Crewe 2-0 Colchester Seven Things: Dagnall double

Chris Dagnall

Crewe Alexandra dented Colchester United’s League Two play-off hopes with a 2-0 win, which came thanks to Chris Dagnall’s brace – but what have we learnt from the game?

Crewe’s bright start

David Artell’s side started the stronger and looked buoyed by their midweek 3-0 win at Crawley. Jordan Bowery netted in Sussex but his finishing touch eluded him on Saturday, shooting wayward from just outside the box before missing a simple back-post chance. With fellow mid-season arrival Callum Cooke showing typical invention in midfield however, the signs were positive and Chris Dagnall scored the opener. The veteran striker’s diving header touched home George Cooper’s inswinging free-kick from the right on 26 minutes to give Crewe a deserved lead.

Imbalanced Colchester

Colchester’s problem in the first half was not so much a lack of ability, but a lack of belief in it. Right winger Tariq Fosu-Henry, who replaced Sammie Szmodics early on, came closest with an improvised scissor kick but like left-sided counterpart Brennan Dickenson, he was too honest in positional play. Neither Tom Lapslie nor Sean Murray had the defensive qualties to confidently assume the ‘anchor man’ role, meaning attacking players did not trust those behind them to do the job. The result was isolation for the much-maligned Chris Porter, who was at times the only player in the opposing half.

Bingham bossed it

The absence of a trusted holding midfielder plagued both teams in their League One relegation campaigns, but Crewe might just have found one in Billy Bingham. Though not exactly a powerhouse, Bingham mopped up loose balls, screened the back four and started off attacks with simplicity. The ex-Dagenham man was backed up ably by centre-backs George Ray and Ben Nugent, who snuffed attacks out ruthlessly.

Colchester’s second half pressure

John McGreal’s side improved after the break. There was more intent about their play and forward men looked willing to make their presence known further up the pitch. Rekeil Pike had struggled with the physical side in the first half, but used some strength to dummy the ball for Murray, who broke down the left to set up Fosu-Henry to fire over. The Reading academy graduate had the energy and movement to get into good areas, but not the quality or decision making to match, his 66th minute free-kick straight at Ben Garratt.

Garratt not stretched

While Colchester’s structure and build-up play was better after the break, their shooting was not. Best efforts were hit straight at Garratt, including substitute Macaulay Bonne’s header and Murray’s long range shot, the latter via deflection. Searching left-sided crosses from the increasingly adventurous Dickenson and Matthew Briggs were defended well by Ray, who often shielded Porter from the ball at the near-post.

Crewe weathered the storm

Sturdy defending of their own box saw Crewe through the periods of second half pressure they faced. They got a second goal after a fine passing move down the right involving Bowery and Cooke, allowing Dagnall to sweep home from close-range on 84 minutes. Dagnall was then denied his hat-trick by a point-blank save from Sam Walker, who also denied Bowery at the near post to avoid further damage.

What it means

Colchester did not truly compete in the first half and when they started to after the break, they could not find the quality required to leapfrog Wycombe and Mansfield in the play-off race. Crewe have nothing to play for but they played as if they did. The Railwaymen created clear cut chances in the opening and closing quarters of the game, between which they defended their penalty box stoutly, showing unity throughout.