Crewe Alexandra: Steve Davis's half time rollicking inspires Colchester victory
CREWE stunned Colchester with a superb second-half comeback inspired by a half-time rollicking from manager Steve Davis.
United were in the driving seat at the break thanks to goals from Freddie Sears and Ian Henderson.
But after Davis fired off some home truths to his underperforming players during the interval, Lauri Dalle Valle, Luke Murphy and Mathias Pogba all netted to earn Crewe their first back-to-back League One wins of the season.
Davis, celebrating his first anniversary as Alex boss, said: “That was the best half-time talk I’ve given. I wasn’t calm, but I didn’t have to say much.
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“I just asked them if they wanted to be a relegation team or a team in the top half of the table.
“Nobody said a word, but in the second half they showed everyone what they wanted to be. I was delighted with their response.
“I wasn’t calm. I don’t do hairdryer treatment, but this was as near to the hairdryer as you are going to get from me, and they knew it.
“I can’t really explain our slow starts this season. We paid the price for two sloppy goals, and I was happy to get in at just 2-0 down after the silly mistakes we had made.
“I was just so frustrated as I know the talent they have and how good they can be. It really annoys me when they don’t produce it.
“But in the second half we pushed further up the pitch, showed more desire and put them under immense pressure, and I couldn’t be happier with them all.”
Crewe fell behind with just three minutes on the clock.
Henderson hit the byline and Sears beat Mark Ellis to the winger’s cutback to sidefoot the visitors ahead.
Crewe should have been level almost instantly. The lively Dalla Valle, making his Gresty Road debut, picked Tom Eastman’s pocket and then laid the ball on a plate for fellow loan forward Chuks Aneke, but he somehow ballooned his shot over the Colchester bar from 10 yards out.
Aneke was then brought down by Magnus Okuonghae just as he was about to enter the visitors’ penalty box.
The defender escaped any further punishment, but Murphy slammed the resulting free-kick against the Colchester wall.
The visitors doubled their advantage with just half-an-hour of the match gone.
Henderson was again the catalyst, latching on to Okuonghae’s long punt and hooking the ball over Harry Davis’s head before chipping stranded Alex keeper Alan Martin with a sublime finish.
Dalle Valle went close to pulling one back before half-time when he poked Byron Moore’s low cross goalwards, but John Sullivan did well to keep his shot out.
With their eyes still ringing from Davis’s half-time call to arms, Crewe started the second period with increased purpose and deservedly pulled a goal back five minutes after the restart.
Aneke’s crossfield through-ball set Pogba free, and the frontman kept his composure to square to Dalle Valle for a simple finish into the empty net.
While the goal had the whiff of offside, no-one in the Alex faithful seemed to care, and a renewed sense of belief swelled around the ground.
Colchester nerves started to jangle and Sullivan spilled Moore’s shot, but no-one in a red shirt was able to pounce.
The visitors still looked dangerous on the break, and Martin had to be on his toes to tip a Marcus Bean lob over the bar.
But Crewe pulled level in the 64th minute when Okuonghae handled Dalle Valle’s goalbound header and Murphy slammed the equaliser home from the penalty spot.
Ten minutes later and the Alex had completed a stunning turnaround when Pogba rose to head home Moore’s cross at the far post.
Colchester boss Joe Dunne was stunned by his side’s second-half capitulation.
He said: “I’m hurt and shellshocked. It’s the worst I’ve felt to be honest.
“We’ve worked so hard to get the players believing in themselves, so this is hard to take.
“We need to start learning how to see off games. You don’t tell them at half-time to go out there and lose 3-2 – you tell them to carry on doing what they are doing, stay tight and keep pressing, and when they don’t do that it is very frustrating.
“But key moments change games, and I’d like to see their first goal again as it looked to be offside to me.
“From being in a commanding position we were suddenly chasing the game, and that seems to be a habit we’ve got at the moment.”