Local lads Luke Murphy and Max Clayton scored a goal in each half as Crewe Alexandra lifted the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy at Wembley Stadium with a 2-0 win over Southend United. Murphy, who returned to the starting line-up following a groin strain, unleashed an unstoppable, dipping shot on six minutes that gave Paul Smith no chance. It was a very special goal at a very special moment because seconds after the opening goal on six minutes, the Crewe and to their great credit, the Southend United fans joined in a one minute of applause to show support for Adam Dugdale
and his family after the sad passing of his baby boy last week.
Clayton gave Crewe the cushion of second goal just three minutes into the second half after another fine passing move had opened up the Southend back four. Chuks Aneke, who enjoyed the freedom the Wembley pitch offered him, slipped in Byron Moore and his pull back was perfect for Clayton to guide home the chance.
Southend did have their moments and felt they should have had a first half penalty when Mark Ellis got himself into a tangle with Britt Assombalonga and moments after Clayton had made it 2-0, Harry Davis produced a moment of superb defending to clear a Bilel Mohsni header from the line.
Crewe finished strongly with Aneke, and substitutes AJ Leitch-Smith and Ryan Colclough both went close to adding to the scoreline.
Captain Luke Murphy managed to shake off a groin strain to lead his hometown club out at Wembley to score that wonderful opening goal after six minutes, but leading scorer Mathias Pogba was ruled out after a scan earlier in the week showed that he had suffered a tear during our Bank Holiday win over Preston North End. Pogba will struggle to play again this season. His place went to Chuks Aneke as operated behind his strike partner Max Clayton up front.
Matt Tootle returned for Kevin Stewart at left-back and Oliver Turton returned to the substitutes’ bench alongside fellow youngsters AJ Leitch-Smith, Ryan Colclough, centre-half George Ray, and reserve goalkeeper Alan Martin.
Crewe made a really confident start to the game and dominated the possession in the early exchanges, especially down the right hand side of the pitch. Aneke flicked Byron Moore down in the wing in the opening minute but his low cross was cut out by Sean Clohessy. The on-loan Arsenal youngster Aneke then skipped past a couple of challenges to find Moore and he slipped Max Clayton in on goal. His low cross shot was saved by the feet of the Southend United goalkeeper Paul Smith.
Southend were struggling to get a grip on the ball, as the Railwaymen continued to keep it and look for openings with the movement and pace of Clayton and Moore.
Another probing run from Moore won a first corner for the Railwaymen from the right hand side. Moore cleverly played it low across the floor, Harry Davis let it run through him and arriving late, Murphy bend an unstoppable shot from 20 yards into Southend’s top corner. It was another memorable Crewe goal at Wembley with Murphy’s strike certainly rivalling Nick Powell’s in last season’s Play-Off Final. It was the skipper’s ninth goal of the campaign and comfortably his best.
Just seconds later in the sixth minute of play, the supporters’ of Crewe and Southend joined in unison to show a fantastic gesture of support for Adam Dugdale
and his partner Nicola, who so sadly lost their new born boy last week. The death certainly overshadowed the pre-Wembley build-up for all who know and support Duggy.
Southend needed some respite and they wasted a free-kick in a good position by taking it too quickly. Crewe had to defend a succession of corners, with Mark Ellis doing superbly well to get ahead of Anthony Straker.
On reaching the by-line Murphy, clipped an inviting cross to the far post towards Davis and he did well to head back across goal and keep the move alive, but Brad Inman’s low drive was blocked.
After Southend’s towering centre-back Ryan Cresswell had headed another corner straight at Steve Phillips, another swift break from the Railwaymen saw Abdul Osman break through the middle, but just over hit a pass towards Clayton. The young striker was forced wide but waited for assistance from Matt Tootle. The full-back rode a tackle to feed Inman on the edge of the Southend penalty area, but his low shot again took a deflection and spun away for another Crewe corner.
Southend were offering a threat from set-pieces and Crewe were inviting unnecessary pressure on our goal by conceding a number of needless free-kicks and some unavoidable corners. Just before the half an hour mark, Southend did make an appeal for a penalty when Britt Assombalonga tangled with Mark Ellis. There was an initial touch on Assombalonga’s shoulder, but not enough to warrant a spot-kick in the eye of referee Nigel Miller.
With Southend certainly offering a lot more as an attacking sense, Phillips had to punch clear from the quick Assombalonga, after the Southend striker had collided with Ellis on the edge of the box. From the resulting corner, Phillips lost it for a second in the sun by tipped it over his own crossbar.
From the other side, Southend conjured up their best chance of the afternoon up to that point but Tamika Mkandawire headed his close range header over the bar. Southend were certainly offering up a major threat in the air.
Osman was booked on 37 minutes for falling on the ball and then not releasing it quickly enough for the referee’s liking. Murphy tired his luck with a really ambitious effort from 35 yards and moments later, Aneke didn’t quite catch his long range effort right either. A more promising break saw Inman carry the ball and perfectly play in the supportive Tootle, who instantly tried to give it him back. Inman’s lifted shot was blocked by the chest of Chris Barker.
Crewe started the second half like they did the first and doubled their lead after just three minutes of play. Southend surrendered possession too cheaply when Cresswell tried to play out and as the ball broke to Aneke, the Shrimpers were outnumbered. Aneke, with the ability he has to play a perfectly weighted pass released Moore inside the six yard box. The winger kept his composure superbly to draw the Southend goalkeeper Smith to him and slip it invitingly into the grateful path of Max Clayton and the Crewe-born youngster wasn’t go to miss, despite Cresswell’s effort to try and rectify his mistake.
Despite going two goals down, Southend responded superbly well and could have halved our lead after Gavin Tomlin took on Ellis to reach the by-line chip a perfect cross towards Bilel Mohsni, but somehow Harry Davis did superbly well to bravely get his own head onto it to divert the danger from the line. It was a fantastic goal-saving clearance. Moments later, Assombalonga did have the ball in the Crewe net, but he was rightly ruled out for offside.
Southend’s manager Phil Brown made a double change on 57 minutes, with a quiet Mohsni and Barker making way for Barry Corr and Ben Reeves. Corr was soon involved at the far post but under pressure from both of Crewe’s centre-halves; he couldn’t direct his header goalwards enough to trouble Phillips.
On 62 minutes, goalscorer Clayton shaped himself for a far post curler, but he just had a little on it to draw a save from Smith. Six minutes later, Steve Davis made his first change with Ryan Colclough replacing a tiring and hobbling Inman. Clayton was booked for going for goal when the whistle had gone and Southend’s Kevan Hurst for a cynical trip on Aneke.
Crewe were defending diligently and were winning their fair share of heads and second balls as the ball was planted high into our box whenever the occasion arose. Corr certainly added some energy to their attack and from a corner, he had a fierce shot blocked by Mellor. He also had a downward header thumped from the line by Tootle. Phil Brown tried to inject even more with the experienced Freddy Eastwood replacing Mkandawire on 75 minutes.
Chuks Aneke, who was a physical handful all afternoon, saw another good effort deflected wide of the post. Colclough also thought he had scored after drifting in from his wing position but his well struck and deflected shot was tipped over by an alert Smith.
Crewe started to play the clock down but Leitch-Smith fired across the goal and it just wouldn’t drop to Colclough to mark his impressive Wembley performance with a goal.
The Alex had to see out four minutes of stoppage time but continued to head the danger going into our box and captain Murphy hooked some danger clear after a probing run from Tomlin.
There was still enough time for George Ray, another of the club’s Academy graduates to make his senior debut at Wembley Stadium. The Wales Under-21 International replaced an impressive Aneke.
With seconds left, Davis played a splendid pass through to find Leitch-Smith and he was so unlucky to see his shot beat Smith but hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce clear.
Crewe: Phillips, Mellor, Tootle, Davis, Ellis, Osman, Murphy, Inman (Colclough), Moore, Aneke (Ray), Clayton
Southend: Smith, Clohessy, Straker, Barker (Reeves), Cresswell, Prosser, Hurst, Mohsni (Corr) , Mkandawire, Assombalonga, Tomlin