Crewe Alexandra’s worst 45 minutes under the reign of Steve Davis had the Railwaymen well beaten by the break. Slow out of the blocks, the Alex were 2-0 down within the first 20 minutes thanks to goals from our former player Clayton Donaldson and Farid El Alagui and out of it as a contest by half-time thanks to a second from Al Alagui.
A resurgent Crewe did pull one back in the opening minutes of the second half after some good work from Bryon Moore created a fourth goal of the season for Mathias Pogba. Crewe certainly improved in the second period but the towering Harlee Dean deservedly sealed the points for the Bees with a firm header in the 83rd minute and Donaldson completed the scoring with a deflected shot off of Dugdale.
Steve Davis had the luxury of naming an unchanged side for the trip to London, which meant young strikers Max Clayton and the on-loan Harry Bunn once again started on the substitutes’ bench. There was a recall to the squad for young defender Jon Guthrie who was named on the bench alongside fellow defenders Kelvin Mellor, Oliver Turton and George Ray.
It was a tentative start to the game at Griffin Park with both sides trying to find their style and footing in a torrential downpour. The home side conjured up the first meaningful effort after five minutes but centre-half Tony Craig got under his shot after finding far too much space at the far post from a free-kick. If he had been able to hit the target, he would have surely given Alan Martin in the Alex goal a real early involvement.
Moments later, the goalkeeper had to deal with an awkward header from our former striker Clayton Donaldson. Martin needed the assistance of Adam Dugdale to finally clear after his looping header had dropped underneath his bar.
Crewe were finding it difficult to get a firm foothold in the game and the rain was becoming even more of a nuisance under foot, so much so that referee Scott was keeping a watchful eye on the conditions. Crewe’s first half chance saw AJ Leitch-Smith have a firm shot blocked inside the Brentford penalty area.
With the Alex struggling to have any meaningful possession in the Brentford half of the pitch, the pressure continued to arrive at the door of the Crewe defence. In truth, after such a bright start, the Bees deserved their early lead given to them by Donaldson. The former Crewe striker escaped the clutches of Davis and then Dugdale, spun and drilled a low shot past Martin via a post. The former Crewe Player-of-the-Season had the decency not to celebrate in front of the Alex continent which only reflects the class of the man.
With the Railwaymen not retaining possession, Brentford attacks continued to come in waves and Shaleum El Alagui dragged another shot wastefully wide from a decent position.
It had been a poor start from the Alex and it got considerably worse when El Alaugi gifted Brentford a second goal after 19 minutes following a mistake from Mark Ellis. To make matters worse El Alagui’s goal arrived via our own throw-in. Abdul Osman took possession neatly enough but after his back pass to Ellis was mis-kicked, it set-up the Brentford striker perfectly and he made no mistake with an accurate drive past Martin.
Crewe were second best all over the pitch and Sam Saunders had another long-range effort deflected behind for a corner. Martin also had to be alert to push away a free-kick from Saunders as the Bees threatened to run away with it before the half time interval.
It took just over half an hour to produce some of our fluent football. We kept the ball with some accuracy and purpose and the full-back Logan did exceedingly well to poke possession away from the incoming Luke Murphy, as he tried to break onto a cross from Bryon Moore.
More encouraging play from the Railwaymen saw Dudgale head a free-kick from Westwood a yard wide, although the referee’s assistant may have raised his flag in advance.
As the first half drew to a close, Crewe finally began to impose themselves on the opposition in the final third of the pitch. It was better but the final ball, or cross was just lacking to really trouble Simon Moore in the Brentford goal. The surface water continued to be an issue, and at times the ball was not moving as freely as it would usually. I’m sure the situation was raised at the half-time interval.
Just as Crewe were preparing to reorganise at the break, Brentford added a third goal in stoppage time. With Crewe failing to cut out a cross from full-back Shaleum Logan, the ball fell invitingly to the feet of El Alagui and he confidently converted his second goal of the afternoon to virtually end the match as a contest. Comfortably, our worst 45 minutes by a long way for a long time.
Manager Steve Davis elected not to make any changes at the break, giving his starting line-up a chance to redeem themselves. It had the right effect. Crewe pulled one back after two minutes of the restart with a move of quality. Westwood sent Moore into space down the right hand side, and his low cross was dispatched comfortably by Mathias Pogba. It was his fourth goal of the season.
Donaldson soon went on one of his trademark bursts in the box just moments later, but he was prevented from pulling the trigger at the death by a timely interception from Ellis. The Alex defender also stood firm to prevent Saunders from restoring Brentford’s three goal advantage.
Crewe had certainly made a more positive start to the second period, especially with Pogba’s lifeline but Brentford continued to look a menace in attack. Donaldson was a potent threat with his pace and his trademark long throws and El Alagui was understandably after the match ball.
Murphy was booked for catching Saunders after he had lost possession.
Murphy nearly made up for that caution with a wonderful ball through to Moore but with the pitch a bit greasy, it was difficult for him to get the ball under full control and it ran through to the on rushing Simon Moore.
Brenford’s two goal hero El Alaugi was withdrawn for the fresher legs of Paul Hayes. Almost immediately, the home side produced a flowing passing move that saw Donaldson cleverly flick possession into Saunders but his curling shot was too high to test Martin.
Scott Barron was replaced for Leon Legge as Uwe Rosler looked to kill the game off.
With 20 minutes left on the clock, Max Clayton and Harry Bunn introduced for the Alex in place of Leitch-Smith and Robertson as the Alex converted to 3-3-4. Crewe certainly went for and it understandably let to gaps at the back. Martin did brilliantly to save a firm header from Hayes after he climbed over Davis at the far post.
A well worked free-kick from Westwood set up Murphy to drill one and his low drive spun narrowly wide as Crewe tried to create a real grandstand finish. With Crewe now piling on the pressure, Davis had a header cleared from the line via a corner.
Despite Crewe’s efforts to get back into the game, a powerful header from Dean ended our hopes of getting anything from the capital and Donaldson completed the rout with a splendid fifth goal after he had burst past Westwood and his shot took a deflection off of Dugdale.
There was a late decent effort from Bunn, who drew a good save from Moore and Martin had to save well with his legs to deny Hayes a sixth goal.