Colchester United 2-3 Crawley Town
Brian Jeeves reporting from the Weston Homes Community Stadium
COLCHESTER United slipped to a disappointing Sky Bet League Two defeat as Crawley Town’s Jimmy Smith hit an impressive hat-trick to earn the visitors all three points from this entertaining encounter at the Weston Homes Stadium.
Colchester went into the game off the back of an important 2-1 success over Barnet at the weekend, a result that kept their League Two play-off aspirations very much alive as well as extending sequences that had seen John McGreal’s men taste defeat only once in twelve outings.
Crawley arrived in north Essex sitting seventeenth in the table, without a win in four and perhaps looking anxiously over their shoulder as the business end of the campaign loomed.
And it was the home side who started the brighter with both Denny Johnstone and Kurtis Guthrie thwarted by Crawley goalkeeper, Glenn Morris, in the opening minutes. Soon after, Morris grasped Richard Brindley’s angled effort at the second attempt as the U’s continued to probe menacingly.
It seemed to be only a matter of time before the U’s made the breakthrough, and that proved to be the case. Johnstone’s close range strike deflected wickedly over Morris, however, it was no more that the U’s deserved for their early efforts. But the U’s lead was short-lived Jimmy Smith stooped to head home a Dean Cox flag-kick with Crawley’s first foray forward of the evening.
Buoyed by the goal, Crawley now offered much more of a threat and just after the half-hour mark, they grabbed the lead in spectacular fashion. Smith swept high beyond U’s keeper, Sam Walker, this after Enzio Boldewijn had teed him up.
After the break things went from bad to worse for the U’s. Smith’s fizzing strike caught Walker unawares, handing the striker his hat-trick, and leaving the home side with a mountain to climb.
Dickenson’s dead-ball effort was deflected behind as Colchester desperately searched for a foothold. However, the Crawley backline remained resolute, while Morris comfortably dealt with anything coming his way when called upon.
The home crowd’s mood lifted somewhat when referee, Lee Collins, was forced to relinquish his whistle after pulling up with a calf injury. The beleaguered official had been the target of the Colchester supporters frustrations for much of the evening, although perhaps slightly unfairly. He was replaced by fourth official, Lloyd Wood.
But the change of official didn’t lead to a change of fortune. Matt Briggs’ long-range effort was horribly off target, while Guthrie and substitute, Rekeil Pyke, were snubbed out by some lat ditch Crawley defending.
Colchester were offered hope when Dickenson brilliantly curled home a free-kick, and with eight minutes stoppage time recorded, the home crowd urged their side forward in a bid to salvage a point. However, Crawley held firm to record a rare victory on the road, putting a huge dent into the U’s play-off hopes in the process.
Colchester United are next in Sky Bet League Two action on Saturday, February 18 when they travel to the Crown Ground to take on Accrington Stanley (3pm).
Colchester United: Sam Walker, Richard Brindley (Kane Vincent-Young 70’), Matt Briggs, Tom Lapslie, Brennan Dickenson, Alex Wynter, George Elokobi, Denny Johnstone, Owen Garvan (Rekeil Pyke 77’), Kurtis Guthrie, Tarique Fosu (Charley Edge 84’) Subs not used: Cameron James, Dexter Peter
Goals: Denny Johnstone 18’, Brennan Dickenson 90+1’,
Crawley Town: Glenn Morris, Lewis Young, Mark Connolly, Enzio Boldewijn, Jimmy Smith (Josh Payne 88’), Jordan Roberts, James Collins, Kaby Djalo, Josh Lelan, Dean Cox (Bobson Bawling 75’), Conor Henderson Subs not used: Yusuf Mersin (GK), Andre Blackman, Josh Yorwerth, Billy Clifford, Rhys Murphy
Goals: Jimmy Smith 22’, 34’, 52’
Referee: Lee Collins
Assistants: Ashvin Degnarain and Adrian Waters
Fourth Official: Lloyd Wood
Attendance: 2,675 (97 from Crawley)
Reaction to follow….