First half goals from Porter and Kirk seal a deserved three points.
Crewe: Garratt, Ng, Nolan, Raynes, Bakayogo, Lowery, Grant, Ainley (Pickering, 73), Kirk (Cooper, 79), Porter (Bowery, 65), Dagnall
Unused Subs: Richards, Stubbs, Reilly, Walker
Goals: Porter (7), Kirk (26)
Attendance: 5,904 (338)
Crewe Alexandra bounced back from Saturday’s disappointing 3-0 home defeat to Swindon Town by collecting all three points against fellow strugglers Chesterfield this Boxing Day. It was the perfect response from the Railwaymen and a really professional display from David Artell’s team to put us six points clear of the bottom places.
Two first half goals from leading scorer Chris Porter and a first in senior football from Charlie Kirk had put Crewe firmly in control at the Proact Stadium. Both goals stemmed via deflections but that didn’t matter one jot to David Artell and his players.
It was a really professional performance from the Alex in the second half and substitute Jordan Bowery had a great chance to seal the points after racing clear but he elected to go for power rather than accuracy and shot wide.
He showed more composure though to draw a fine save from Jake Eastwood late on after he had used Zoumana Bakayogo as a clever decoy. Chris Dagnall, who worked tirelessly for the cause also saw a late shot deflected just over the bar.
David Artell reshuffled his pack for the Boxing Day trip to Chesterfield. Following the impact they made as second half substitutes against Swindon Town on Saturday, Charlie Kirk and Conor Grant earned recalls to the starting line-up. Winger Kirk was handed his first League start of the season.
There was also a recall for striker Chris Porter. He partnered Chris Dagnall up front with Jordan Bowery dropping out against his former club. Harry Pickering and George Cooper also missed out.
In the opening minute of play, Kirk confidently took the ball from Zoumana Bakayogo and so nearly hit the perfect cross field pass into Dagnall. His pass just ran through to the Chesterfield goalkeeper Jake Eastwood just inside the box.
After a bright start from the Railwaymen, some excellent passing down the Chesterfield right hand side saw Porter expose the space in behind the home defence. The striker was shaping to cross to Dagnall inside the box and his low cross seemed to take a deflection off Jermone Binnom-Williams to wrong foot Eastwood at his near post to put the Alex ahead. Following his recall to starting XI, Porter instantly repaid that faith with his 10th goal of the season in all competitions.
Chesterfield tried to apply some concerted pressure on the Crewe box but Nolan headed a dangerous looking cross behind for a corner and from the resultant set-play, Jak McCourt shot wide from 25 yards. Garratt had it covered.
A powerful run from Conor Grant down the Crewe right hand side saw him fight tenaciously for possession and keep the move alive. The ball was finally worked into Kirk but Porter had just strayed offside as he tried to race onto his accurate through ball. Moments later a wicked cross from Ainley only needed a decisive touch by Dagnall. It was a really positive start from the Railwaymen.
After Chris O’Grady had pinched possession from Tom Lowery, the Crewe midfielder was delighted to see Conor Grant cover to rob it back off Kristian Dennis on the edge of the box. Grant rolled the ball back to Garratt to safely clear the danger.
More pressure from Chesterfield saw Garratt and Nolan deny Dennis before we broke up the other end again to score a second on 27 minutes. This time it was Kirk slipping n behind and he kept his composure to slot home his first senior goal via another deflection. A retreating Chesterfield defender tried to vein to hook the ball from the line and Kirk and Crewe had their goal. It had been a fantastic start for the Alex and Kirk had deserved his goal following the bright start he had made to the game.
Dennis was proving a handful though and only a fantastically timed block from the covering Zoumana Bakayogo denied him the chance to get Chesterfield back into the game. Dennis was about to pull the trigger as he raced towards Garratt’s goal. It was no wonder he got a pad on the head from his goalkeeper.
A change for Chesterfield occurred on 35 minutes with the injured Robbie Weir being replaced by Conor Dimaio. Dennis then side footed harmlessly into Garratt’s grasp. Chris O’Grady was a lot closer with a powerful shot a couple of minutes later.
Chesterfield ended the half actually enjoying more of the possession but Crewe’s pressing and retrieving of the ball, also saw us have good spells as well. With three minutes of the half remaining, more positive play from Kirk saw him drift into the Chesterfield final third and find Dagnall on the edge of the box. The Crewe number 9 shaped himself to curl it into the far corner and only the fingertips of the diving Eastwood prevented us from scoring a third before the half time break.
As expected Chesterfield tried to lift their performance at the start of the second half, but Raynes and Nolan were standing firm as the crosses began to be loaded into our box. There was a strong appeal from the home side for a penalty, but it would have been immensely harsh on Lowery, who had rushed out to block a shot from McCourt.
Garratt also made a wonderful save to deny Louis Reed’s as he flew into the ball at the far post but it wouldn’t have counted anyway as the assistant referee had raised his flag for offside. The Alex goalkeeper wouldn’t have known though.
A Grant free-kick hit the Chesterfield wall before Crewe’s first change of the afternoon saw Bowery replace Porter.
Crewe began to get good periods of possession again and our patience allowed us to take some of the sting out of the home side’s momentum. The game management was good and Chesterfield were becoming wasteful with their final balls.
The one ball they did produce saw Rowley whip one over but Dennis couldn’t keep his header down and it cleared Garratt’s crossbar by some distance.
On 73 minutes, Artell made his second change of the afternoon by introducing the fresh legs of Pickering for Ainley.
Crewe’s game management was spot on as we continued to frustrate the Chesterfield plan and their supporter base. Crewe were confident in possession and were collectively defending out penalty area really well.
The former Chesterfield man, Bowery, had a great chance to seal the points when he raced clean through on 78 minutes, but the striker went for power rather than accuracy and his shot failed to hit the target.
Moments later, the excellent Kirk was replaced by Cooper. He left the field to warm applause following his positive impact on the game. Chesterfield also made a change with O’Grady replaced by Diego De Girolamo.
Bowery showed better composure to waltz past a couple of challenges inside the box and his low shot forced Eastwood into a smart save. It was a fine effort from Bowery.
Captain Chris Dagnall also went close to adding a third with a late effort after a cross from Grant and a quick interchange of passing. Dagnall saw his shot deflected over the bar for a corner.
As the game entered stoppage time, Garratt produced an excellent save to push away an effort from Dimaio.
The battling Cooper was booked late on for kicking the ball away but Crewe deserved the points and the clean-sheet.