Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Ray, Nugent, Bakayogo (Ng, 59), Jones, Bingham, Cooke, Cooper (Wintle, 76), Dagnall, Bowery
Unused Subs: Dawber, Kiwomya, Ainley, Dale, Finney
Goals: Dagnall (26, 84)
Attendance: 3,407 (223)
In-form striker Chris Dagnall scored a goal in each half as Crewe Alexandra secured back-to-back league wins with a hard fought but deserved 2-0 win over Colchester.
Dagnall stooped to head home a wicked free-kick cross from George Cooper on 25 minutes and he sealed the points with four minutes left after converting a low cross from Callum Cooke from close range.
Dagnall was denied the hat-trick ball with the Colchester goalkeeper Sam Walker making a terrific save late on after substitute Ryan Wintle had provided a wonderful tempting cross.
Crewe also had Ben Garratt to thank for pulling off too late saves to deny Brenn Dickenson and substitute Tarique Fosu late on but it would have been harsh on Crewe who thoroughly deserved the points.
There was a slight delay in the kick-off time due to a heavy downpour of rain throughout the morning. Great work from the ground staff managed to shift the surface water on the pitch and referee Graham Horwood gave the all-clear for the game to commence at 3.15pm.
Following an assured performance and result at Crawley in mid-week, Crewe Alexandra manager David Artell understandably kept faith with the same starting XI. That was only made possible by his club captain George Ray declaring himself fit to play after he aggravated a groin muscle in the 3-0 win over the Red Devils. Ray was withdrawn in the 20th minute on Tuesday night and his understudy Perry Ng performed admirably in his absence.
Owen Dale took the place of Charlie Kirk on the substitutes’ bench following an impressive display for the U-23s in the week.
Crewe Alexandra energy levels were high in the early exchanges as David Artell’s side tried to get on the front foot. The front three of Bowery, Dagnall and Cooper set the standard as they tried to hurry the Colchester United back four into forced errors. With the surface water on the pitch, the ball zipped around as both sides tried to play the game in the correct manner.
Crewe’s best effort in the opening few minutes arose after good work from Ollie Turton. His deep cross could only be cleared to Callum Cooke and his fierce drive had to be pushed by away by Sam Walker.
The home side continued to get on the ball and press for the opener but a back post header from Ray was too just a bit close to Walker and he saved underneath his crossbar.
Soon after Bowery curled an effort just past the far post before Colchester lost Sammie Szmodics through injury after he raced back to make a challenge on Zoumana Bakayogo. Szmodics couldn’t continue and had to be stretched off down the tunnel and he was replaced by Tarique Fosu.
More good approach play from Cooke, saw Ray win his header but Bowery couldn’t keep his shot low enough to test Walker.
Colchester were a threat from set plays or free-kicks entering our box, but the impressive Turton cleared twice following a Sean Murray ball into the Crewe area.
It would be a free-kick that would result in the opening goal on 25 minutes. The advanced Turton was fouled by Brennan Dickenson and Cooper whipped over a fantastic cross that Dagnall stooped on to score his sixth goal in six games. It was no more than Crewe deserved and it was Dagnall’s 11th goal of the campaign. His second late on would make it 12 of an impressive first year for the club.
Colchester substitute Fosu went close to an equaliser but his volley on the turn from a long ball from Drey Wright just cleared Garratt’s left hand post. It was a fine effort.
Boosted by the advantage of the goal, Crewe went in search of another before the break. Cooper thumped a free-kick off the top of the Colchester wall.
Colchester had Rekeil Pyke a bit unfortunately booked for a dive when he had appeared to have been felled by Dagnall and the visitors also had a half chance for Murray to close late on inside the box, but Bakayago made a tremendous block to prevent it reaching Porter.
Colchester upped the tempo at the beginning of the second period and Murray shot wide early on and Pyke forced Garratt into a save with his legs after he beat the struggling-with-injury Bakayogo at the far post. Crewe soon got in their stride and a good through ball from Jones released Dagnall but on this occasion he dragged his shot just wide.
Bakayogo was unable to continue and had to replace by Ng and he carried on where he left off on Tuesday with another assured performance.
To their credit, Colchester continued to press forward looking to get back in the contest and Garratt was well placed to save from Porter and Fosu fired a free-kick straight at the Crewe goalkeeper.
Crewe were having to dig in and battle to remain on top and after a quick break from midfield, Cooper fired just wide before he was replaced by Wintle. The fresh legs made a difference for the game management and Bingham and Jones were excellent in dictating the tempo of the play.
Colchester loaded our box more looking for Porter but our work rate restricted their genuine efforts on our goal. Bowery showed that desire by chasing done Cameron James with just minutes left. He got warm applause for his effort.
The decisive second goal duly arrived with six minutes left. Wintle was involved again and he kept his composure on the edge of the box to slip Cooke in and the on-loan Boro starlet found Dagnall at the near post and he forced home his 12th goal of the season to wrap up the points. He could have had a first hat-trick for the club, but Walker pulled off a remarkable save to prevent him at the far post as he slid to meet Wintle’s excellent cross.
Colchester kept going and Crewe needed Garratt on top form to tip over a Porter header and then push away a good effort from the lively Fosu. Crewe deservedly kept a second successive clean-sheet to put 13 points between ourselves and the bottom two. A job well done.
View over 10 mins of HD highlights from the win below