Szmodics, Nouble and Norris all on target in U’s win over Red Devils
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Colchester United 3 Crawley Town 1
Colchester United made it five wins from seven home games this season, as goals from Sammie Szmodics, Frank Nouble and Luke Norris secured an impressive victory over Crawley Town this afternoon.
The U’s broke the deadlock in the 27th minute, thanks to Szmodics’ fifth goal of the campaign.
Courtney Senior delivered a low cross from the left, the ball flashing across the face of goal with Norris helping on for Szmodics to bury a low shot from just a few feet out.
The U’s had chances to add to their lead, but they were pegged back by Crawley’s 40th minute equaliser from the penalty spot.
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Luke Gambin seemed to be tripped by Luke Prosser, just inside the penalty area, although referee Trevor Kettle did not give the penalty decision until after consulting with his assistant.
It was a controversial decision, both in terms of whether it was a foul, and whether it was inside or outside the box. Gambin certainly made the most of the incident, but the infringement did appear to be just inside the penalty area.
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Filipe Morais, Crawley’s skipper, kept his composure to convert the penalty, with Rene Gilmartin diving the wrong way.
But the hosts regained their lead in the 57th minute, via Nouble’s fourth goal in a Colchester shirt.
Norris was the creator, running menacingly across the face of the penalty area before finding Nouble, and the ex-Ipswich attacker found the back of the net with a deadly accurate first-time shot, from 16 yards out.
Having created the first two goals, Norris then sealed the win himself by smashing home a stunning 20-yarder in the last minute of normal time.
There was a surprise selection, with Gilmartin given his U’s league debut, at the age of 31.
Gilmartin had not actually made a league appearance for nearly six years, since playing for Plymouth in a 0-0 draw against Accrington Stanley on January 26, 2013.
He had made three appearances for the U’s, in the Checkatrade Trophy, including Tuesday night’s 2-0 win over Southend, since his arrival in the summer of 2017.
Crawley threatened first, when defender Bondz N’Gala sent a free header flying over the bar from a third minute corner.
Two minutes later and the U’s were on the attack, prompted by a surging run through the middle from Harry Pell. And it was Pell who got on the end of Frank Nouble’s deep cross, although the midfielder’s downward header was well smothered by keeper Glenn Morris.
Luke Norris nearly managed to squeeze home Courtney Senior’s low cross, on the edge of the six-yard box, in the eighth minute. But the ball eluded him, as he lay on the ground, and the follow-up goal-bound shot by Pell was blocked by a defender.
On the quarter-hour mark, Nouble showed a terrific piece of skill to slip past right-back Lewis Young and dart into the box, from a wide position. His final shot was well blocked by the outstretched boot of centre-half Mark Connolly.
Morris came to his side’s rescue with a fine save on 24 minutes. Pell unleashed a stinging shot, from Szmodics’ lay-off, only for Crawley’s keeper to save well down at his near post.
However, Morris had no chance as Szmodics tucked home from point blank range to put the U’s 1-0 in the 27th minute.
It was so nearly 1-1, just two minutes later, as leading scorer Ollie Palmer’s thunderous header was keep out by an instinctive save from Gilmartin.
It was proving to be a very open game, and defender Tom Eastman lashed in an angled shot which was only just kept out by Morris at his near upright. Morris denied the hosts again, when blocked Norris’ low drive with his legs on 36 minutes.
And Crawley weathered the storm to equalise in the 40th minute, via Morais’ controversial penalty.
Twelve minutes into the second half and the U’s regained the lead, thanks to Nouble’s sublime finish.
Gilmartin did well to get behind a 20-yarder from Dominin Poleon in the 63rd minute, and Red Devils left-back Joe Maguire was then just inches away from an equaliser with a header that flew wide of the far post.
Prosser made a captain’s intervention in the 74th minute, completing a superb goal-line header clearance to prevent Palmer’s towering header from hitting the back of the net, while Szmodics was denied by a diving save from Morris in the 81st minute, and then fired a shot wide with two minutes left.
But Norris did make the game safe with a killer third in the 90th minute.
COLCHESTER: Gilmartin, Jackson, Eastman, Prosser, Vincent-Young (sub Dickenson, 77), Pell (for Wright, 79), Lapslie, Senior (sub Kent, 70), Szmodics, Nouble, Norris. Unused subs: Barnes, Mandron, Kensdale, Collins.
CRAWLEY TOWN: Morris, Young, Connolly, N’Gala, Maguire, Francomb, Morais, Payne (sub McNerney, 85), Gambin (sub Camara, 64), Palmer, Poleon (sub Allarakhia, 76). Unused subs: Mersin, Bulman, Vincelot.
Referee: Trevor Kettle (Rutland)
Attendance: 3,208 (212 away fans)