Three second half goals in ten minutes condemned Crewe Alexandra to their seventh defeat of the season as Colchester United inflicted a 3-0 home defeat on the Railwaymen. Freddie Sears’ calm finish at the far post on 57 minutes gave the U’s the lead and when substitute, the on loan, Rhys Healey and a tap in from Sanchez Watt made it a miserable second half at Gresty Road.
It wasn’t as though Crewe were not in the game, arguably shading the better of the chances in the first half with Billy Waters having a shot deflected behind for a corner and the recalled Greg Leigh having a header strike the Colchester crossbar at the beginning of the second half. Anthony Grant also hit a shot over as Crewe actually came out at the beginning of the second half with real purpose.
Those quick fire goals changed the mood and the performance though as the game slipped away from us.
There was an instant start for new loan signing Alan Tate against Colchester United this afternoon. The enormously experienced Swansea City defender replaced Thierry Audel for the visit of the U’s with Adam Dugdale well enough again to take his place on the substitutes’ bench.
A change of formation from a midfield diamond to 4-4-2 also saw Oliver Turton return on the right of midfield and Greg Leigh on the left hand side. Out of the starting eleven following the 6-1 defeat at MK Dons were Liam Nolan and Vadaine Oliver. Billy Waters pushed forward to partner the Canadian International Marcus Haber.
The visitors from Essex were presented with the first genuine chance of the game via a harshly awarded free-kick. The Crewe captain Matt Tootle was penalised for a foul on winger Sanchez Watt and George Moncur forced Ben Garratt into an early tip over his own crossbar.
Crewe soon settled into their stride though and played some decent football in stages during the first half. Waters and Tootle combined to allow the full-back to produce a tidy piece of skill right on the by-line but his chipped cross was intercepted with Haber waiting.
Haber, who was lively in the early exchanges, then headed down towards Waters inside the Colchester penalty area but he couldn’t quite reach it. A clever little flick from Leigh then gave Waters an opportunity to shoot from distance but he didn’t keep his shot down enough to test Sam Walker for the first time.
Colchester were certainly a threat on the counter attack throughout the game. On 19 minutes, a superb flowing move down the Crewe left allowed full-back Sean Clohessey to make inroads into the final third and his dangerous looking cross had to be cut out by an alert George Ray.
Two minutes later and a sublime turn and pass from Ness, nearly saw him pick out Haber but he seemed to be in two minds with the ball at head height and it wasn’t particularly easy to get under control.
Crewe did look the more likely side to score but genuine chances in the first half were few and far between. Waters played in the advanced Grant but the midfielder was off balance and over hit his cross behind. Turton also had a shot blocked by Ben Gordon after a good move involving target man and Tootle had given him half chance to get his shot off from 20 yards.
At the other end, a Moncur cross evaded everyone and Tootle calmly let it pass at the far post. Colchester went closer though with a Clohessy cross taking a deflection off the studs of Leigh and nearly catching Garratt out as it looped over him. Freddie Sears also had a shot blocked by Grant after Gordon had broken forward down the Crewe right.
A pretty even 45 minutes ended with the best chance falling to arguably the best performer on the pitch Billy Waters. Grant slipped the Crewe graduate through and Waters calmly round Walker but from an acute angle his low shot took a deceive deflection off Gordon to take it behind for a corner.
Crewe began the second half with real purpose and Leigh went awfully close to giving us the lead when he stole in front of Clohessey to head against the post. A relived Sam Walker jumped on the loose ball close to his line. Moments later Grant fired over and Turton straight at Walker, as it looked as though Crewe were going to really take the game to the opposition.
Watt was always a menace with his pace and on 57 minutes he created the first goal with his cross evading everyone and the confident Sears tucked home at the far post. He took his time to pick his spot and it was a calm finish from the former West Ham youngster.
Rhys Healey replaced Tom Eastman and the extra legs up front saw him race away on 64 minutes and fire home a powerful shot past Garratt for 2-0. Three minutes later, it was over as a contest with Tate stretching to try and cut out a low cross from Sears and Sanchez reacting quickest to turn it past Garratt. Tootle couldn’t get enough on it to get it off the line.
Crewe changed to three at the back with Guthrie making way for Inman. Soon after Vadaine Oliver replaced Jamie Ness.
Colchester also made a change with Drey Wright replacing Sears. Watt shot wide from distance as the Essex side went in search of more goals.
The Crewe youngster George Cooper did add some skill and urgency to the final third. After replacing Haber, he clipped a delightful pass out to Inman and created a chance for Tootle, who curled one just wide of the far post.
There was also a nice and generous reception for our former player David Wright.