The Laitt Report - U's 0 Crewe Alexandra 1 Sunday, 15th Mar 2009 11:47
Colchester United lost ground on the play-off's today with a 1-0 loss at home to Crewe Alexandra
Colchester United's play-off ambitions took a nose-dive at The Weston Homes Community Stadium yesterday afternoon as Calvin Zola's second half goal was enough to give resurgent Crewe Alexandra all three points. The visitors were indebted to keeper John Ruddy for keeping them in the game but in truth, shortly after the departure of Simon Hackney with injury, United never really looked like winning the game.
Paul Lambert was dealt a blow in the build-up to the game with news that Steven Gillespie would again miss out - this time through an ankle injury picked up in training on Friday. That meant a return to the side from Mark Yeates who would play alongside Clive Platt up front. Aside from that it was as you were for the side that had started against Swindon in midweek. There were changes on the bench though with Johnnie Jackson returning from injury in place of Akanni-Sunday Wasiu and with Scott Vernon, Anthony Wordsworth and John White alongside him it left Lambert with just one attacking option should the result be going against his team.
Like they had done on Tuesday evening, United burst in to life with Hackney testing out Ruddy with a shot that bounced just in front of the former Everton keeper while home fans at the South end of the ground appealed as one for a handball decision in the box which was waved away by referee Phillips - Perkins lobbing the ball over the bar in the end as well.
Lambert's first permanent signing Marc Tierney has already proven to be something of a hit with the U's fans and he almost improved that relationship with the opening goal of the game. Another powerful run from the fullback ended with a shot across goal which had beat Ruddy's dive. I led to believe that the ball hit the outside of the far post before going out of play for a goal kick.
A mistake by Crewe's Dan Woodard’s on the halfway line gifted Yeates a run at the giant central defender Dennis Lawrence. The Trinidad & Tobagan International managed to hold the Irishman who found Izzet on the edge of the box. The U's midfielder tried a deft chip which Ruddy had to back track and push over his crossbar for a corner.
The Crewe had to do exactly the same with a free kick from Yeates before Mark Cousins' first real action of the half saw Zola fire over his crossbar. The U's keeper had to be alert shortly afterwards though as a Crewe free-kick almost caught him out at the near post as he expected a cross.
After collecting the ball his early throw released the speedy Hackney down the left who in turn found the run of Yeates inside the box. Though the U's leading goal scorer got a touch on the ball there were really no way he could divert the ball past Ruddy from the angle he was on. More importantly, Hackney started to stretch his groin at this point and it was clear that the ex-Carlisle man was struggling.
Shortly after Donaldson had fired in to the hands of Cousins when he should have done better inside the box, Hackney was forced to leave the game. He was replaced by Scott Vernon with Yeates switching to the left wing to replace the injured player. There was certainly some though that this was probably the wrong call. It left us with no attacking options on the bench for later in the game. Yeates had done well alongside Platt who clearly needs someone with a bit of pace to play with, and, as has been shown so many times before the season, Vernon and Platt is just not a partnership that works.
Chris Coyne, having a decent game at the back, almost added to his one and only U's goal at West Bromwich Albion last season, but heading over Tierney's cross after he found some space at the far post but that was it for the half. The interval saw hundreds of kids perform a dance at the break - not quite as attractive as our usual dancers obviously - and it was a pity that the U's player didn't come out with the same energy that these kids used in the fifteen minutes of fame.
Crewe made a change at the break with Woodards - not enjoying a great afternoon - making way for midfield Steven Schumacher and quite possibly, it was this move from Gudjon Thordarson that changed the game for the visitors. From the second half onwards, United lost their way. They were beaten in midfield with neither Hammond nor Izzet controlling the game as they had in the first period whilst the clear lack of pace up front left United's ponderous in attack.
Lawrence, all 6ft 7" of him, snuck in at the near post to head over an early corner for the Icelandic manager's side while Ruddy pushed Perkins' bobbling shot behind for a corner. The set piece was flicked on at the near post to Baldwin, central to the goal and just a couple of years out though. Somehow, the long-serving defender - with just one goal to his name - managed to head the ball upwards instead of goalwards which allowed Ruddy to clear at the second attempt. Quite simply, United do not score enough at corners.
It was Australian Chris Coyne who provided the highlight of the second period for U's fans. After another corner, the former Luton mad found himself out wide but with a drop of his shoulders a la the watching Steve McGavin, he made lost his marker and got the by-line where he picked out Perkins. The blonde midfielder took a touch before firing towards goal at close range but either the keeper or a defender got a vital block to clear the problem.
On 63 minutes, the visitors took the lead. A long throw in to United's box caused problems at the near post and when the ball broke loose, Calvin Zola punished the U's by firing past Cousins.
United tried to counter by bringing on Johnnie Jackson in place of Izzet. IT was the former Spurs man first game since a shoulder problem in mid-January and it was clearly going to be a tough ask to get him to come on and change the game. Ideally, he would have been eased back in to action rather than told to go out and win the game.
United were then indebted to Cousins for keeping them in the game as he bravely saved a one on one with the lively Donaldson. The U's defender were playing a high-line as they tried to pressure Alex but Donaldson escaped and looked certain to score as he tried to round Cousins who did extremely well to hold on to the ball with both hands.
Jackson did have a chance after Platt's lay-off but he shanked his shot wide and looked like a player who hadn't played football for a while. Platt tried to turn and volley towards goal as he done at Oldham last Saturday but there were problems in his theory. One, he was turning in a different direction and using his left foot instead of his right, and secondly the ball was just a bit too high for him which meant that he lifted the ball up rather than hit it towards goal.
Perkins then cleared off the goal line following a corner which Baudet had risen highest to head goalwards while another cross saw three Crewe players in the clear - somehow none of them could turn the ball past Cousins.
Wordsworth came on to replace Maybury in a final throw of the dice from Lambert but United just never looked like finding the equaliser that would have kept their play-off chances on track. United have four tough games coming up - against Leicester, Scunthorpe, Millwall and Leeds United - and really needed to pick up all three points to take momentum in to next week’s game against the Champions elect.
Shot of the Match: From just outside the box, Kem Izzet's delightfully deft chip was just sneaking under Ruddy's bar. Save of the Match: Cousins was brave, and timed his dive right, to deny Donaldson on a one-on-one opportunity in the second half. Moan of the Match: For me, poor substitutions may well have cost us this game. Lambert has been unlucky with injuries but I felt that he didn't use his squad as well as possible. I always like to have two attacking options on the bench, but without Sunday it meant just two forwards in the whole of the sixteen. Man of the Match: Perkins was once again his busy self even though he clearly does not enjoy playing on the right hand side of midfield which makes us far too narrow as both he and Yeates like to cut in too much. Tierney again showed that the money spent on him was well worth it, but my MOTM was CHRIS COYNE. I thought his reading of the game was particularly impressive and generally, he mopped up most of Crewe's attacking efforts until late in the second half.