It's a mystery, U's so unpredictable

Colchester United 0 Crewe Alexandra 1I RECKON that Mystic Meg would even have difficulty in predicting Colchester United's results this season!The only predictable thing about the U's is that they are unpredictable.

Carl Marston

Mystery as U's are sunk by lowly Crewe

Tough run-in offers a glimmer of hope for Lambert's men

Colchester United 0 Crewe Alexandra 1


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By Carl Marston

I RECKON that Mystic Meg would even have difficulty in predicting Colchester United's results this season!

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The only predictable thing about the U's is that they are unpredictable. Or, to put it a little clearer, the U's tend to outplay the top teams and play second fiddle to the bottom teams.

Of course, in true Colchester tradition, this is not always the case. That would be too predictable, hence the occasional win over lowly Cheltenham and Brighton, and the odd defeat at high-flying Millwall and Peterborough.

But in the main, Paul Lambert's men have tended to shine against the teams above them, and flounder against the sides struggling against relegation. If you're a betting man, it's probably just advisable to avoid a punt on the U's altogether!

Having won at fourth-placed Oldham (at the time) the previous weekend, and earlier in the season recorded draws at MK Dons and Leeds, as well as doubling Stockport, it seemed likely that visiting Crewe would be overpowered on Saturday.

No such luck. The Railwaymen, a team transformed since the arrival of Icelandic manager Gudjon Thordarson, were good value for their narrow win to complete a league double over their hosts.

Just as lowly Hereford had managed in December, so the U's were again humbled on home turf to leave them still frustratingly out of reach of the top six.

Of course it is still mathematically possible for United to gate-crash the top six. But Calvin Zola's 63rd minute winner has made that increasingly unlikely - the U's might well have to win at least six or seven of their last nine games to prolong their season.

There is a glimmer of hope. On paper, the U's have a terrible run-in, with trips to leaders Leicester City and fourth-placed Millwall, as well as home games against fifth-placed Leeds and second-placed Peterborough.

But remember, the U's always like to defy the odds. They could still cause a few upsets during the last six weeks of the season.

United have tended to start strongly in games, and then tail off, which is just what happened against relegation-threatened Crewe. Their failure to take one of several chances that came their way in the first half was to ultimately prove their downfall.

On another day, they would have been awarded an early penalty when Alan Maybury's sixth minute cross appeared to strike the hand of Marlon Broomes, one of three centre-halves employed by the Cheshire visitors. Referee David Phillips did not agree.

Seven minutes later and left-back Marc Tierney, who produced another man-of-the-match display, shaved the far post with a low, angled drive.

Keeper John Ruddy also stood in the U's way. He brilliantly tipped away a deft chip from Kem Izzet, and likewise arched back to prevent skipper Dean Hammond's delicate free-kick from sneaking into the top corner of the net.

United could not sustain the pace in the second period, and gradually Crewe became more adventurous with their attacks upfield - they had spent most of the first-half with a five-man defence, and two defensively-minded midfielders sitting just in front of them.

Zola's match-winner, midway through the second period, was his fifth goal of the season but his first since November. The U's failed to deal with a long throw-in by Clayton Donaldson, and Zola was able to turn and force home a shot at the near post.

There was to be no response. In fact, Crewe nearly doubled their lead when Donaldson burst through on goal in the 66th minute, only for Mark Cousins to save at his feet.

The U's never really created a worthwhile chance during the last quarter of the game, and so once again the U's defied all predictions, including mine!

I had predicted a 2-1 home win. I should have known better.

Squads

COLCHESTER UNITED: Cousins 7, Maybury 6 (sub Wordsworth, 84), Baldwin 6, Coyne 7, TIERNEY 8, Perkins 7, Hammond 6, Izzet 7 (sub Jackson, 70), Hackney 6 (sub Vernon, 41), Yeates 6, Platt 7. Unused subs: White, Gerken.

CREWE ALEXANDRA: Ruddy 8, Baudet 7, LAWRENCE 8, Broomes 7, Brayford 7, Grant 6 (sub Moore, 90), Woodards 6 (sub Schumacher, 46), Sigurdsson 7, Jones 6, Donaldson 6, Zola 7. Unused subs: O'Donnell, Miller, Collis.

Referee: Mr David Phillips (West Sussex) 6

Attendance: 4,907

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