First half goals from Febian Brandy and 17-year-old George Cooper sealed Crewe Alexandra’s second league win of the season against Steven Pressley’s Coventry City side. Both players were handed their full home debuts by boss Steve Davis as he altered his attack for the visit of the Sky Blues.
Brandy slotted the Alex ahead after 26 minutes after being fed through by Oliver Turton for his first goal of his loan spell from Rotherham. Cooper then won and took the free-kick that gave Ryan Allsop absolutely no chance. It was a wonderful strike from the edge of the penalty area and the teenager showed supreme confidence to take it ahead of his captain and Anthony Grant!
Coventry pulled one back just three minutes into the second half when Danny Pugh’s free-kick flicked off Anthony Grant to give Ben Garratt no chance.
The Alex lads put in a supreme shift to see the game out with Brandy going close in the second half to making it a little more comfortable, but the Railwaymen deserved to see it through and claim all three points.
Brad Inman also returned to the starting line-up for the first time since our meeting with Rochdale in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and worked his socks off for cause. Like they all did.
Marcus Haber was unavailable for selection following his International call-up for Canada and Chris Atkinson and Liam Nolan dropped back to the substitutes’ bench to adjust to a 3-5-2 formation and the different personnel.
Billy Waters was also unavailable for selection after suffering with a stomach bug later in the week following his appearance for the club in the Cheshire Senior Cup on Wednesday evening. Crewe boss Steve Davis continued with three centre-halves with Matt Tootle and Greg Leigh as wing-backs.
Crewe made a really vibrant start to the game and immediately put the Sky Blues onto the back foot. Defender George Ray was presented with an early chance after captain Matt Tootle had played the ball into a crowed penalty area, but he could only lift his attempt over the crossbar. To be fair to the centre-half it came at him at an awkward height.
A rejuvenated Crewe were first to the ball and snapping into tackles. Brandy went down inside the penalty area after a tricky run but the referee wasn’t interested. The Coventry City goalkeeper Ryan Allsop was also called upon to push another headed effort away from Ray, who was always a constant threat from the set-plays going in.
Ben Garratt was called upon though to push a good effort from John Fleck away from danger and after Tootle had played a stray pass across the pitch, the Crewe goalkeeper was again well placed to save from Josh McQuoid.
The tackles continued to go in with Fleck sliding recklessly into Brandy and Dugdale was booked for the Alex.
Crewe deservedly took the lead on 26 minutes. Greg Leigh did exceeding well to win his aerial dual and a tidy flick from Inman gave Turton time to pick his pass and release Brandy. The on-loan Rotherham forward raced into the box and kept his composure to slot it through the legs of Allsop. He celebrated his first goal for the club with his trademark flip.
Six minutes later, young Cooper won a free-kick from Jack Finch on the edge of the box. The Coventry defender was booked for the offence and he was doubly punished when Cooper took the ball and curled it beyond Allsop. It was a wonderful strike from the teenager.
Crewe were quite deservedly 2-0 up just after the half an hour mark and Inman nearly made it 3-0 after being found again by the excellent Turton. He shot straight at the gloves of Allsop.
Coventry City ended the first half though looking for a goal to resurrect their chances. Simeon Jackson found a yard to fire a yard wide and Jim O’Brien shot high and wide from distance.
With the half running out, Josh Fleck dragged a late shot wide under pressure from the hard working Grant.
A Steven Pressley side were always going to come out flying early in the second half and so it proved. Dugdale had to smuggle an effort from McQuoid off the post and away barely a minute into the second half.
Three minutes into the second period and Coventry had their passage back into the game via a free-kick. Pugh’s direct shot flicked off the head of Grant and gave Garratt no chance.
The visitors certainly began to pile on the pressure and won a succession of corners. Ray did superbly to flick a deep cross away from the head of Jackson before he was booked for a tackle on McQuoid. The dangerous Fleck shot wide of the mark as it began to look like being a long half for the Alex.
Alan Tate put his body on the line to block another effort from McQuoid and he did likewise to deny a cross from O’Brien reaching Jackson.
Crewe continued to defend resolutely and try and hit the opposition on the counter-attack. The confident Cooper shot wide after another probing run on the hour mark.
Pressley made a change to his attack with Mohamed Coulibably replacing Conor Thomas and our former player Shaun Miller coming on for Seb Hines.
Turton and Grant were everywhere, hounding and trying to regain possession and another Turton had won possession back high up the pitch, Cooper found Brandy with a slip of a pass but the Man-of-the-Match fired straight at Allsop.
It was backs against the wall at times, with Inman trying to put the Coventry defence under pressure. He slid in the wet to catch Jordan Willis and was booked.
The livewire Cooper had another forceful run that took him past two defenders but he was caught just as he was about to shoot and it tamely went through to Allsop.
The final stages of the game were made a little easier for the Alex when Finch was red carded for his second yellow after sliding across the ground and catching Brandy. From the resultant free-kick, taken by birthday boy Tootle, Ray rose highest by his header took a slight deflection to take it over.
Brandy was withdrawn in the dying minutes to a standing ovation and Chris Atkinson offered some fresh legs in midfield. He made one really good burst and he was a little unlucky that his pull back didn’t find the supportive Turton inside the box.
Crewe were looking relatively solid and Garratt was hardly tested in the remaining few minutes and the five minutes extra that the referee added on although the Sky Blues substitute Coulibaly did sent a late effort wide of the target from 20 yards out.