Two finely taken goals from Academy graduates AJ Leitch-Smith and Luke Murphy gave Crewe a hard fought 2-1 win at Scunthorpe. Steve Davis wanted his side to bounce back following the narrow 2-1 defeat to Notts County on Saturday and they did it in style with our first three points in League One against a Scunthorpe side, who were difficult to contain going forward. The Alex showed great character to remain in the game and Murphy’s tidy finish proved the difference after substitutes Max Clayton and new signing Harry Bunn added some timely fresh legs.
AJ Leitch-Smith again produced an early contender for goal-of-the-season when firing the Alex in front with barely a minute on the clock. The striker did not hesitate to unleash an unstoppable, dipping shot after Mathias Pogba had climbed highest to win a flick on.
The home side soon hit back through Mike Grella after Crewe had failed to clear the danger from a corner. The Crewe back line lived a charmed life at times, especially when Jimmy Ryan struck a post but we held in there, grew in confidence and the introduction of substitutes Max Clayton and new loan signing Harry Bunn certainly made a decisive impact in Luke Murphy’s winning goal. Both were involved in the build up as was captain Ashley Westwood and the recalled Murphy slotted home from close range to give Crewe their first three points in League One.
Steve Davis made one change from the side that narrowly lost 2-1 to Notts County at the weekend with midfielder Murphy returning to the starting line-up in a 4-3-3 formation. Murphy returned for youngster Max Clayton. Also on the substitute’s bench was the Manchester City teenager Harry Bunn who was given permission to play after completing his loan switch earlier in the day. Bunn, 19 has signed until the New Year.
Crewe made the perfect start at Glanford Park with AJ Leitch-Smith giving us a first minute lead with a wonderful half volley. Mathias Pobga flicked on a long ball and without breaking his stride, Leitch-Smith instantly fired a dipping shot over a surprised Sam Slocombe in the Scunthorpe goal from 25 yards out. The element of surprise certainly caught out the goalkeeper.
Despite their early set-back, the home side soon began to pressurise the Crewe back four, mainly through the wing back play of Robbie Gibbons and Jimmy Ryan. The Crewe goalkeeper Alan Martin had to palm away a dangerous looking cross from Ryan before only some timely defending from Mark Ellis prevented the former Leeds United striker Mike Grella from having a free shot at goal.
Crewe were looking to hit the home side on the counter attack and the lively Pogba had a shot deflected behind for a corner after some neat build up play involving Murphy and captain Ashley Westwood. From the resulting corner, Westwood whistled one just over the top of the crossbar.
It was a certainly an engaging opening and after Harry Davis did well to head behind for a corner, the home side hit back from the second phase of the set-play. Centre-half David Mirfin was unfortunate to hit the Alex woodwork with his initial header, but the alert Gibbons immediately returned another cross with interest and the unmarked Grella raced in to guide home an equaliser past a helpless Martin. The Alex back line certainly glanced over at the assistant referee hoping for a flag, but it never came. After a frantic 15 minutes, it was all square again.
Crewe were on the back foot and were finding it difficult to prevent those crosses coming into our box. Martin came and collected a couple to ease the growing momentum as Crewe tried to settle down and find a rhythm to their passing game.
On 27 minutes, Slocombe did well to grasp a looping cross from Davis whilst under intense pressure from a jumping and powerful Pogba. At the other end, Ellis did well enough to divert a cross destined towards Grant and then Adam Dugdale stood firm when Grella attempted an overhead kick.
Crewe were struggling to retain possession and we had a period where our passing was not accurate enough going forward and when it was we were failing to hold it up for others to join in. Scunthorpe continued to grow in confidence and Crewe were relying on some intelligent defending to avoid going behind before the half-time break.
The lively Bobby Grant flicked a corner a yard wide after stealing some space inside a crowded penalty area and Harry Davis had to stand up to deflect another effort from Andy Barcham into the arms of Martin. Dugdale also blocked a shot from Ryan before we survived a loud penalty appeal from the home side when Grella went down under a challenge from Ellis. It would have been extremely soft and referee Lewis waved away the appeals just before the interval.
The second half saw Pogba booked within the first two minutes for a late tackle on Kennedy. Scunthorpe’s first real chance came a couple of minutes later when we tried to play offside at a free-kick on our right flank. Josh Walker whipped the ball into our box and we got our offside line wrong and both Grant and Grella slid trying to reach it. There was no flag.
More good play from Westwood nearly found Pogba in the air and after he was challenged by Mirfin, the ball wouldn’t quite fall invitingly at the feet of Leitch-Smith. The game went a bit scrappy with a succession of needless free-kicks and stoppages.
The home side really should have taken the lead just before the hour mark but Grant couldn’t keep his free header down after he was picked out superbly by full-back Kennedy. If he had been able to get it on target, Martin would certainly have struggled to keep it out.
Crewe had began the second half promisingly and were certainly passing the ball better, finding targets and building attacks better than the lull period at the end of the first period. Kennedy was called on defensively to deal with a break from AJ Leitch-Smith after he had been found inside the box by a rushing Moore. A good spell of possession from the Alex saw Westwood curl an effort just over the top before the fresh legs of Max Clayton replaced Leitch-Smith with 24 minutes remaining.
Scunthorpe were certainly a potent threat with their forward players and Ryan could not have come any closer to giving them the lead when his thumping shot whacked the Alex post. In the follow up Josh Walker’s drilled effort was deflected behind for a corner.
More changes saw Barcham make way for Jennings and Alex debutant Harry Bunn replace Pogba. Bunn was quickly caught offside but his second contribution was outstanding. His tough and acceleration got him away from his marker before finding Clayton on the edge of the box. He couldn’t quite get a shot off, but was alert enough to find Westwood and he instantly shifted it on to Murphy, who poked home his first goal of the season on his recall. It was a well worked goal and the fresh legs of impact subs Clayton and Bunn paid dividends.
Crewe were growing in confidence and passing the ball again with real efficiency and purpose, but still having to work tirelessly to keep Scunthorpe at bay. With ten minutes left, more good work from Osman and then the lively Bunn found Moore and after a twist and turn he smacked the outside of the Scunthorpe post.
Scunthorpe turned to Keegan for a lifeline when he replaced Walker late on. Jennings went close with a firm shot into the side netting, with half the stadium thinking it had caught Martin out. Crewe deservedly held on for three superb points.
Scunthorpe: Slocombe, Ribeiro, Kennedy, Walker, Mirfin, Ryan, Grant, Grella, Barcham, Newey
Subs: Severn, Jennings, Canavan, Hughes, Howe, Keegan
Crewe: Martin, Davis, Robertson, Ellis, Dugdale, Osman, Murphy, Westwood, Moore, Pogba (Bunn), Leitch-Smith (Clayton)
Subs: Garratt, Turton, Mellor, Ray, Daniels, Bunn