Steve Davis’ 100th game in charge was certainly one to forget after Martin Allen’s Gillingham inflicted a successive 3-0 home defeat on Crewe.
Whilst, the 3-0 defeat to Walsall two weeks ago may have flattered the Saddlers in terms of the result, this was well deserved by League One’s bottom club as goals from Cody McDonald, Joe Martin and captain Adam Barrett sealed Gillingham’s first league win of the season.
The introduction of Vadaine Oliver in the second half did see Crewe finally test the Gills goalkeeper Stuart Nelson with a couple of efforts, but it could be argued that this was one of Crewe’s worst performances under Davis.
Within the first 60 seconds, Oliver Turton tried to get Crewe on the front foot with a quick ball into Max Clayton but the ball was just too long for the young forward to collect it in his stride.
Crewe were dealt a significant blow early on when Harry Davis was forced off due to injury. It looked as though the centre-half twisted his knee after Jon Guthrie had cleared the ball from the Crewe penalty area. Davis was stretched off and replaced by George Ray.
The change at the back did unsettle Crewe for a short of time with Gillingham’s McDonald dragging a shot wide of Steve Phillips’ left hand post and the same player having a low drive deflected just wide. Danny Kedwell then did well in the right hand channel to create a half chance for Chris Whelpdale but he didn’t quite catch his shot properly and Steve Phillips collected his tame shot.
As an attacking force Crewe were lacking that cutting edge in the final third. No-one attacked a good delivery from an AJ Leitch-Smith free-kick and from the resultant corner Abdul Osman had a far post header cleared from danger.
Gillingham were providing a threat from Charlie Lee’s long throws into our box, but in fairness we were dealing fairly comfortably with those high balls and chances were few and far between. Steven Gregory spun to fire one over from the edge of the box and Whelpdale did have the ball in the net after blatantly kicking the ball from Phillips’ grasp.
Nelson had to rush from his line to prevent Leitch-Smith from reaching a pass from Turton but Crewe were finding it difficult to conjure up too many genuine chances. Full-back Jon Guthrie did produce a superb cross that picked out Byron Moore but he didn’t get a good enough connection on his close range header.
On 39 minutes, Max Clayton was slipped in by Bradden Inman and appeared to be caught by Nelson and although play did seem to pause for a split second, nor the referee or his assistant were interested in giving Crewe a penalty. If there had not been any contact why was not Clayton booked for a dive?
The murmurs of discontent had hardly subsided before Gillingham went up the other end to take the lead. In the initial build up, Osman appeared to be tripped but nothing was forthcoming and after McDonald was sent clear down the wing, he got away from George Ray to face up to goalkeeper Steve Phillips.
The Crewe goalkeeper would have been disappointed to have been beaten at his near post by McDonald’s shot and Crewe went in at the interval behind.
It could have been doubly worse in the opening 30 seconds of the second half, but for a covering intervention from Guthrie. Almost immediately though, a well worked corner routine from Leitch-Smith saw Turton shoot over the bar.
Five minutes into the second period, Gillingham did double their lead. Lee went on another mazy run before eventually being tripped on the edge of the penalty area for a dangerously positioned free-kick. Gillingham looked to be setting up a chance for the influential Lee to strike it, but Joe Martin came around the ball to curl it into the top corner. With the wall beaten, Phillips didn’t move and Crewe were facing another tough ask.
A decent passing move involving Guthrie and Inman nearly saw Leitch-Smith played in again but again Nelson read the situation well to rush out and smother the ball at his feet.
Lee was enjoying himself and the space we were granting him and he had another shot smack the foot of the Crewe post after a slip from Thierry Audel had let him in. From a corner from the right, Kedwell was a little unlucky to see his towering header just clear the top of the crossbar.
Crewe made a double substitution with both strikers replaced by Vadaine Oliver and Lee Molyneux. Oliver’s first touch saw him reach a flick on from Moore and his low shot was saved by the legs of Nelson. It gave the crowd a brief lift.
At the other end, Gillingham pinched possession from Molyneux and Danny Hollands was unfortunate to see his curling effort just clear the far post.
Oliver was at least threatening the Gillingham goal and after winning a header from Ray’s long pass, his instant volley was again saved by Nelson. The Gills goalkeeper was also alert and agile enough to tip over a fine effort from Audel who had tried his luck from 25 yards.
The game was over as a contest after Crewe failed to clear the danger from the box from another long throw-in and after a scramble in front of Phillips, the Gills captain Barrett was on hand to lift it into the roof our net for 3-0.
It was then a question of Gillingham looking to add to their tally in the closing stages, substitute Myles Weston, who had replaced McDonald, had a shot blocked by Ray after being allowed to carry the ball too far and Lee forced a save from Phillips after waltzing around too many defenders en route to our goal.
Molyneux to his great credit tried to get on the ball as much as he could and he shot wide after coming off his wing and Audel tried an ambitious effort from distance that didn’t match his first effort.