Colchester United derailed by Railwaymen in second half
- Credit: Archant
Colchester United 1 Crewe Alexandra 2
Colchester United let a half-time lead slip, as they crashed to a home defeat at the hands of Crewe Alexandra, who had begun the day at the foot of the table.
The Railwaymen struck twice in a three-minute spell in the second period, through Chucks Aneke and Tom Hitchcock on 73 and 76 minutes.
These goals cancelled out Luke Garbutt’s opener, from a 29th minute free-kick.
It was Garbutt who won the free-kick in the first place, after being chopped down by Mesca 25 yards from goal.
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Brian Wilson stepped over the ball and Garbutt whipped in a left-footed shot that took a wicked deflection, off the defensive wall, to wrong-foot keeper Ben Garratt.
Garratt changed direction too late, and so was powerless to prevent Garbutt’s effort from flying into the net.
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But Crewe dominated the second period and they fully deserved their equaliser, via Aneke’s side-footed finish from Bradden Inman’s pass in the 73rd minute.
Three minutes later, Sam Walker failed to intercept a corner and Hitchcock headed home the winner at the far post.
The U’s had started brightly and Jabo Ibehre, who had scored with an overhead kick against Stevenage just three days earlier, sliced a similar acrobatic shot wide on six minutes.
Crewe had a positive approach themselves, fielding two strikers and two wingers. In fact, Magnus Okuonghae had to be at his best to back-track and block a goal-bound shot by Inman, one of the wide men, in the eighth minute.
At the other end, Blair Turgott darted onto Craig Eastmond’s pass and threatened to unleash a stinging shot goalwards. Crewe left-back Matt Tootle denied him with a vital block, on the edge of the box.
But the first clear-cut opening fell to visiting striker, Hitchcock, on the quarter-hour mark. The QPR loanee sneaked behind David Wright and homed in on goal, only to screw his shot across goal and wide of the far post.
Neither keeper actually had a serious save to make during the first 25 minutes, although Marcus Bean went close with a volley which whistled a foot wide following Garbutt’s free-kick.
However, Crewe custodian Garratt had little chance with Garbutt’s next free kick, which took a big deflection on its way into the bottom corner of the net.
Lifted by this opening goal, the U’s went in search of a quickfire second and Garratt twice had to smother low drives from Turgott and Eastmond within 60 seconds of each other on the half-hour mark.
Sam Walker was called into action for the first time in the 32nd minute, pulling off a smart save from Inman’s angled shot, while Hitchcock miscued an attempted volley wide when well positioned.
Into the second half and Ibehre caused a nuisance of himself in the Crewe box. The big man nearly managed to round keeper Garratt, but the ball rolled out of his reach, with an empty goal beckoning.
Crewe came within a whisker of equalising in the 58th minute. Okuonghae’s misplaced back pass rolled past Walker, but Wilson was back to clear Hitchcock’s shot off the goal-line, so saviung a certain goal.
Ten minutes later and the U’s were perhaps lucky not to be reduced to 10 men. Hitchcock would have been clean through on goal, had he not been tugged back by Wilson. The U’s skipper was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.
But the U’s luck ran out when Aneke side-footed home the equaliser on 73 minutes, before Hitchcock headed home what proved to be the winner just three minutes later.
The closest the U’s came to an equaliser was a looping header by substitute Sanchez Watt, which was clawed away by Garratt on 87 minutes.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Eastman, Garbutt, Wright (sub Gilbey, 80), Bean, Eastmond, Vose (sub Watt, 67), Ibehre (sub Morrison, 67), Turgott. Unused subs: Cousins, Dickson, Sanderson, Olufemi.
CREWE: Garratt, Tootle, Davis, Ellis, Mellor, Osman, Inman (sub Moore, 90+6), Evans (sub Grant, 59), Mesca, Hitchcock (sub Ray, 90+4), Aneke. Unused subs: Martin, Leitch-Smith, Moore, Ray, Guthrie, Oliver.
Referee: Mr L Collins (Surrey)