty spot but Colchester United drew level just before the interval after a tidy turn and shot from George Porter.
Crewe retook the lead with 20 minutes remaining on the clock after a trademark run from Luke Murphy released Mathias Pogba inside the Colchester box. His clever turn gave him a yard to get a shot off and a handling effort from the U’s goalkeeper Sam Walker saw it squeeze in at the near post.
With Chuks Aneke ruled out with a slight knee problem, there was a recall for young Max Clayton at Colchester’s Weston Home Community Stadium. The England Youth International partnered AJ Leitch-Smith up front with Mathias Pogba again doing his shift for the team out on the right hand side.
It was an intriguing but quiet opening with individual battles commencing all over the pitch. Harry Davis matched up against the vastly experienced Clinton Morrison and our former loanee Andy Bond was up against his former captain Luke Murphy in central midfield. Colchester United also had the former Crewe Alexandra Academy graduate David Wright, operating in front of the U’s back four.
Crewe started passing the ball confidently and accurately and Clayton was unlucky not to see his superb jump and flick on just run ahead of his strike partner Leitch-Smith. Clayton also had an early shot blocked after he latched onto a skilful touch from Byron Moore. His shot was deflected away and Pogba couldn’t do anything with the loose ball in a wide area.
After 16 minutes, the home side lost Tom Eastman through injury and he was replaced by Josh Thompson.
Alex goalkeeper Steve Phillips was kept alert after a back pass from Mark Ellis didn’t look like it would reach him comfortably, but under pressure from George Porter; he managed to clear the danger up field.
Phillips then had to react quickly to deny an advanced Bond as he tried to flick the ball over him. The Crewe goalkeeper re-gathered himself to deny Gavin Massey an angle and a clear shot at goal and the Crewe defenders covered the goal-line and regrouped. Wright couldn’t find a Colchester shirt with his pass into the penalty area.
Crewe took the lead on 24 minutes after being awarded a penalty for a Thompson handball after Max Clayton’s crossed into the box. The Colchester players and supporters were far than impressed with the award, but the ball certainly struck the hand and referee Hill didn’t hesitate in awarding the spot-kick. Murphy stepped up and confidently rolled it into the opposite corner that Sam Walker had gambled on and dived towards. It was an excellent penalty.
Robertson could have doubled Crewe’s lead just four minutes later when he applied a good connection to another Max Clayton cross, but his side footed effort was too tame to really trouble Walker.
If the early substitution of Eastman was due to injury, the second one conducted by Joe Dunne after just 33 minutes appeared tactical with our former player Wright replaced by Michael Smith. Colchester were certainly looking to apply more pressure on the Crewe back four and minutes after Smith had entered the fray, Crewe were on the back foot as winger Massey went at Matt Tootle.
Tootle did force him wide enough to make sure his cross shot cleared Phillips’ far post. Moments later, Tootle surrendered possession too easily and he was a relieved man to see Billy Clifford shoot inches wide of the right hand post.
It was turning into an intriguing dual between the tricky winger Massey and Tootle. The Alex right-back did extremely well to block another low shot from Massey and deflect it behind for a corner. From the delivery, Crewe needed their captain Murphy to clear Magnus Okuonghae’s towering header from the line.
Colchester were much improved since the switch and on the balance of play, deserved their equaliser on 42 minutes. Bond sent the towering Smith down the left hand side of the Crewe defence and after he had rolled Ellis, he found Porter inside the Crewe penalty area. A sharp turn and shot past Phillips made it 1-1. With Crewe needing the half-time whistle, Massey shot wildly wide.
The home side started the second half as they finished the first and will Crewe’s distribution from the back inaccurate, they were only encouraged to come forward. An early low cross from Porter only just missed the run of Smith at the far post and Osman was able to clear the danger.
Harry Davis then did exceedingly well to deny the powerful Smith a clear shot at goal after the bustling forward had raced onto a long clearance from his goalkeeper Walker. Davis managed to match him physically and block his shot.
Massey the struck straight into the gloves of Phillips after an initial free-kick from Clifford had been cleared from underneath the crossbar by Davis.
Moore’s pace then nearly created a tap in for Pogba, but the covering Thompson did well to react first and hook the danger away from within his own six-yard box. The same defender did similarly to cut out another pull back from the sprightly Clayton.
Porter was lively up the other end for Colchester and after taking on Robertson for pace, his low cross should really have been converted by Smith for 2-1 but the towering substitute couldn’t keep his shot down and it cleared the crossbar.
A Robertson corner was flicked on Pogba and drifted away from the six yard box. Massey then saw his low cross collected by Phillips as Morrison hovered for a tap in. Porter then tried an ambitious volley that didn’t trouble the Crewe goalkeeper.
With 20 minutes remaining, Crewe retook the lead. Murphy burst forward powerfully to the edge of the Colchester penalty area before timing his pass into Pogba. The Alex striker took a turn before firing low and seemingly through Walker to register his 14th goal of an impressive season at this level. The Colchester United goalkeeper Walker didn’t need telling that he should have done better with the low shot as it crept through him.
Colchester made their final change with their loan signing from QPR, Troy Hewitt, replacing Morrison.
A flowing move from Crewe involving Murphy and Leitch-Smith nearly created a killer third goal but the pull back from Leitch-Smith was just too much of a stretch for Moore. Soon after that half chance, Pogba was booked for wrestling close to the half way line.
Colchester could have drawn level for a second time this afternoon with seven minutes remaining but Ellis did superbly well to block a close range shot from Hewitt and Smith, under pressure, could only shoot wide. Anything on target and it would have been a second equaliser for the U's.
Crewe had to survive a late free-kick thunderbolt from Andy Bond, but the wall stood firm and the midfielder could only direct this follow up well wide. Crewe's first change was to protect our advantage with Ollie Turton replacing the hard working Clayton. With time running out Adam Dugdale replaced Pogba.
There was still time for Bond to thunder a shot just wide but Crewe stood firm to collect three great away points after those two successive defeats.