Colchester United v Crawley Town
Skipper Jimmy Smith led from the front with the first hat-trick of his career as Reds claimed a precious three points in a thriller against Colchester.
The hosts led through Denny Johnstone on 18 minutes before Smith hit back with a perfect hat-trick: a header to equalise, right-foot shot to make it 2-1 before the break and left-foot pile driver early in the second half.
Brennan Dickenson pulled one back in stoppage time but Reds held on to claim their fourth away win of the season.
Dermot Drummy named an unchanged side with the only change on the bench as Josh Yorwerth returned after suspension.
The hosts had won their last five at home and started on the front foot. Glenn Morris was called into action after just five minutes when he made an instinctive block to deny Johnstone from close range before keeping out Kurtis Guthrie’s effort from an angle.
Reds enjoyed some decent possession early on without creating anything clear-cut and found themselves behind in the 18th minute.
Dickenson got past Lewis Young down the left and his cross found Johnstone in space eight yards out and his half volley beat the helpless Morris with the aid of a slight deflection off Mark Connolly.
But it took Reds just five minutes to draw level. Dean Cox’s corner from the right was perfect for Smith to attack and the skipper sent a bullet header past Sam Walker from close range for his fifth goal of the season. His night was to get a lot better.
It was a great finish by Smith but ten minutes before the break he produced something even better. Kaby Djalo’s long diagonal was headed back into his path by Enzio Boldewijn and Smith hit a superb shot with his right foot into the top right-hand corner from 12 yards.
It was turning into a fantastic night for the skipper and six minutes into the second half he completed his hat-trick. Reds took a throw-in quickly on the right and Smith let fly from 30 yards, the ball bouncing up in front of Walker who was unable to prevent it going into the roof of the net.
It was the first hat-trick by a Crawley player for exactly two years when Izale McLeod’s treble sunk Barnsley in a 5-1 win and the first time he has scored a hat-trick in his career.
For the second time in our last three games there was a change in referee midway through the second half when Mr Collins suffered a calf injury and senior assistant Mr Waters took only after a six-minute delay.
Colchester pressed for a route back into the game but left gaps at the back and Reds had penalty appeals turned down when Boldewijn, after a lightning-quick raid down the right, saw his cross blocked by Kane Vincent-Young with what appeared to be a hand.
The hosts got a goal back in the second of eight added minutes when Mark Connolly was penalised on the edge of the box for a foul on Charley Edge. Dickenson stepped up and curled a left-footer over the wall and into the bottom left-hand corner to make it 3-2.
But Crawley saw out the remainder of the game to claim their first win in five ahead of a run of four fixtures back at the Checkatrade Stadium out of the next five, starting against Morecambe on Saturday.
Crawley: Morris; Young, Connolly, Lelan, Roberts; Boldewijn, Henderson, Djalo, Cox; Smith; Collins.
Attendance: 2675 (97 Crawley)