Crewe Alexandra produced a real gritty performance this evening to record a splendid 2-1 win over Swindon Town. The Railwaymen had to fight back yet again from going a goal behind with winger Bryon Moore scoring his first goals of the season in an action-packed first half to put Crewe in the driving seat.
Swindon came out in the second period and virtually threw everything but the kitchen sink at Crewe. The Crewe back line somehow stood firm and when they got through on goal Paolo Di Canio’s side found the Alex goalkeeper Alan Martin in excellent form. One particular save to deny our former loanee winger Gary Roberts was exceptional in the second half.
It was real back to wall stuff, but with Harry Davis arguably our outstanding player on the night, Crewe held on for three superb points. Swindon will certainly feel aggrieved that they didn’t turn their second half domination into more efforts on goal, but they must credit Crewe’s defending. I don’t think we have ever headed so many balls out of our penalty area in a 45-minute spell.
Steve Davis made two changes for the visit of Swindon Town this evening with Saturday’s goal scorer Chuks Aneke and Michael West coming into the side for Brendon Daniels and Max Clayton (who has been struggling with a groin strain). Aneke and West had come on as second half substitutes at the Bescot Stadium and their assistance in helping the club grab a point saw them win a place in the starting XI.
It was certainly defences on top in the opening exchanges at the Alexandra Stadium with chances few and far between. It became a midfield contest with Aneke showing moments of class with his passes forward to Moore and Mathias Pogba.
Moore nearly caught out the Swindon goalkeeper Wes Foderingham when his clearance up the pitch was blocked by one of his own defenders. Foderingham reacted quickly to avert the danger as the loose ball rolled across the six-yard box.
The best opportunity in the opening 20 minutes saw Swindon’s James Collins flick an Alan McCormack cross wide of the mark.
The ball was spending a lot of the time in the air and Davis and Ellis were strong and resolute for Crewe, and full-backs Mellor and Tootle were keeping their direct opponents relatively quiet.
Therefore, from a Crewe point of view it was disappointing that the deadlock was broken so easily at a set-piece after 25 minutes. Miller provided another quality delivery into our box and De Vita stole some space to flick it past Martin for the opener. Davis and his assistant Neil Baker were not happy after defending so well.
Although falling a goal behind from that set play, Crewe hit back within four minutes. Aneke produced another excellent pass to release West and his pin-point cross found the sliding in Moore at the far post for his first goal since Wembley. It was a real poachers’ finish from Moore and he deserved it for taking that gamble after Pogba failed to reach it.
After drawing level, Crewe began to get on top for the first time with captain Luke Murphy putting a shift in and Aneke neat and tidy when in possession. The Swindon keeper Foderingham was kept busy and made two fine saves to deny Aneke twice once after a cross from Moore and on another occasion when Mellor headed Murphy’s corner onto the head of the on-loan Arsenal starlet.
The Alex finally made their good spell count with Aneke once again turning provider. He played a sublime pass to set Moore through and although under pressure and rather tight to the by-line he produced two magical feet and a calm lifted finish that made the Alexandra Stadium erupt. It was a wonderful, skilful finish from Moore that had bemused the Swindon defence and static goalkeeper.
There was still time in the first period for Collins to pull a long ball out of the sky and drive a shot wide and the same player have a low shot blocked by the diving Ellis after a cross from De Vita.
Crewe began the second half without the injured Abdul Osman, who had to be replaced by young Oliver Turton in central midfield. There was an early penalty shout when Pogba appeared to be bundled over but referee Pawson wasn’t interested.
Di Canio soon made changes with Miles Storey and Matt Ritchie replacing Rooney and De Vita. Mellor, who excelled in the second half then headed a clearance from Joe Devera away from the far post as Swindon quickly went in search of that equaliser.
Martin produced the save of the night moments later to somehow deny Roberts. The Alex goalkeeper had struggled with the initial cross but he redeemed himself with a wonderful glove onto Roberts’ goalbound effort as the winger had set himself at the far post. He must have thought he had scored and no one could believe that Martin had kept it out. It was a truly remarkable recovery save.
Pogba continued to work tirelessly up front trying to make the ball stick up there, but the waves of Swindon’s attacks continued. Pogba did flash a shot over via a deflection after Aneke had flicked one on into his path and Ellis and Davis seemed to get in each other’s way at a Murphy corner. In the end neither made a proper connection.
With just over 20 minutes left, Ritchie just couldn’t keep his far post header down after Roberts had picked him out and Roberts himself shot straight at Martin after a fine interchange of passing involving Ritchie and Collins.
Swindon began to load the Crewe box with high balls and crosses but the centre-backs were standing firm. The introduction of Adam Dugdale for Chuks Aneke added some extra height and we threw bodies on the line to resist them.
Ritchie had a shot blocked and then dragged the rebound wide and Davis covered his partner Ellis to hook away a long ball away from Collins.
Still the pressure mounted, with Miller producing quality crosses but the centre half trio continued to head the ball away and Martin collected a succession of crosses.
As the minutes ticked away, Crewe did show some composure and kept possession intelligently and in the dying seconds it really was the walking wounded with both Ellis and Davis carrying knocks. It was that sort of night.