A deserved 2-0 win over Rochdale gave Crewe Alexandra their sixth win of the season to move us up one place in the League One table to 22nd place.
First half goals from Marcus Haber and Brad Inman gave Crewe their first win over Rochdale since 1993 and it extended our unbeaten run to four matches as we continue our battle against relegation.
The excellent Haber gave Crewe the lead just after the half an hour mark when nodding home a George Cooper corner before Man-of-the-Match Inman scored a dream second goal as we entered first half stoppage time. Inman picked up the ball on the half-way line before accelerating away through the heart of the Rochdale defence before calmly slotting past Josh Lillis for his eighth goal of the season and his fifth goal in his last five games.
Crewe did a very good containment job on Keith Hill’s side in the second half with their genuine chances limited throughout, although the lively Ian Henderson did have a good chance to give them a lifeline but he curled his effort wide of the far post.
Steve Davis made one change to the Crewe Alexandra side that earned a hard fought draw at Millwall last weekend.
New loan signing Ryan Seager was handed his first start after signing from Southampton, with the striker replacing Zoumana Bakayogo in a very attack minded line-up. With Callum Saunders ruled out with an ankle injury, there was a first inclusion in the senior squad for youngster Charlie Kirk.
With the consistent downpour occurring over South Cheshire, referee Joyce had concerns over the playing surface before kick-off - but the pitch was deemed playable and Crewe made a bright start to the proceedings. Ollie Turton sent over an early cross and young Seager, who celebrated his 20th birthday yesterday was soon involved with his willing work rate.
Captain David Fox was cautioned for an aggressive pull back on the Rochdale captain Jamie Allen and the Crewe centre midfielder had to be cautious after been booked just after the 5th minute mark.
An early half chance fell to Brad Inman after he cut back onto his right foot but his shot was blocked by defender Oliver Lancashire.
More early pressure from Steve Davis' side then saw Jon Guthrie win possession back close to the halfway line and feed Inman. He quickly found George Cooper with a quick pass and he cut back across the box before his decent shot was deflected behind for a corner. It was encouraging stuff from the Alex.
Rochdale’s genuine chances were rather restricted in the first period but the lively Allen did fire a shot into the mid-drift of Ben Garratt and he also had their best chance with a free header but he couldn’t direct it on target. It was arguably their best opportunity of the entire 90 minutes.
Crewe continued to turn the Rochdale backline with Seager a willing runner in behind and Haber superb throughout. James Jones hit a really testing pass that caused panic in the Rochdale defence and Seager tried to make the most of it, a collision with goalkeeper and defender saw the goal left vacant but the covering Lancashire did well to knock it behind for a corner.
From the resultant corner, young Cooper whipped over a really tempting delivery and after it bounced invitingly Haber was well placed to nod home from close range. The decisive goal arrived just after the half an hour mark and was thoroughly deserved.
A confident Haber then flicked the ball looking for Seager but Lillis read the situation superbly to rush from his line and clear. Crewe looked the most threatening of the two sides but Rochdale did conjure up a couple of half chances before the break with Garratt assured to save from the impressive Callum Camps and Allen, who shot through a crowd of legs.
With the half entering stoppage time, Inman lit up the Alexandra Stadium with a stunning individual goal. Inman used his body intelligently to steal possession back on the half way line and he only had one thing on his mind, and that was to run straight at the Rochdale backline. There was no stopping him as he glided past a couple of defenders to go one-on-one with Lillis and he kept his composure to slot home his 8th goal of the campaign. It was just the tonic to go in at the interval.
Rochdale boss Keith Hill made a change at the break, replacing the pretty ineffective Peter Vincent with Calvin Andrew.
The visitors had an early chance to give themselves a lifeline back into the game but Camps shot just wide of the post in the opening minute and it was a left off for the Railwaymen. Joe Rafferty was booked for pulling back danger man Inman before Allen tried his luck with a snap shot on the run. David Syers also shot straight at Garratt from a promising position.
Our former Academy graduate Matty Lund was also booked for fouling Inman close to the touchline.
Crewe also provided a threat from set plays and were getting a lot of joy at corners. One taken by Jones found Haber at the far post and he was unfortunate to see his header pushed behind by Lillis.
Rochdale’s best chance fell to the experienced Henderson after he and Nugent had slid inside the six yard box. Nugent blocked the first effort but the Rochdale forward reacted quickest but curled his shot wide of the far post.
Hill introduced young Joe Bunney for Tom Kennedy before Bakayogo replaced Cooper to introduce some fresh legs. Inman switched to the right hand side. Syers shot wastefully over the bar before he was almost immediately replaced by Nathaniel Mendez-Laing.
Crewe were defending superbly well with the back four keeping to their shape and Fox and Jones protecting them. Andrew had a chance at the far with a header but Guthrie applied enough pressure to put him off and he couldn’t direct his header goalwards.
As you would expect, Rochdale enjoyed the better of the possession and to tighten things up more Perry NG replaced the excellent Inman. The hard working Seager was also given a slight rest after running himself into the ground and Joe Howell came on to add another body in the centre of the pitch.
Crewe were basically saying try and play through us in the closing stages but we cut out the crosses and defended our clean-sheet with a real determination to record that first win since the end of November.