Three superb strikes from table toppers Brentford inflicted a seventh home defeat of the season on Crewe. The on-loan wide man Alan Judge scored two goals from around 20 yards in each half, only to be overshadowed by an even better strike from the excellent Adam Forshaw that arrowed in Ben Garratt’s top corner from almost 30 yards out.
Crewe did get a little lifeline back into the game through a Chuks Aneke penalty after our former forward Clayton Donaldson was adjudged to have handled inside the box. Aneke sent our former loanee goalkeeper David Button the wrong way for his 11th goal of the season.
Crewe did have one or two half chances that could have possibly resulted in an anxious finish but both Harry Davis and young substitute Billy Waters were denied from close range.
The on-loan Uche Ikpeazu was ruled out with an ankle injury, so Crewe adopted a different formation to try and contain the league leaders Brentford. Captain Abdul Osman returned to the starting line-up to add an extra body in midfield along with Anthony Grant and George Evans. Crewe lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Mathias Pogba and Bradden Inman flanking Chuks Aneke as the central forward. It matched up Brentford in terms of shape.
Despite a period of heavy rain overnight, the Crewe Alexandra pitch was playable after a dry spell in the morning.
Mark Warburton’s side came into the game on the back of a ten game unbeaten run and it certainly showed in the opening exchanges. Brentford kept the ball with great fluency and confidence and the full-backs pushed forward at any given opportunity.
After their early dominance of possession it was no great surprise that the visitors took the lead through Alan Judge on 11 minutes. The on-loan Blackburn wide man unleashed an unstoppable shot from the edge of the Crewe penalty and Garratt was given no chance as the shot whistled into his top corner. It was Judge’s second goal since signing from Ewood Park.
Crewe continued to struggle to get good possession but a flowing move involving Pogba, Tootle and Aneke had to be cut out by an alert Harlee Dean as Crewe looked to make inroads in the Brentford final third.
George Saville shot wide after the ball dropped invitingly to him on the edge of the box and Marcello Trotta whistled another one just wide after an encouraging run.
Aneke may have been pushed inside the box by Dean but in truth the Crewe players didn’t appeal too much and there was then a short stoppage due to an injury to Saville.
Crewe were hitting forward passes into space rather than at feet and that meant Aneke struggled to make a real impact in the game. Crewe’s first effort on goal came just after the half an hour mark when good work from Brad Inman found Pogba but he had to shoot through two bodies to reach the gloves of Button.
There was a second penalty appeal when an advanced Anthony Grant appeared to be caught by the sliding Dean but again there wasn’t too many appeals from the Crewe contingent.
Brentford finished the half strongly with Judge having a shot deflected behind for a corner by Ellis and Donaldon wasting a really good chance after Ellis and Guthrie had collided into each other inside the box. Donaldson, rather uncharacteristically for him in those sorts of positions, shot over the crossbar in stoppage time.
There was still time for Garratt to save superbly at the feet of Judge after a Trotta shot deflected kindly into his path. Garratt was onto the wide man quickly to smother the chance at his feet. The half ended with Alan McCormack being booked for a foul on Inman.
With the score still 1-0 Crewe remained in the contest.
Osman joined McCormack in the book for a hefty challenge on Saville before Aneke shot at Button after he had been found by George Evans.
Just when Crewe were finding their feet in the second half, Judge unleashed another shot from distance that whistled past Garratt. This time it was more central and the Crewe goalkeeper may have got something on it, but the windy conditions didn’t do him any favours.
Crewe tried to hit back immediately when Inman picked out Mathias Pogba at the far post and his clever header back found Evans, but his side-footed shot was straight at Button. Inman then tried to bundle his way through but was crowded out.
Brentford extended their advantage with arguably the best goal of the game just after the hour mark. Trotta played a simple pass into Forshaw and there didn’t appear to be no danger but then the midfielder unleashed an arrowed shot into the top corner to give Garratt no chance. At 3-0 it was over as a contest, but Crewe kept looking for a passage back into the game.
Tootle had a shot deflected wide before Harry Davis had our best chance of the game when a Pogba cross fell at his feet. It certainly took the defender by surprise that it reached him and before he had been able to adjust his feet, Button was out to smother the chance.
Moments later, Crewe were given a lifeline when the ball struck Donaldson on his arm. It certainly looked a penalty and the referee didn’t hesitate to point to the spot after twice waving away previous appeals. Aneke stepped up to tuck home his 11th goal of the campaign.
If we were to salvage a point, Crewe needed another quickly but Evans shot straight at the Brentford goalkeeper and Pogba cleared a lob over the crossbar after being fed by Aneke.
Bryon Moore replaced Osman thus allowing Pogba to push further forward. Trotta also made way for Will Grigg. The Brentford substitute had an early shot blocked by Ellis as the Bees looked to finally kill the game off.
Garratt did splendidly again to deny Donaldson after he got up quickly to save again after he had originally saved from Forshaw, who had drilled a sot through a mass crowd. The Brentford captain Tony Craig also headed wide from close range.
With time running out, there was a home debut for Billy Waters and he quickly got involved in the action. He nearly got a touch after a scramble in front of Button.
Brentford kept the ball in the closing stages and Saville went close to making 4-1 and Grant got a late chance off the line before Garratt had to save once again from our former player Donaldson, who wasn't destined to score on his return to Gresty Road.