Brentford cemented themselves as the most impressive side we have faced this season by completing a league double over Crewe Alexandra thanks to a 2-0 win.
Crewe were beaten by two superbly taken goals with Bradley Wright-Phillips heading past Steve Phillips and then substitute Marcello Trotta volleyed past Alan Martin with seven minutes left to seal the points and keep their automatic promotion hopes alive. Martin had replaced Phillips in the first half after he had collided with Tom Adeyemi and was unable to continue.
Crewe were second best on the night against Uwe Rosler’s side but the effort and application was still there. We were perhaps denied a penalty on the stroke of half-time when full-back Shaleum Logan seemed to lose the flight of the ball in the floodlights and the ball landed on his arm. There was certainly a strong case.
Steve Davis made two changes to the side that won at Wembley on Sunday. Kelvin Mellor failed to shake off a toe injury, so the on-loan Kevin Stewart returned to the starting line-up at left-back with Matt Tootle switching to the right.
The other change saw Chuks Aneke make way for AJ Leitch-Smith, but the Alex boss named a strong side to try and compete against one of the top sides in League One.
Brentford started with intent forcing a succession of corners. They pressurised high up the pitch and Rosler has them well drilled and organised. Their energy made things difficult for Crewe to build up any real momentum and as a result our shots on Simon Moore’s goal were limited.
Crewe were struggling to impose themselves in the final third of the pitch and Brentford deserved to take the lead on 12 minutes. Wright-Phillips produced a stunning header from Logan’s cross to give Phillips little chance.
A few minutes later, Phillips darted from his line to oppose To Adeyemi and the collision left the Crewe goalkeeper in severe pain. He tried to continue but was forced off after kicking two into touch from goal kicks. Martin replaced the distraught goalkeeper.
Brentford went close to adding a second via a corner, but Harlee Dean’s towering header came crashing off the Crewe crossbar. It was a lucky break and Crewe were hanging in on there.
Crewe’s first attempt on the Brentford goal came from an unlikely source with Tootle forcing Moore into a smart save after he tried his luck from the edge of the box. The Bees keeper did well to tip it around for a corner. Brad Inman then tried to inject some pace into the proceeding with a forceful run but he was crowded out.
Luke Murphy, who had put himself on the line on Sunday after missing the last three games with a groin strain then tried to find the willing runner Clayton but his long executed pass was just a little long for the Alex youngster. It was an improvement from Crewe but in the first half, the athletic Brentford looked the more likely side to score again.
Wright-Phillips forced Martin into a another good save with a fiercely struck shot from 25 yards that the Crewe keeper did well to fist away before Jonathan Douglas shot wide after possession had broken to him at the far post.
The first half ended though with Crewe having a strong shout for a penalty when Logan appeared to handle Tootle’s long cross to the back post. It probably wasn’t intentional but you have seen them given for less.
Crewe started the second period with two free-kicks from Murphy but a towering Brentford defence were equal to it. Inman fired over the bar before Clayton forced Moore into a save as he tried to turn on a through ball from Byron Moore.
The Brentford goalkeeper continued to punch crosses clear as Crewe began to get more competitive and bite into tackles. Murphy tired and was replaced by Ollie Turton and Inman was replaced by Colclough, as Crewe went for broke and went with three at the back with AJ Leitch-Smith operating in the hole.
Brentford replaced Sam Saunders with Toumani Diagouraga and Trotta replaced Wright-Phillips. Donaldson, our former striker headed one just over before Douglas had a chance to round the points up when he broke through but he shot wide.
The introduction of Trotta sealed the points with seven minutes left when his superb volley gave Martin no chance after he had been found but the influential Douglas.
Crewe’s only late opportunity nearly fell to Leitch-Smith inside a crowded penalty area after Tootle made a superb run down the right hand side and Clayton had back-healed it towards the line. From the resulting corner, Stewart lifted a shot clear over the bar and that about summed up a disappointing night for us.