Bowery gives Crewe the lead but U's fight back to win 3-1 to condemn us to our sixth away defeat on the trot.
Crewe: Richards, Nolan, Walker, Ng, Ainley (Cooper, 61), Bakayogo (Pickering, 85), Lowery, Grant, Porter, Dagnall, Bowery
Unused Subs: Garratt, Kirk, Lundstram, Reilly, Stubbs
Goals: Bowery (22)
Attendance: 3,088 (185)
David Artell must be getting sick to the back teeth of trying to explain our Jekyll and Hyde performances after we lost our sixth away game on the bounce. Crewe Alexandra could and should have been firmly in the driving seat after another encouraging first half performance, but were once again left to rue a number of missed chances before being punished five minutes before the break from a lapse of concentration at a corner.
Crewe had deservedly led through Jordan Bowery’s fourth goal of the season and should have been further ahead at the break after good chances were created but spurned by Bowery, Chris Porter and Chris Dagnall.
Colchester’s Mikael Mandron duly scored against the run of play from their first corner, before coming out a much-improved side in the second half. John McGreal’s side were a different proposition and another corner resulted in another goal against, this time with defender Tom Eastman converting at the second attempt before Mandron slid home his second after a teasing cross from Ryan Jackson.
David Artell changed both his formation and personnel for the trip to Essex. With Michael Raynes suspended due to his red card against Accrington Stanley last weekend, Artell altered his shape to operate with three at the back. Brad Walker returned to the starting line-up with Callum Ainley and Zoumana Bakayogo employed as wing-backs.
George Cooper began on the substitutes’ bench for the Alex as Chris Dagnall earned himself a recall to the starting line-up and regained the captain’s armband. Crewe started with a front three of Dagnall, Jordan Bowery and ex-Colchester man Chris Porter. Porter got a rousing reception on his return to the Weston Homes Community Stadium.
Crewe had to deal with an early long throw into a crowded penalty area, but Porter did well to head clear. In the second phase of play, Kyel Reid volleyed wide of the target with Dave Richards watching it drop harmlessly behind.
A free-kick from Conor Grant was planted close to the Colchester United goalkeeper Sam Walker and as both Bowery and Porter applied some pressure on the U’s man, the referee awarded a soft free-kick. The goalkeeper was given the benefit of the doubt underneath his own crossbar. Moments later, a low cross from Bowery into the six-yard box was pounced upon by an alert Sam Walker.
Both sides enjoyed good spells of possession and it continued to be a neat and tidy affair with periods of accurate passing and movement, but not much occurred in both boxes.
Crewe’s first genuine chance of the game arrived on 13 minutes after a splendid move in the middle of the park. A superb header from Bakayogo from our box found Bowery and the ball was passed from Grant into Lowery, who looked up and struck a perfect ball through to Porter in the left hand channel. The Crewe striker saw his low shot agonizingly clear Walker’s far post.
The Porter opportunity spurred Crewe into a period of dominance and we deservedly took the lead on 22 minutes. The Railwaymen opened up the Colchester United defence with some patient and decisive football to score on the road for the first time since Wycombe. Bakayogo and Dagnall were involved in the initial build-up to find Ainley in space and he slipped the willing runner Dagnall in behind. From close to the by-line, the captain managed to squeeze the ball back across the six-yard and Bowery was there to gleefully turn home his fourth of the season.
More encouraging play from the Alex saw the ball worked into the feet of Bowery but his low shot lacked the power and accuracy to really test Walker.
Just after the hour mark, a delightful move from a fluent Alex saw Grant slip the supportive Bakayogo in down the left hand side and his cross may just have taken the slightest of deflections to take it away from Dagnall. It would have been some goal after Crewe had worked the ball right across the pitch.
Colchester were finding it difficult to conjure up any meaningful opportunities of their own but a couple of wicked crosses from Reid and Drey Wright could have asked some questions if someone had taken a chance at the far post.
Crewe did concede a large number of free-kicks inside our half of the pitch but in fairness we stood strong against their taller players. Brad Walker was especially strong in the air on his return to the starting line-up.
The energetic Bakayogo was enjoying himself down the left hand side and he presented Bowery with another golden chance to double our advantage on 35 minutes. The full-back timed his pass into the striker perfectly and after his first effort was blocked, he screwed his shot wastefully wide of the target. The Railwaymen arguably deserved to be further ahead after being the more threatening side in the first period.
As often happens though, if you do not convert those chances, they can come back to haunt you. Colchester’s first corner of the game resulted in the equaliser on 39 minutes and it should have been avoided. The cross from our left was allowed to travel far too easily, bouncing inside the six-yard box, and the towering Mikael Mandron couldn’t believe his luck as he was left on his own to fire back across Richards.
As the first half drew to a conclusion, Ryan Jackson had an ambitious shot clearing the Crewe crossbar and the Alex couldn’t quite make the most of Ainley’s later corner and Nolan’s clever header back into a tempting area.
Two minutes into the second half and Crewe escaped going behind. A long ball up the pitch should have been dealt with more effectively by Ng and as the ball cleared his head, it allowed the pacey Hanlan to have a run at our goal. With Ng in pursuit and Richards rushing from his line, Hanlan poked his effort inches wide. It was one almighty let off.
Moments later, Nolan did well to get his head on a goalbound effort and sent it clear of the crossbar.
Crewe’s best early chance of the second half again saw Bakayogo make tremendous strides down the left. Porter slipped him in behind once again but on this occasion, his low cross was cut out and in the follow-up, Grant’s cross was deflected away from danger.
Reid was the first player to be booked for a foul on Lowery and from the resultant free-kick, Dagnall got a terrific effort on target but Walker was equal to it and he made a great save.
The game became more open and after a loose pass from Lowery was cut out, Mandron was presented with another sight of the Crewe goal but he drilled his effort into the side netting. Many inside the ground thought he had scored.
The pressure on the Crewe goal finally told for the home side and again it stemmed from a set-play. From the corner, Tom Eastman struck against the crossbar with a short range shot and then the defender reacted quickest again to head low past Richards, who did get his hand on it. The Crewe defence did not react quickly enough to the danger and Eastman took full advantage to put the U’s ahead on the hour mark.
After falling behind, Crewe boss David Artell made an instant change with Cooper replacing Ainley. Eastman was then cautioned for a foul on Dagnall and Walker was flagged offside after the ball had fallen invitingly at his feet.
The next goal was going to be crucial and the U’s got it with 20 minutes left. Crewe surrendered possession in the Colchester half of the pitch, and following a rampaging run from full-back Ryan Jackson, Mandron slid in to score his second goal of the afternoon. Colchester had broken on the counter attack and now we faced an enormous mountain to climb.
Crewe Alexandra continued to try and play their football and get back into the game. There were some promising moments but with a two-goal advantage, the U’s were quickly in shape and making things increasingly difficult.
Harry Pickering replaced Bakayogo as the minutes ticked away and Colchester made a double change of their own with Craig Slater and Lewis Kinsella replacing Doug Loft and Jackson.
Richards was called into action late on to prevent it going to 4-1. The Crewe goalkeeper watched it all the way to push Brandon Comley's shot away from danger.