Colchester match report
Crewe Alexandra 2 Colchester United 0COLCHESTER United's indifferent start to their League One campaign continued with a disappointing defeat at Crewe, who in the process leapfrogged over the U's in the table.
Crewe Alexandra 2 Colchester United 0
COLCHESTER United's indifferent start to their League One campaign continued with a disappointing defeat at Crewe, who in the process leapfrogged over the U's in the table.
And a poor afternoon turned into a disastrous one when club record signing Steven Gillespie was sent off with three minutes remaining. Gillespie was handed a straight red card for violent conduct, after his challenge on right-back Danny Woodards near the touch-line.
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Earlier, a mistake by Dean Gerken had proved costly, as it gifted the Railwaymen a 47th minute lead. Gerken seemed to have Michael O'Connor's free-kick covered, but he was perhaps a little unsighted as the ball eluded his grasp and rolled into a gaping net.
It was all over when substitute Tom Pope headed home Billy Jones' cross for the second goal in the 68th minute, despite the best efforts of Phil Ifil to clear the ball off the goal-line.
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This was a below-par performance from the U's. Their shooting lacked accuracy, and in the end Crewe cantered to victory.
The hosts started brightly and winger Joel Grant cut inside both John White and Kem Izzet before having a shot deflected wide for a corner inside the first two minutes.
However, the U's were soon into their stride. Mark Yeates drilled a cross-cum-shot across the face of goal and wide, while Scott Vernon stabbed into the side-netting after Clive Platt had unsettled keeper Steve Collis in the air from Anthony Wordsworth's cross.
The Railwaymen had appeals for a penalty turned down on 12 minutes. U's defender Paul Reid collided with midfielder O'Connor in the box, but referee Iain Williamson merely waved play on.
Phil Ifil was the first player to be booked, when he tripped winger Bryon Moore to prevent a quick fire break in the 14th minute.
In fact, the wingers on both sides were looking the most influential players on the pitch. U's right-winger Yeates skipped past two challenges to home in on goal, but he found the angle too tight and keeper Collis blocked the final shot with his legs at his near post.
It was then the turn of left-winger Wordsworth to make an impression. The youngster linked up well with Vernon and tried his luck with a curling shot that dipped just a foot over the bar.
Wordsworth nearly the broke the deadlock again in the 28th minute. Yeates and Vernon instigated a swift breakaway, following Platt's intervention inside the U's box, and Wordsworth controlled Vernon's lay-off and crashed in a shot that Collis did well to divert over the bar.
Matt Heath was the second U's player to be booked. The ex-Leeds centre-half was flashed the yellow card for dissent.
The U's shooting continued to let them down. That was the case on 37 minutes as Wordsworth scooped a 16-yard shot well over the top, when he really he should have hit the target from another Vernon pass.
At the other end, Ifil made a goal-line clearance to prevent a Crewe opener in the 39th minute. Skipper Julian Baudet's close range effort, from a corner, looked to be heading into the net until Ifil blocked the effort. Gerken punched away the follow-up cross.
The U's had been frustrated by the performance of referee Mr Williamson during the first period. That was summed up in stoppage time when Platt was harshly adjudged to have fouled Baudet, and was then booked for dissent.
Crewe took the lead within two minutes of the restart, due to an error from Gerken.
White fouled Calvin Zola on the left edge of the box, and O'CONNOR drilled in the free-kick low. Gerken seemed to have it covered, but completely missed the ball as it rolled into an unguarded net.
The U's were on the rack and they nearly conceded a second goal in the 49th minute. Leading scorer Anthony Elding was clean through on goal, but he dragged his shot across goal and wide.
Yeates curled in a shot that keeper Collis easily gathered, but the U's had not really got going in the second-half. That prompted a change from manager Williams, who introduced leading scorer Gillespie for Vernon on the hour mark. Gillespie had not started the match due to missing the last two games with a tweaked hamstring.
Six minutes later and the visitors made a second change. White had taken a knock after a 50-50 challenge with Jones, and so was replaced by David Perkins.
Crewe also made a substitution at this time, and it was to prove an important one. Pope came on for Elding, who was clearly upset with the decision.
But he could have no real complaints because it was substitute POPE who headed the hosts into a two-goal lead in the 68th minute.
A short corner routine saw Jones swing over a menacing cross from the right, and Pope rose high to head powerfully goalwards from just outside the six-yard box. Ifil hooked the ball away, but not before it had crossed the line. It was the assistant referee who raised his flag to award the goal.
The U's now had a mountain to climb. Izzet was denied on a one-on-one situation, firing straight at keeper Collis, while Platt screwed a shot wide from a corner on 76 minutes.
But Crewe could have added to their tally. Zola burst through and did all the hard work, only for the big, burly striker to scuff his shot wide.
It got worse for the U's when they were reduced to 10 men in the 87th minute. Substitute Gillespie was shown a straight red card for violent conduct after his late challenge on Woodards.
Dean Hammond was booked in injury-time to complete a miserable afternoon for the U's in Cheshire.
CREWE: Collis 7, Woodards 6, O'Donnell 7, Baudet 7, Jones 7, Moore 7, Bailey 6, O'Connor 8, GRANT 8 (sub Carrington, 77), Elding 6 (sub Pope, 66), Zola 7. Unused subs: Miller, Donaldson, Abbey.
COLCHESTER UNITED: Gerken 5, White 6 (sub Perkins, 66), Reid 7, Heath 6, IFIL 7, Yeates 6, Izzet 6, Jackson 5, Wordsworth 7, Platt 5, Vernon 6 (sub Gillespie, 60). Unused subs: Coyne, Hammond, Cousins.
Referee: Mr Iain Williamson (Berkshire)