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CREWE are hoping loan defender Dennis Lawrence can return from injury to keep their League One relegation survival bid on course at Colchester this weekend.

Doing so will mean the big Trinidad and Tobago centre-half getting permission to wear a mask to protect the cheek bone he broke against Yeovil last month.

But Crewe's need is great after losing Chris McCready to a groin problem during last night's 1-1 draw at Walsall.

With Blackpool having recalled Marlon Broomes from his loan spell at Gresty Road, manager Gudjon Thordarson is running out of centre-halves for his 3-4-3 system.

But he is hoping giant Lawrence will be given the go-ahead by medics to wear a protective mash so he can return to action on Saturday ahead of schedule.

The centre-half suffered a broken cheek bone in last month's home game with Yeovil.

"I can't tell whether Broomes is coming back, but hopefully Dennis will join us if they can fit a mask to his face," outlined Thordarson.

"That would be a massive boost to the team.

"But I've got to give the other defenders credit for this result. Danny O'Donnell was superb and Danny Woodards did ever so well when he came back into defence."

Steven Schumacher snatched an injury-time equaliser for Crewe at the Bescot Stadium to maintain their fight to avoid the drop.

They trailed from early in the second-half after Troy Deeney headed in for the Saddlers. Then former favourite Clayton Ince defied them with a string of super saves, one in particular of note from Clayton Donaldson.

Keeper Ince admitted: "We were lucky not to lose the game as Crewe had great opportunities. But that is the fifth time we've conceded a late goal and it feels like a loss.

"But to see that Crewe are getting out of trouble is a positive."

Thordarson, whose side stay 19th, but now have a three-point advantage on third-bottom Swindon, said: "We deserved something out of it. It was a box-to-box game and the second-half was very exciting.

"We played 2-4-4 in the second-half, which was a gamble, but I was prepared to do that and lose the game 2-0 than not try to get back into it.

"The players have got fantastic self belief."