It's not about tactics anymore.

So said Joe Dunne after Colchester United’s defeat at Crawley Town left them two points above the relegation zone with 11 matches remaining.

Of course, the U’s manager did not mean it literally.

Indeed, strategy and formation will clearly play a vital part in whether or not Colchester can preserve their League One status this season.

As a close student of the game, Dunne will no doubt be poring carefully over all of the options available to him in an attempt to get the very best out of his players, as their campaign enters a critical stage.

Rather, what Dunne alluded to in his statement was the need for his players to show the necessary desire and determination required to secure the points needed to pull away from the danger zone.

Yet it is inescapable that for Colchester supporters, the thorny subject of systems and how they are used was once again one of the main talking points to come out of the Crawley game.

The U’s started with a 4-3-3 formation at the Broadfield Stadium.

But after an insipid first-half performance, that was ditched in favour of a 4-4-1-1 system which proved much more profitable.

Dunne had hoped that by starting with three in midfield, his side would be able to dominate that important area of the field.

But instead, they lacked any real fluency or creativity and Jabo Ibehre cut an isolated figure in attack.

In contrast, the second-half display after the changes were made was much more effective.

Ibehre, along with his replacement Clinton Morrison and all of the U’s other attacking players, saw much more of the ball after half-time.

As a result, their opponents Crawley were seldom seen as an attacking force after the break.

It was ultimately to no avail but this will play a part in Dunne’s thinking, as he prepares his side for what is arguably their most important match of the season.

Dunne said he would probably pick his starting line-up to face Shrewsbury Town while travelling on the coach back to Essex, on Saturday night.

But it might well be the Colchester manager’s choice of formation rather than personnel that proves most crucial to their chances of victory, tonight.

For a three-page preview of the U's game with Shrewsbury, including interviews with Joe Dunne, Dominic Vose and U's goalscoring legend Bobby Hunt, see Tuesday's Daily Gazette.