Colchester and Crewe and the Port Vale Team Coach!
Colchester 2 Crewe Alexandra 3
Harriott (40) Colclough (61)
Moncur (48) Haber (80), Lowe (90+2)
Football League Division One
Having driven the 400 mile round trip to Gillingham only a couple of weeks ago I decided to hitch a lift for the equally distant Colchester leg of my 92. I'd spotted a few weeks ago that one of my local clubs, Crewe Alexandra were running a coach down there for their Tuesday night game. It was a horrible, cold and wet afternoon as I climbed aboard the Official Supporters' coach outside the Alexandra Stadium in Crewe. Usually, Crewe send at least two coaches to every away game - an official club coach and a second one run by "Travelling Alex" a members branch based in Sandbach. With the Alex lying rock bottom of Leage One and crowds and interest disappearing faster than turkeys in the lead up to Christmas they decided to combine resources for this one and run just a single coach. Even so, only 21 hardy souls were aboard as we set off along the A50. The ride was very comfortable though as we had been provided with the same vehicle used by Port Vale as their offical team coach!
I would like to say we had a trouble free journey but the weather was awful and Polish truck drivers did their best to interupt our progress. First, our driver had to throw out the anchor as incredibly he spotted a huge white truck about to career into us as it came the wrong way around a roundabout! The truck somehow got away without hitting anyone but it could have been so very different. Then we were again all catapulted forward as another truck had to take avoiding action right in front of us and again somehow there was no coming together of metal. Thankfully that was the last of the excitement during the very long, 208 mile trip south.
I felt I had to disclose the fact that I was only a Crewe fan for the day as everyone else on the coach seemed to know each other; no doubt they had met up on many Crewe away days in the past. As soon as I explained why I was on their bus going to Colchester they were all interested and seemed genuinely appreciative of my efforts to date. They were less certain as one chap then asked: "Well, who do you support then?" I was quite nervous as I told them I was a home and away Leeds United season ticket holder but I shouldn't have been. The far greater crime would have been for me to say I followed Vale or Stoke! I was soon chatting to some of the lads about my experiences with Leeds and the many grounds that had made up my 86 of 92 before this trip.
Colchester United had spotted my tweets about this trip and kindly offered to meet me on arrival and let me go pitch side for some photographs. My thanks go to "Matt" for taking the time to do this and letting me tread upon their hallowed turf. Everyone I met at the club was a credit to them from Matt to the stewards outside, to the lads and lasses serving in the concourse; it seems a very friendly and enthusiastic club.
The ground itself is fine if not very interesting. It was opened in 2008 and was brand new, replacing the historic Layer Road where the club had played for the previous 70 odd years. Basically it is four similar looking concrete stands and whilst they are clean, safe and tidy, they will never have the interest provided by stands that were built in a bygone age; it is difficult to reproduce the look and feel of timber and corrugated iron out of modern day concrete and the look of it tells you that it has no history yet. Surely that will come in time when the concrete has discolored and some graffiti has appeared.
As the teams came out the rain was drifting across the pitch in the glare of the floodlights and the weather at least provided some of the atmosphere expected on a dark Tuesday night in Colchester! Crewe looked very much like the team that was propping up the division in the early stages as the home side moved the ball about quickly and they had several quick footed players all of whom looked likely to further damage Crewe's chances of holding on to their League Two status. On forty minutes, one of the those sharp looking Colchester players, Callum Harriott, put the home side ahead with a fabulous left foot shot that curled into the top left corner off the underside of the bar from fully 25 yards as he cut in from the right wing down in front of us in the 'Jobserve' Stand. George Moncur scrambled in a second a few minutes into the second half and the game looked over with Crewe struggling to find any rhythm or any sort of cutting edge. The 122 Crewe fans in our section mainly turned on Crewe manager Steve Davis at this point, demanding he be sacked. But after about an hour, Davis turned to Ryan Lowe, the 37 year-old former Crewe striker.He only returned to the club on loan from Bury the day before the game and wasn't even in the squad listed in the programme. Lowe came on and immediately Crewe looked a different side. His movement and enthusiasm just seemed to rub off on the rest of the team and from that point on they all looked sharper. Only five minutes after the arrival of Lowe, Crewe had a goal back as Ryan Colclough volleyed home at the back post from close range as the ball bounced up into his path from a right wing cross. That was the signal for the cavalry charge and Crewe threw everything at the U's from that point on. On 80 minutes it paid off, as Ryan Lowe worked his magic on the right, squared the ball across the box and Marcus Haber was their first to prod it home. It looked like ending all square but then, in the second of four added minutes, Billy Bingham lifted the ball over the U's back line and Lowe ran on to cleverly side foot the ball firmly over the advancing keeper to seal all three points. It was a magical moment when 122 Crewe fans suddenly seemed like many thousands as they celebrated with their players down in the corner. At the final whistle a group of Crewe lads still continued to chant "We want Davis out" even as the man himself came right over to them pretending to "shush" them with a finger to his lips. Everyone was smiling though.
The journey home was a long one but the coach was comfy and everyone was in good spirits. It was a grand day out and that was 87 of 92 DONE!