Sears strikes but U’s are held to a home draw
Colchester United 1 Crawley Town 1
Freddie Sears struck early on, but Colchester United had to be content with a home draw against impressive Crawley Town at the Weston Homes Community Stadium this afternoon.
Sears handed Colchester the perfect start, by sweeping home his third goal of the season after just six minutes.
Skipper Brian Wilson spotted Sears in acres of space, just inside the penalty area, and found him with an accurate low cross.
Sears did not get much power behind his first time shot, but the ball still rolled past keeper Paul Jones to nestle in the bottom corner of the net.
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Crawley equalised just after the half-hour mark, thanks to Emile Sinclair’s powerful header from Mat Sadler’s excellent cross. It was Sinclair’s full debut for the Sussex club.
There were no more goals, although both sides hit the woodwork, and ex-Ipswich striker Billy Clarke also had a Crawley goal ruled out for offside.
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The U’s injury crisis had struck again in the build-up to this match, with both defender Tom Eastman and Drey Wright picking up injuries in training yesterday.
Eastman twisted an ankle, so there was a quick-fire debut for new signing Matt Taylor, recruited on loan from Bradford City late last night.
Taylor partnered Magnus Okuonghae in central defence – it was Okuonghae’s 150th league appearance in a U’s shirt.
The U’s other loan signing yesterday, fellow centre-half Jamie Sendles-White, was on the bench. The 19-year-old had been recruited on a youth loan from QPR.
Drey Wright’s late call-off meant Sears was promoted to the starting line-up – manager Joe Dunne had originally planned to start with the ex-West Ham attacker on the bench.
And Sears did not take long to make an impact, firing the U’s into an early lead after just six minutes.
Crawley could have been level just two minutes later, but Nicky Adams ballooned a free header over the bar from Mike Jones’ teasing cross.
The visitors continued to press, and Josh Simpson was not far adrift with an opportunist volley from a 13th minute corner.
The U’s finally threatened again on 19 minutes. Craig Eastmond released Jeffrey Monakana down the right, and the Preston loanee was unlucky to see his shot deflected wide for a corner.
Three minutes later and Monakana, on his home debut, went even closer. His snap shot, from a throw-in, flew into the side-netting with Paul Jones a worried keeper.
Only the woodwork denied the U’s a second goal in the 28th minute. Sears picked out an unmarked Jabo Ibehre with an accurate pass, but the big man got too much height on his shot, the ball cannoning off the top of the bar.
Dunne’s men were playing some good stuff, and Ibehre’s 31st minute header, from Sears’ cross, was smothered on his goal-line by Paul Jones.
However, play quickly switched to the other end and Crawley grabbed an equaliser against the run of play in the 32nd minute, with Sinclair heading home Sadler’s cross.
And the visitors nearly took the lead just 60 seconds later. Adam Drury’s snap shot thudded back off the inside of the post, and the follow-up shot by Billy Clarke was superbly blocked at point blank range by Sam Walker.
Early in the second half and the U’s had appeals for a penalty turned down, when Ibehre appeared to be nudged off the ball by centre-half Kyle McFadzean.
Home debutant Luke Garbutt also went close with a spectacular 25-yarder, from close to the left touch-line, but otherwise it was a rather drab first 20 minutes of the second period.
The game burst back into life on 66 minutes. First Alex Gilbey had a shot deflected into keeper Jones’ arms, from Monakana’s cross, and then at the other end Walker did well to palm away Clarke’s goal-bound drive.
The visitors thought they had taken the lead in the 75th minute, but ex-Ipswich striker Clarke’s close-range goal was ruled out for offside.
COLCHESTER: Walker, Wilson, Okuonghae, Taylor, Garbutt, David Wright, Eastmond, Gilbey (sub Morrison, 80), Sears (sub Ladapo, 80), Monanaka (sub Hubble, 83), Ibehre. Unused subs: Cousins, Bean, Spence, Sendles-White.
CRAWLEY: P Jones, Simpson, McFadzean, Walsh, Sadler, Bulman, M Jones (sub Hurst, 88), Clarke, Adams, Drury (sub Torres, 76), Sinclar (sub Proctor, 63). Unused subs: Maddison, Connolly, Essam, Rooney.
Referee: Keith Stroud (Hampshire)
Attendance: 3,031 (291 away fans)