Carl Marston’s Talking Points: Promotion push derailed by the Railwaymen
PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 February 2018
2018 Colchester United Football Club
This was quite simply one of Colchester United’s poorest performances of the whole season.
Lowly Crewe, with just one point gathered from their previous six matches, were facing up to a relegation battle and were dreadfully low on confidence.
By contrast, the U’s should have been oozing confidence, on the back of scoring a late winner in a 2-1 midweek success over Coventry City.
An away win, although nothing can ever be taken for granted (in football), looked on the cards.
And three points would have lifted the U’s right to the edge of the League Two play-offs.
Instead, though, the Essex visitors flopped.
It could prove a crucial three points for Crewe, in their quest to stay in the Football League, and it could prove a costly three points dropped in the U’s ultimate quest for promotion.
It was the sort of game where you spent all afternoon waiting for the U’s to splutter into life, and yet they never did.
There was very little pace or urgency to the U’s play, which was curious when considered that there is so much to play for during the last 11 weeks of this season.
True, perhaps some of the team were feeling a little jaded, after the previous weekend’s long haul to Carlisle United (1-1 draw) and then the midweek exertions in beating play-off rivals Coventry.
But the U’s should not really have been that leggy, especially as their schedule is not particularly gruelling.
They were knocked out of every cup competition at the first hurdle, and have not had any matches postponed, so they have no fixture backlog or a glut of midweek fixtures.
It was just one of those days when the U’s got stuck in a rut, and could find no escape route.
NO KILLER TOUCH
Crewe keeper Ben Garratt had one of his easiest afternoons of the whole season.
The likes of Notts County and Swindon had both plundered four goals apiece against the Railwaymen in recent weeks, with Wycombe winning 3-2 at Gresty Road just a month ago, but John McGreal’s men could not match these promotion rivals.
In fact, Garratt never really had a serious save to make.
He made a couple of regulation saves in the first quarter of the game, turning Drey Wright’s 20-yard drive around his post in the eighth minute, and then smothering Ben Stevenson’s long-range shot just 60 seconds later.
But the avalanche of scoring chances just never materialised.
Junior Ogedi-Uzokwe, who had crowned his full league debut with a goal and an assist in the win over Coventry just four day earlier, hardly had the sniff of a chance.
His strike-force partner Mikael Mandron, who nodded home his ninth goal of the season with the winner against the Sky Blues, had a very frustrating afternoon.
And even livewire Courtney Senior, with his mazy runs, failed to worry Crewe’s defence.
If the first half was poor, then the second period was even worse. Garratt never had a save to make during those last 45 minutes.
Perhaps this was one of those occasions when three centre-halves was a luxury for the U’s?
Luke Prosser, Tom Eastman and Frankie Kent all played reasonably well, and were largely untroubled, but you got the feeling that the visitors did not really need the comfort of that extra central defender.
A change of formation, to a 4-4-2 or 4-3-3, might have led to a change in fortune for the U’s. That is all in hindsight, of course, but an extra attacker on the pitch might have made a difference.
Manager McGreal did make his three substitutions early, and they were attacking ones with Brennan Dickenson, Liam Mandeville and Sean Murray all introduced into the fray.
But the formation did not alter, and the new personnel could not turn the tide in the U’s favour.
The winner arrived in the 61st minute.
Brandon Comley conceded a free-kick in a dangerous position, for a foul on substitute Tom Lowery just outside the penalty area.
Callum Ainley’s free-kick ballooned off the defensive wall, but Carlisle loanee Shaun Miller was the quickest to pounce on the rebound as he prodded home the loose ball from eight yards out.
There was still half-an-hour to play, but the U’s had no response.