Crewe Alexandra suffered their biggest defeat of the season as Coventry City cemented their title as one of the outstanding team in League One by scoring five goals with no reply.
The League’s leading scorer Adam Armstrong scored his first senior hat-trick, which included a calmly taken penalty and the excellent Jacob Murphy added a brace with two fine finishes of his own. Armstrong took his personal tally to 16 goals for the season with a first-half treble and Jacob’s superb curler made it 4-0 at the interval and game over. Murphy added a fifth goal with five minutes remaining.
Coventry City, who are well placed in the play-off places following their emphatic performance didn’t need any gift wrapped favours and Crewe certainly helped in presenting the opposition with at least four of the five goals through individual mistakes.
To their great credit, Crewe continued to look for a goal that our efforts going forward probably deserved and we were unlucky not to score at least one with the Coventry City keeper Reice Charles-Cook saving well to deny Marcus Haber in the first half and James Jones and Ryan Lowe in the second. Captain David Fox also hit the post late on with a side-footed shot that deserved better.
Steve Davis named an unchanged side for the visit of Tony Mowbray’s Coventry City. The Alex boss gave his starting XI another chance following our narrow 2-1 defeat to Shrewsbury Town on Monday. Bradden Inman, Billy Bingham and George Cooper were named on the substitutes’ bench with no place for young forward Callum Saunders.
A confident Coventry City side started on the front foot with the former England International Joe Cole firing well wide of Ben Garratt’s goal. The on-loan Aston Villa midfielder was soon after looking for a penalty after he wrestled with Dave Fox inside the penalty area but referee Mark Haywood waved away his appeals.
League One’s leading scorer Adam Armstrong forced an early save from Garratt before he gifted the opening goal of the game to him after just 11 minutes. David Fox played a short ball back to Jon Guthrie and his heavy touch allowed James Maddison to pinch possession from him and instantly release Armstrong through on the Crewe goal. The on-loan Newcastle United striker took the ball in his stride before dispatching it with venom past a helpless Garratt.
Crewe Alexandra’s first meaningful attack saw Ollie Turton whip over a low cross but the Coventry goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook dived on the ball ahead of the incoming Ryan Lowe.
Then from a free-kick won by Ryan Colclough, Fox clipped a delivery into the box and after winning the initial header through Haber, the advanced Ben Nugent couldn’t direct his own header on target. It was a fine training ground move from the set play that nearly paid off.
Coventry were vibrant though and John Fleck fired another shot into the mid-drift of Garratt before Haber had a golden chance to draw us level just after the 20 minute mark but he directed his diving header to close to the gloves of Charles-Cook.
The Railwaymen were left to rue that missed chance as five minutes later, the visitors doubled their advantage. Fox was crowded out in possession and the ball found its way out to Murphy, who curled it superbly past Garratt for 2-0.
It was soon 3-0 with Haber tracking back but his awkward challenge on Romain Vincelot presented Armstrong with a chance from 12 yards to hit home his second goal of the afternoon and Coventry’s third goal. It was damage limitation time and in truth; the errors had been punished clinically by Armstrong and Murphy.
Although it was game over, Crewe continued to press forward and Colclough had an effort deflected behind for a corner before Jones lashed a shot over the bar after his own free-kick was headed back down to him by Nugent. He would have been disappointed not to have kept his shot down.
With five minutes of the half remaining, Crewe produced a fine passing move that involved our best attacker Colclough, Jones and Lowe. The veteran Lowe took a flick in his stride before firing against the legs of Charles-Cook.
Another chance missed was added to our growing list and a clinical Coventry side made us pay again with a minute of the first period remaining. Jones tracked back close to the touchline and after taking a touch close to the by-line, an alert Armstrong pinched possession from him and raced through on goal. Garratt was left exposed again as the Newcastle teenager lashed home his treble, although the Alex keeper appeared to get a glove to it.
Early on in the second half, Armstrong should have added his fourth goal of the afternoon after Murphy raced clear to present him with a superb chance from close range, but he stirred his effort wide of the mark.
Crewe were now playing for pride and continued to press forward looking for a consolation goal. Jones had a shot blocked before Nugent shot wide in the follow up.
There was a change from Steve Davis with Brad Inman replacing Haber. Coventry also made a change with Gael Bigirimana replacing John Fleck.
More good attacking play from the Railwaymen saw Lowe cleverly chest off a long ball to captain Fox and his volley was just a yard off making it awkward for Charles-Cook.
With Coventry stepping off the gas in the comfort zone, the chances continued to come for Crewe though with Jones being fed into a one-on-one situation with Charles-Cook by more awareness from Lowe, but the midfielder was denied by the diving Coventry goalkeeper. Colclough also drilled a low shot into the gloves of the busy Coventry stopper after he had drifted in off his wing position.
Lowe must have thought he had scored when he placed a header into the far corner, but the agile Coventry goalkeeper got across to make a superb one handed save.
Cooper came on for King and Maddison made way for Jim O’Brien.
Inman struck just over the crossbar after another flowing move from the Railwaymen and Colclough had a late chance smuggled away from the goal line as he lost his footing.
Murphy completed the scoring with five minutes remaining. Nugent was caught in possession too far forward and the space was exploited well by the lethal visitors and Murphy drilled his accurate shot home from the edge of the box.
There was still time for captain Fox to thump the post after Colclough and Inman had combined down the left hand side. It just about summed up our disappointing afternoon.