Cheltenham: Griffiths, Parslow, Pell, Waters, Wright (Morgan-Smith), Hall, Cranston, Rowe (Bartham), Dayton (Whitehead), O’Shaughnessy, Dickie
Crewe: Garratt, Turton, Bakayogo, Davis, Guthrie, Hollands (Ainley), Bingham, Kiwomya, Cooper (Jones), Lowe, Dagnall
Unused Subs: Ray, Nugent, Saunders, Kirk, Richards
Attendance: 2,623 (236 Crewe)
Crewe Alexandra suffered their first league defeat of the new season after goals from Rob Dickie and James Dayton inside the first 22 minutes set Cheltenham Town on their way to their first league win of the season.
Crewe will be disappointed in the manner of the two goals conceded.
Crewe made a slow start at Whaddon Road this afternoon to see us trailing by two goals inside the opening 22 minutes purely down to defensive lapses. Cheltenham Town certainly didn’t have to work too hard for their two goals with Crewe undone at a near post corner routine, that allowed Rob Dickie to steal enough space to guide his shot home and then following a loose pass from Danny Hollands, James Dayton pounced on the unfortunate error and made no mistake when racing through on Ben Garratt’s goal.
Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis made one change to the side that started at Blackburn on Tuesday evening. Captain Ryan Lowe returned to the starting line-up ahead of Welsh youngster Callum Saunders. New midfield signing Danny Hollands retained his place ahead of James Jones following his promising full debut at Ewood Park.
The former Crewe Alexandra Academy graduate Billy Waters started for Gary Johnson’s side and our former young striker Amari Morgan-Smith was named amongst the substitutes.
Both sides soon got into their passing stride early on with good spells of possession but neither goalkeeper was tested. A pre-match downpour had made for perfect conditions for zipping the ball around on a greasy surface.
Crewe had an early scare when captain Lowe stretched to pressurise the Cheltenham defence and in doing so, appeared to twist his knee slightly. After undergoing brief treatment from the Alex physio, the veteran striker returned to the action.
After a fairly tentative opening, the former Alex man Billy Waters cut in from his wide position to hit a curling shot that flew just past Garratt’s far post after 13 minutes.
Cheltenham continued to have the ball more in our half than us theirs and after forcing a corner after 15 minutes, they took an early lead. James Dayton went over to the left hand side to take it and instead of hitting it long, he cleverly hit the space at the near post and Rob Dickie got ahead of the Alex defence to steer it home. It was a clever set-piece move from Cheltenham that caught Crewe out and left us trailing after the first real threat at either goal.
Following the early goal from the home side, Crewe were struggling to get up the pitch and conjure up any real opportunities of merit with Dagnall and Lowe operating on scraps more than anything.
Cheltenham doubled their advantage on 22 minutes and it was an unfortunate error from Hollands as his square pass was cut out by Dayton and he raced beyond the Crewe back line to finish emphatically past a helpless Garratt. Cheltenham had a 2-0 advantage from two attacks and Crewe had given themselves an early mountain to climb at Whaddon Road.
From a decent free-kick position, Cooper whipped one into the six yard box but the Cheltenham goalkeeper Russell Griffiths reacted well to grasp it ahead of the boot of Dagnall.
Moments later a deep cross from Lowe was just too long for Kiwomya coming in at the far post.
With Crewe struggling to get a foothold in the game, especially in the final third of the pitch, Steve Davis boldly made a tactical change after just 36 minutes. Cooper was sacrificed to give Crewe three in midfield with Jones coming on. Dagnall moved wider right with Lowe operating through the middle.
Just before the half time interval, a progressive run from right-back Turton saw him deliver a wicked cross that just needed a positive touch from Lowe at the near post but the Cheltenham goalkeeper Griffiths read his intentions and scooped up the low cross inside his six yard box.
Crewe certainly re-appeared for the second half with some improved vigour. Jon Guthrie was booked within 30 seconds of the restart and Hollands joined him in the referee’s notebook barely a minute later!
Turton had an early chance to pick out Jones with a cross but his low delivery was deflected behind for a corner. Bingham also got the ball out of his feet but couldn’t get his shot on target from the edge of the Cheltenham penalty area.
The Railwaymen began to enjoy more sustained pressure and were retaining the ball better in the opposition half of the field, but we were just lacking that killer final pass to really get in behind the Cheltenham backline.
Cheltenham made their first change of the afternoon on the hour mark with Danny Whitehead replacing goal scorer Dayton. Jack Bartham also replaced James Rowe for the Robins.
Some concerted pressure from the Alex saw Dickie do superbly at the far post to deny Guthrie a clean header at the far post and then Davis was denied from close range after Dagnall had delivered from the left hand side. It was more encouraging from the Alex who desperately needed the next goal.
With Crewe chasing that next goal, Davis made his second change of the game with Callum Ainley replacing the tiring Hollands. Danny Wright also made way for our former Academy player Amari Morgan-Smith.
Morgan-Smith’s first involvement saw him denied on the edge of the box, by a superbly timed tackle from Davis. Moments later and chasing a goal against his former club, Waters hits one wide of the far post.
Waters then embarked on a mazy run that saw him evade a couple of Crewe challenges before his powerful drive from the edge of the box was bravely blocked by Zoumana Bakayogo.
As we entered the final ten minutes, Ainley had a great chance to create a grandstand finish but his poked effort from close range took the slightest of deflections to take it wide of the target.
Crewe huffed and puffed, aiming to find that goal which would have increased the anxiety inside Whaddon Road but Griffiths was never really troubled in the Cheltenham goal. Alex Kiwoyma did have a late run but his eventually shot was deflected and looped out for a corner.