Colchester United’s dismal away form continues as Chris Dagnall bags a brace for Crewe

The waterlogged pitch at Gresty Road, an hour before the scheduled kick-off. Referee Graham Horwood

The waterlogged pitch at Gresty Road, an hour before the scheduled kick-off. Referee Graham Horwood gave the game the go-ahead after a 2.30pm pitch inspection. Picture: CARL MARSTON - Credit: Archant

Crewe Alexandra 2 Colchester United 0

Groundstaff sweeping off some of the surface water at Gresty Road

Groundstaff sweeping off some of the surface water at Gresty Road - Credit: Archant

Colchester United’s indifferent away form continued, with a disappointing defeat at lowly Crewe Alexandra this afternoon.

Chris Dagnall bagged the first of his two goals in the 26th minute, and although the U’s improved in the second half, they were unable to fashion an equaliser.

And Dagnall put the game to bed with a second from close-range, on 83 minutes.

John McGreal’s men are therefore still searching for their first away win of 2017.

They have taken just three points from a possible 21 on the road since the turn of the year, with four defeats and three draws.

Their last away success was a 4-2 win at Stevenage on New Year’s Eve.

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Dagnall’s first-half opener arrived from a free-kick, conceded by Brennan Dickenson and pumped into the penalty area by George Cooper.

Dagnall’s flying header had too much pace on it for Sam Walker, who could not prevent the ball from soaring into the roof of the net.

It was Dagnall’s eighth goal of the season, and the sixth in his last six appearances.

And the 30-year-old was celebrating his seventh in sixth matches before the end, as he tucked home a low cross by Callum Cooke from close-in with seven minutes remaining.

The match was only given the go-ahead after a couple of pitch inspections, following heavy rain at lunchtime.

Referee Graham Horwood initially inspected the pitch at 2pm, but delayed a final decision until taking another look at 2.30pm after members of the ground-staff had swept the surface of excess water.

Mr Horwood was finally happy that the pitch was playable, but delayed the kick-off for 15 minutes until 3.15pm.

Crewe settled the better, on the sticky surface, and Walker was forced into a smart save inside two minutes, beating away Cooke’s ferocious 20-yarder in front of his near post.

There was a setback for the visitors when Sammie Szmodics injured himself in making a robust challenge, near the touch-line, on front-runner Dagnall. It was actually deemed to be a foul by the U’s man.

Szmodics was eventually stretchered off to the dressing room, to be replaced by substitute Tarique Fosu on 13 minutes.

It was only Szmodics’ third start, since coming back from a four-month absence following ankle surgery, so it was another bitter pill to swallow for the young attacking midfielder.

While the visitors were down to 10 men, Crewe striker Jordan Bowery squandered a good chance to break the deadlock, scooping his shot over the bar from an unmarked position, just eight yards out.

But the Railwaymen did get their noses in front, via Dagnall’s diving header on the 26-minute mark.

Substitute Fosu was close to poaching an equaliser on the half-hour mark.

Crewe could only half-clear a free-kick by Sean Murray, and when Drey Wright lifted the ball back into the danger zone, an unmarked Fosu turned to rifle in a volley which flew only a foot wide of the far upright.

But that was the only time that Colchester threatened a goal in an otherwise very disappointing first-half showing.

The U’s showed a little more urgency at the start of the second period, and Sean Murray screwed a 20-yard shot wide of target in the 50th minute.

Just a minute later, goalscorer Dagnall got the better of Cameron James, but pulled his shot across goal and wide, with Walker untroubled.

Fosu lashed a shot over the top, from Murray’s delivery, as the U’s searched for an equaliser, and Rekeil Pyke came close to scoring his first-ever Football League goal with a goal-bound header on 56 minutes, which was blocked at point blank range by keeper Ben Garratt. That was a good chance.

On the hour mark, Garratt was again in the right place to catch a looping header by Chris Porter, from Fosu’s teasing cross.

The U’s tried to force the issue, but Dagnall killed off the game with his second on 83 minutes.

Walker then saved from point-blank range in the 88th minute to deny Dagnall a hat-trick.


CREWE: Garratt, Turton, Ray, Nugent, Bakayogo (sub Ng, 59), Cooke, Bingham, Jones, Cooper (sub Wintle, 76), Dagnall, Bowery. Unused subs: Dawber, Kiwomya, Ainley, Dale, Finney.

COLCHESTER: Walker, James, Elokobi, Briggs, Wright (sub Brindley, 76), Lapslie, Murray, Dickenson, Szmodics (sub Fosu, 13), Pyke (sub Bonne, 69), Porter. Unused subs: Barnes, Vincent-Young, Kinsella, Edge.

Referee: Graham Horwood

Attendance: 3,407 (223 away fans)