Colchester United’s fine home record is ended by Crawley as Jimmy Smith bags a hat-trick
- Credit: Richard Blaxall/Focus Images Ltd
Colchester United 2 Crawley Town 3
Jimmy Smith rattled up a hat-trick as injury-hit Colchester United suffered only their second defeat in the last 13 games, at the hands of visiting Crawley Town tonight.
The U’s had won their last five home games on the bounce, but they were second best against the lower mid-table Red Devils, despite taking the lead via Denny Johnstone’s first goal in 29 appearances.
Brennan Dickenson surged onto Tarique Fosu’s pass and crossed into the danger-zone, where the lurking Johnstone tucked home his first goal for six months, on 19 minutes.
The Scotsman’s only other goal for the U’s, since his summer move from Birmingham City, had been in the 2-0 home win over Cambridge United on August 13, 2016.
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Smith netted the first of his hat-trick just four minutes after Johnstone’s opener.
Crawley’s skipper rose unchallenged to meet Dean Cox’s corner with a powerful header into the roof of the net.
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Smith bagged an even better goal in the 34th minute. Teed up by Enzio Boldewijn, midfielder Smith let fly with an instinctive first-time shot that sailed into the top corner of the net, out of the reach of keeper Sam Walker.
And Smith completed his hat-trick on 52 minutes, squeezing his shot beyond Walker from close-in, although the U’s keeper should have prevented that goal.
The U’s did pull a goal back in the third of eight minutes of injury time, with Dickenson curling home a delightful free-kick from 20 yards out.
But it was too little too late for John McGreal’s men.
Visiting keeper, Glen Morris, was forced into a double save in the fifth minute. He dived at full-length to his left to palm away Johnstone’s goalbound drive, and recovered well to block the follow-up shot by leading scorer Kurtis Guthrie.
Morris was in the action again on 11 minutes. The Red Devils’ keeper dropped Richard Brindley’s cross-cum-shot, inside his six-yard box, but recovered to smother the loose ball before Guthrie could pounce.
Eight minutes later, however, and Morris was powerless to prevent Johnstone from striking home his first goal in 29 appearances.
The U’s lead lasted just four minutes, though, with skipper Smith heading home Cox’s corner for a quickfire equaliser.
And Smith then obliged with a cracking strike to out Crawley ahead on 34 minutes, giving Walker no chance to chalk up his second goal of the night.
The U’s were left shell-shocked by this double blow, and didn’t really threaten an equaliser for the rest of the half.
They did go in the attack at the start of the second period. Johnstone beat a couple of challenges to feed Richard Brindley and his cross, whipped in at the near post, was sliced away by defender Mark Connolly.
But a mistake by Walker allowed Crawley, and Smith, to complete a hat-trick of goals on 52 minutes. The U’s keeper allowed Smith’s shot to sneak past him.
The U’s never looked like finding a way back into this game, although they almost netted from a mad goalmouth scramble in the 89th minute, before left-back Jordan Roberts hacked to safety.
Dickenson obliged with a 93rd minute free-kick, but Crawley held on for the win.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wynter, Elokobi, Briggs, Brindley (sub Vincent-Young, 68), Lapslie, Garvan (sub Pyke, 77), Dickenson, Fosu (sub Edge, 84), Johnstone, Guthrie. Unused subs: Barnes, Slater, James, Peter.
CRAWLEY: Morris, Young, Lelan, Connolly, Roberts, Boldewijn, Smith (sub Payne, 88), Henderson, Djalo, Cox (sub Bawling, 74), Collins. Unused subs: Mersin, Blackman, Yorwerth, Clifford, Murphy.
Referee: Lee Collins (Surrey)
Attendance: 2,675 (97 away fans)