Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Davis, Guthrie, Bakayogo, Jones, Bingham, Kirk (Kiwomya), Cooper (Ainley), Dagnall, Lowe (Ray)
Following his return to the club on a permanent basis, veteran striker Ryan Lowe was named captain on the opening day of the season and marked his return with the opening goal of our season to set us on the way to victory at Stevenage.
Lowe may have been celebrating his 203rd goal but second half sub Alex Kiwomya celebrated his first in the professional game with a genuine contender for goal of the season already.
After creating Lowe’s opening goal on 64 minutes with a beautiful pass, the on-loan Chelsea youngster raced into the Stevenage half of the pitch, headed into the penalty, waltzed past two challenges and curled his finish past Jamie Jones to seal the three points.
Steve Davis’ double substitution on the hour mark, changed the complexion of the contest with the pace and skill of Kiwomya providing a different dimension to the Crewe attack. The only downside was conceding with the final kick of the game with Charlie Lee drilling home in injury time.
Crewe thoroughly deserved the three points and the home side had their goalkeeper to thank for keeping out further good efforts from Dagnall, Bingham and Guthrie. Crewe recorded their first away win on the opening day of the season, since winning 2-1 at York City back in 1994. It was also Crewe's first ever win over Stevenage.
Boss Steve Davis kept faith with the same starting XI that lost our final warm-up game of the pre-season away at Lincoln City last weekend. Fellow striker Chris Dagnall, who joined the club in the summer after a brief spell at Hibs in the SPL made his official debut for the club.
A slight injury to Ben Nugent ruled the centre-half out of the 18-man squad.
The early passages of play were rather scrappy with the assistant’s flag going up on a number of occasions for offside and the flow was often halted due to niggling fouls and pushes.
It took only seven minutes though for Lowe to break the Stevenage offside trap and after tricking his way past Dean Wells, his clipped cross towards the back post was a touch too high for the onrushing George Cooper.
Crewe had to survive an early long throw into the box from Charlie Lee and a surging run from winger Jobi McAnuff but Jon Guthrie was well placed to deal with both threats. His defensive partner Harry Davis was booked on 11 minutes for a foul on Matt Godden and had to tread carefully. Soon after Davis seemed to have his shirt pulled at a corner and certainly had a case, but referee Kevin Johnson waved away his strong appeal.
After Lee shot straight at Garratt, Davis produced a superbly timed challenge to deny Jake Hyde a clean run at goal. Davis had to get his challenge spot on after his stray pass had initially surrendered possession to McAnuff. Moments later Tom Conlon joined Davis in the book after a clash with Zoumana Bakayogo, for which he needed some treatment before resuming.
Cooper had a couple of efforts to draw a save from Jamie Jones but the winger didn’t get hold of either shot as much as he would have wanted. McAnuff connected with a better effort just inside the Crewe penalty area, but Turton threw himself at it to apply a block.
After latching onto a lofted pass from Jones, Dagnall wriggled his way past Luke Wilkinson in a wide area but he was quickly bundled over by the Stevenage defender, who was instantly cautioned. Dagnall would have been in behind.
On 38 minutes, a good move from the Alex saw Turton find the run of Lowe down the Crewe right and his instant cross found Cooper in space but in fairness from a fair way out, the youngster couldn’t control his header to get it on target.
As the first half entered injury time, the Alex conjured up a half chance with Cooper and Dagnall involved on the edge of the Stevenage box. Dagnall’s cross was just beyond Kirk but the supportive Bakayogo raced onto the loose ball but could only side foot it wide of the left hand post.
Crewe started the second period on the front foot and after more good work from Lowe to protect possession from Fraser Franks, his cross just evaded Dagnall and then Kirk. Another flowing move then saw Bingham and Kirk create enough space for Cooper to get a shot off from 20 yards but his low drive took a deflection and spun just wide.
Stevenage looked a threat on the counter attack and Guthrie had to retreat to get a positive touch on a shot from Godden and then Garratt produced his first meaningful save of the afternoon to prevent a forceful header from Hyde giving the home side the lead.
On 55 minutes, a break from Dagnall saw his initial shot blocked and young Kirk whistled in a dangerous shot in the follow up that took a slight deflection to take it behind for a Crewe corner. There was a much better tempo to the second half with Crewe linking up better in the final third.
The first change of the afternoon saw Hyde make way for Rowan Liburd. On the hour mark, Steve Davis made a double substitution with Ainley and Kiwomya replacing Kirk and Cooper.
Three minutes later and Crewe took the lead after some great play from Kiwomya. The on-loan Chelsea youngster picked the ball up in his own half before unleashing an inch perfect through to Lowe, who had raced between the two Stevenage centre-halves.
The Stevenage goalkeeper Jamie Jones made the wrong decision, racing from his line to try and cut the pass out and the clever Lowe simply poked it past him and into an empty net. It was no more than the Railwaymen had deserved because although genuine chances had been few and far between, Crewe had upped a gear in the second period.
Stevenage quickly made another change with Ben Kennedy replacing Conlon. On 70 minutes, Lowe pulled off superbly at the far post to meet a fantastic pass from Bingham but on this occasion he couldn’t control his volley to test Jones.
Barely 60 seconds later, following a period of good possession from Crewe, Bingham’s 25-yard drive was too hot for Jones to grasp and Dagnall nearly tucked home the rebound but the Stevenage goalkeeper recovered to dive on the ball.
On 74 minutes, Kiwomya and Lowe combined again with the striker feeding the winger inside the Stevenage box and his shot had to tipped over by Jones. The home goalkeeper was called into action again a minute later to tip a wonderful effort from Guthrie around the post. The centre-half had driven a shot from 20 yards that was certainly goal bound.
The former Stoke City midfielder Michael Tonge produced a fine dipping volley from the edge of the box that just cleared the Crewe crossbar.
With ten minutes left on the clock, Kiwomya produced an outstanding piece of skill to seal the three points for the Alex. The pacey winger again picked up the ball in his own half before carrying the ball into the Stevenage box and he showed exceptional feet to go through two challenges and then have the composure to curl his shot past Jones. It was absolutely brilliant, a stunning solo goal to mark an impressive debut.
Dagnall wanted to get on in the act and he had a shot deflected behind for a corner before his strike partner Lowe made way for George Ray.
Crewe looked to be controlling the tempo and the flow of the game to see the game out but disappointingly surrendered that clean sheet with Charlie Lee drilling a shot home in the final minute.