Two superbly taken goals from Byron Moore in the first half and Brad Inman in the second half gave Crewe Alexandra a first league win since August. Steve Davis and his players’ executed their game-plan perfectly to record a superb 2-0 win at an in-form Preston North End, who had started the afternoon in 5th place.
Crewe certainly had to work hard to contain the likes of Kevin Davis and Iain Hume but that determination to keep that ball out of our net was evident to see with a real battling performance. A first clean-sheet of the season in the League was deserved and a big bonus. The work ethic was superb and the quality finishes of Moore and Inman proved to be the difference on the day.
Both sides also hit the woodwork with Hume hitting the woodwork in the opening two minutes and Dugdale doing the same in the second half when Crewe were on top in the game and 2-0 ahead.
Crewe Alexandra made two changes from the side that exited the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy against Fleetwood Town on Tuesday evening. Chuks Aneke and Brad Inman reclaimed their starting places ahead of young strikers Max Clayton and Vadaine Oliver. Aneke was the fulcrum of the attack with Inman and Byron Moore in support in a flexible 4-3-3 system.
It was the home side immediately on the front foot at Deepdale with Iain Hume creating the first chance of the afternoon after just two minutes. The forward found the supportive full-back Scott Laird in space and his low drive had to be tipped around the post superbly by Steve Phillips. From the resultant corner from the right, a brief scramble inside the six-yard box then saw Hume curl a great effort that struck the Crewe crossbar.
Setting up reasonably compact, Crewe were trying to pass the ball into the feet of Aneke and Moore whenever possible and both were unlucky not to make inroads into the Preston last third. Preston were dominating the possession but after that early flurry, Crewe were defending their penalty area with much more assurance.
Preston did have a sight of the Crewe goal after 20 minutes but Phillips did well again to deny Stuart Beavon after he had escaped the offside trap. His follow up effort struck the side netting but wouldn’t have counted anyway after Kevin Davies had strayed offside to keep the ball alive.
On 25 minutes Crewe took a surprise lead with our first genuine chance of the game. Mark Ellis sent an accurate free-kick up field and after Aneke and Inman had linked up well on the edge of the Preston box, Inman flicked the ball over for Moore. The ball did bounce invitingly for him but after collecting it with a deft touch, he dispatched it into the bottom corner of Declan Rudd’s net. It was Moore’s first goal of the season and only our second goal on our travels in League One.
Preston tried to hit back immediately, but Grant blocked a shot from Beavon and Crewe had to survive a dangerous free-kick on the edge of the penalty area but Joel Byrom drilled his effort into a collection of legs and Hume did likewise in the follow up.
Turton, who had scored our other away goal at Oldham, then tried his luck from 30 yards but a sliding Rudd had this particular effort covered. Aneke also had a shot blocked from the edge of the box after he was able to get the ball out from his feet.
With three minutes of the first half left, the former England forward Davies had a sight of Phillips’ goal but he couldn’t direct his header on target to trouble the Crewe goalkeeper.
Trailing to that well taken Moore goal, Preston were always going to try and re-appear on the front foot and after forcing an early corner, but defender Bailey Wright couldn’t direct his header on target to give Phillips something to consider.
Ellis also had to head clear from Davies at the far post after Tootle was rather harshly penalised for handball when cutting a cross out from Chris Humphrey. It was a bit uncertain what Tootle could have done about it to get out of the way.
Byrom wasn’t booked for a calculated trip on Byron Moore as he raced into a promising two on two situation with Inman in support, but the inconsistent referee did book Turton seconds later for a pull on Hume. Both offences deserved a caution.
Moore did well in the air to control his header into the path of Aneke but the on-loan Arsenal youngster over hit his pass into Inman. Tom Clarke was booked for a foul on the inspiring Moore and the game continued to be littered with free-kicks. Clarke was then rather lucky not to have been a second yellow for a blatant block on the hard working Grant.
Just before the hour mark, the home side must have thought they had equalised when Beavon put an accurate cross onto the head of Davies. The experienced striker headed his chance wide of the mark from close range and Crewe had survived.
Crewe doubly punished the home side for that miss just five minutes later, Mellor did well in the initial build up to find Aneke in enough space for the ‘false’ number 9 to roll the ball into the path of Inman and without breaking his stride, he arrowed his shot into the top corner of Rudd’s goal. It was Inman’s first goal of the campaign and what a strike it was.
Preston boss Simon Grayson quickly introduced Lee Holmes for Humphrey, mainly because he had been kept awfully quiet by Tootle.
Crewe buoyed by the two goal advantage looked a real threat going forward and centre-half Dugdale could not have gone any closer to giving us a 3-0 lead when his wonderful strike on the bounce hit the crossbar, then the back of the diving Rudd before deflecting behind for a corner. It was a tremendous effort that deserved better and Dugdale deserved a goal for his efforts this afternoon alongside Ellis.
With just over 20 minutes left, Preston made a double substitution with the fresh legs of John Welsh and Josh Brownhill introduced by Grayson. The Alex captain Osman was rather harshly booked for handball when the ball was smashed at him from a short distance.
Mellor, who was back on form then bravely raced out to block a shot from Laird. Crewe were defending with a real purpose and determination. Grant was excellent and typified the work ethic of the entire team by winning countless free-kicks, some the referee failed to award as well!
With the clock ticking, Steve Davis made an intelligent change with young Liam Nolan replacing the tiring Grant. He had worked his socks off.
Inman was booked for apparently not taking a corner that he had won! Crewe were hardly going to rush to get the ball back when protecting a 2-0 advantage.
Tootle produced a goal saving tackle to deny a rampaging Hume in front of goal and Crewe’s most consistent performer of the season didn’t put a foot wrong all afternoon. Tootle was on hand to block a shot from Holmes and Bradley Wright went close with a shot from long range.
Crewe were working hard to protect that clean sheet and after four minutes of stoppage time the points and the shut out were confirmed.