A goal in each half from Louis Dodds and a late third from JJ Hooper sealed Port Vale the three points this afternoon to condemn Crewe to relegation to League Two.
Dodds netted his first goal after just two minutes and ten seconds after Crewe had failed to clear an early corner and the Vale number 10 lashed home a decisive second goal with eight minutes remaining after Ben Garratt had initially done well to race from his goal to deny substitute JJ Hooper.
Hooper rubbed salt into a gaping wound with an injury time third after he curled a shot past Garratt.
Crewe’s best spell on the day came after the introduction of substitutes Callum Ainley and Billy Bingham at the half time interval but although we had decent periods of good possession, we didn’t trouble Ben Alnwick not nearly enough.
Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis made three changes to the side that lost 3-0 to Peterborough United last weekend. Centre half George Ray returned to the starting line-up with Jon Guthrie moving back across to left-back. Zoumana Bakayogo was pushed further forward into midfield alongside the returning James Jones and vice-captain David Fox. Youngster Charlie Kirk started ahead of his fellow scholar Callum Ainley.
The club’s relatively new signing from Ilkeston, Daniel Udoh, made his first start for the club alongside Marcus Haber up front as Tom Hitchcock and Lauri Dalla Valle dropped to the substitutes’ bench.
Port Vale’s Rob Page named three former Crewe Alexandra players in his starting line-up, with Anthony Grant, Michael O’Connor and AJ Leitch-Smith lining up for the Valiants. Byron Moore was named on the bench.
Ray was booked within the first minute of play after diving into a tackle on Louis Dodds on the edge of the Crewe box. The Crewe defender appeared to play the ball but referee Paul Tierney didn’t seem to like the intensity of the challenge and awarded a free-kick in a dangerous area. Crewe survived the initial free-kick with Guthrie heading out for a corner.
Crewe failed to clear the danger and after the ball bobbled around our box, the lively Dodds pounced to thump home via the far post. Barely two minutes had elapsed.
The Railwaymen tried to respond immediately after Haber won a corner, but from James Jones’ delivery from the right hand side, Fox couldn’t keep his half volley down enough to trouble Jak Alnwick in the Port Vale goal.
After a fairly hectic start to the derby, things did settle down with both teams trying to play some football in the right areas. Crewe were looking to exploit the runs of Udoh and the Vale likewise through our former striker Leitch-Smith.
Crewe began to take more of a control of the game and a neat touch and turn from Udoh on the edge of the penalty area nearly saw him get into a position to get a shot off but he was eventually halted in his tracks by a timely challenge from Richard Duffy.
Moments later, an alert Alnwick had to punch clear a dangerous looking free-kick from Jones that was delivered into a crowded box.
A lull in the game wasn’t helped by a succession of cheap free-kicks and the encounter really needed a spark to re-ignite it. Jones’ free-kick deliveries though were on point for much of the game and Dickinson had to be well placed to beat Haber to one.
At the other end of the pitch, Davis planted himself to block a shot from Dodds after Dickinson had beaten Kirk to the ball after Turton had applied a clearance.
Towards the end of the first period, a promising counter-attack led by Bakayogo appeared promising but unfortunately the left footer couldn’t quite control his cross well enough to find the on rushing Haber and Udoh and it eventually curled away from danger.
Alex boss Steve Davis made a double change at the interval with Ainley and Bingham replacing Guthrie and Udoh. Bakayogo went back to left back with Kirk and Ainley now supporting Haber up front.
Ainley was soon into action with a smart break down the Port Vale left hand side and his pull-back may have taken a deflection off a Vale boot, but it fell invitingly to the supportive Jones but he couldn’t keep his shot down.
Fox and then Bingham then had potential shots taken off their toes by last ditch challenges from the Valiants.
The introduction of the subs certainly injected some much needed tempo into our play and the Alex domination of the possession increased the anxiety levels on the Port Vale terraces. It was much better form the Railwaymen.
Page soon made a change of his own with our former winger Moore replacing Sam Kelly on 53 minutes. Moore’s first touch on the turn at the far post was just wide of Garratt’s left hand post.
Moore’s introduction lifted the Vale performance and Davis did superbly well to prevent Dodds from notching his second goal of the afternoon after he was slipped in by Grant. The former Crewe midfielder also shot tamely at Garratt from 20 yards out.
AJ Leitch-Smith was replaced on 64 minutes by JJ Hooper. With 18 minutes left on the clock, Streete was booked for a lunging tackle on Jones on the edge of the penalty area. Jones struck his free-kick straight into the Vale wall.
A real good passing move from the Valiants that saw both O’Connor and Grant involved eventually saw full-back Ben Purkiss fire over the cross-bar after Ray had intercepted a cross from Moore.
Crewe’s final change of the afternoon saw Cooper replace Jones. Almost instantly, Garratt had to put alert to tip over a miss hit cross from Dickinson.
With time running out, Michael Brown replaced O’Connor, who had only recently returned from injury. The substitution seemed to affect our concentration and after an initial free-kick was cleared, sub Hooper was slipped in behind the Alex back line. Garratt rushed from his line to deny Hooper a goal but the rebound broke kindly to Dodds inside the box and he lashed his shot into the roof of the Crewe net.
With Crewe’s League One status slipping away, Kirk poked a late effort straight at the gloves of Alnwick but our genuine efforts on goal were not enough.
JJ Hooper completed the scoring in injury time with a finely executed curler that gave Garratt no chance.