Talentedyoungster Ryan Colclough scored his first goals at the Alexandra Stadium to seal a first win of the season for Crewe Alexandra against ten-man Tranmere. Colclough scored in both halves to secure those first three points of the new season against a Rovers side who lost full-back Danny Holmes to two bookable offences in the first half for fouls on Byron Moore and Anthony Grant.
Tranmere pulled a late goal back through John-Louis Akpa Akpro from close range, but the Alex deservedly held onto win 2-1 in front of a gate of 4,720.
Steve Davis, the Crewe Alexandra made two changes to the side that undeservedly lost 1-0 to the MK Dons last weekend. Davis made his changes up front with full debutant Vadaine Oliver partnering Chuks Aneke and Byron Moore returned following his recent thigh strain. Max Clayton and AJ Leitch-Smith had to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench. Also in reserve was Lee Molyneux, who returned from his three-match suspension.
Tranmere Rovers named three of our former players in their side with goalkeeper Owain fon Williams, defender Stephen Foster and striker Ryan Lowe lining up against us at Gresty Road.
Crewe had to deal with an early set piece corner from Andy Robinson that struck the underside of the crossbar and had to be scrambled away in front of goalkeeper Alan Martin. Ronnie Moore’s side were always going to be a threat from free-kicks and corners and
Crewe did at times frustratingly gave away too many dead balls.
Crewe Alexandra soon settled into their stride and with the forceful runs of Matt Tootle and Byron Moore down the left were the main threat on the pitch up against the Tranmere full-back Danny Holmes and Joe Thompson.
Holmes was booked for tripping Moore on the edge of the box and Thompson likewise for bringing down Tootle. The left-back took the dead ball himself but curled it just over the crossbar.
Chuks Aneke had an imposing influence on the proceedings and he found Colclough with another clever pass out to the winger but cutting in he drilled his shot just wide. That was a tester.
At the other end, Chris Atkinson shot wide after he latched onto a cleared header from Mellor before Aneke could react to cover on the edge of the penalty area and then Harry Davis had to react to prevent Lowe from getting through.
Grant was at his energetic best and had licence to break forward. He slipped in Tootle yet again but the full-back had his low cross cut out and rebound back off his own heal.
Debutant Oliver worked hard to unsettle Foster and Ash Taylor but wasn’t get much possession on the floor. He did get in once from another clever pass from the excellent Grant but his run was halted by the assistant referee’s flag.
Crewe continued to obtain a lot of joy down the Tranmere right hand side and Holmes was really struggling to contain Tootle and Moore. He was lucky to escape a second booking after clattering into the pace winger and after another warning was playing on a thin tightrope.
Although Crewe were the dominant force in terms of possession and as an attacking force, it was the visitors who really should have taken the lead. George Ray misjudged a wicked bounce to let Akpa-Akpro in behind but his low shot was saved brilliantly by the out stretched foot of Alan Martin.
Colclough, who is always prepared to get the ball out of his feet and shoot had another drive blocked by our former defender Stephen Foster. After surviving the chance from Akpa Akpro, Crewe were also a little lucky after switching off at a quick free-kick but the advanced Taylor couldn’t direct his far post header on target.
Holmes’ afternoon ended prematurely after he received a second yellow card for catching Grant and Ronnie Moore may have regretted not substituting his full-back earlier. The man making way Thompson as a tactical change was replaced for Andre Jones.
Crewe’s pressure finally paid off after 41 minutes. Harry Davis played a short free-kick to Moore and the winger broke through a tackle from Robinson to race into the Tanmere box. He kept his composure to pick out Colclough on the opposite wing but he still had a lot to do, but did superbly, cutting back and driving a shot into fon Williams’ top corner for his first goal of the season.
Tranmere, down to ten men and probably wanting the half time whistle to regroup a little, nearly snatched an equaliser but Tootle did well defensively to put off Taylor at the far post.
Crewe were always going to expect a Ronnie Moore’s side to come out and have a go, regardless of being a man down and they deserve great credit for remaining in the game. Lowe saw an early cross grasped by a well-positioned Martin as he waited for any slip up and Atkinson fired over again on the half volley.
Lowe also wriggled through but his tame shot when straight through to Martin. Davis also produced a perfectly timed tackle to prevent Akpa Akpro a run on goal.
Ray headed a Colclough corner just wide and even Abdul Osman tried his luck with a long range shot that was blocked.
Another Crewe break saw the superb Tootle cut out a forward pass and find Oliver and he quickly in turn found the legs of Moore. The winger cut back to find Colclough again and his powerful shot was turned behind for a corner by fon Williams.
Tranmere introduced Jason Koumas for the tiring Robinson and Aneke replaced Max Clayton. Clayton nearly latched onto to a poke from Oliver but from a tight angle he could only pull into the mid-drift of fon Williams.
The game went a little scrappy and Osman was booked for a foul on Ewan Horwood and Rovers began to load the Crewe box with high balls.
The threat of Moore continued and another splendid delivery found Clayton and he was unlucky to see his close range effort rebound off the post. It would have been the cushion needed for the closing stages.
Akpo, who was always the main threat for Tranmere in terms at shots at our goal forced Martin into another one before Crewe finally got that second goal. Moore found Mellor and after some excellent work close to the by-line gave him the time to find Colclough and after taking his time, he picked his spot for his second goal.
It should have been all over but that elusive clean-sheet still didn’t arrive after Colclough lost possession and Tranmere broke with real purpose. Akpo Akpro probably deserved his tap-in from close rang4e to make it an anxious last few minutes. It was a well-crafted goal.
Akpro nearly grabbed an unlikely point for his side when his acrobatic volley in stoppage time was inches over the top. Crewe had to defend but stood firm, held on and collected all three points.