Crewe: Garratt, Whelan, O'Connor, Ng, Ray, Wintle, Jones (Ainley, 72), Lowery (Finney, 87), Nicholls (Porter, 80), Bowery, Kirk
Unused Subs: Richards, Raynes, Hunt, Miller
Goals: Bowery (14)
Attendance: 6,117 (369 Crewe)
Notts County recorded their first win of the season as Crewe Alexandra’s winless run of the road continued at Meadow Lane.
Jordan Bowery had levelled things up for Crewe in the 14th minute with our first league goal away from home but we were left with nothing to show for our brighter efforts when Elliott Hewitt headed home Cederic Evina’s cross for a winner just after the hour mark had passed.
Crewe played a lot more football and were arguably the better side in the first half after recovering well from Rob Milsom’s early opener after five minutes but we couldn't weather the storm from County as they lifted themselves in the second period.
Crewe Alexandra manager David Artell made three changes to the side that lost to Manchester City’s Under-21s in mid-week.
Midfielder James Jones, who came on in the Checkatrade Trophy tie, and Alex Nicholls who came off the bench to score in our 4-1 defeat, started at Meadow Lane. The other change saw Charlie Kirk return to the starting line-up after he was rested for our mid-week cup tie.
The ones going out of the starting line-up were Callum Ainley, Shaun Miller and mid-week debutant Ollie Finney.
The personnel changes meant an alteration in formation with Crewe switching to 4-3-3 with Kirk and Nicholls flanking central striker, the Nottingham-born, Jordan Bowery.
The former Crewe Alexandra captain and player-of-the-year, Matt Tootle, started for Harry Kewell’s side at right-back.
The EFL League Two fixture commenced in bright sunshine in Nottinghamshire and it was the home side winning the first corner of the game after just 60 seconds - but luckily for Crewe, the delivery hit referee Andy Woolmer on the edge of the box and we were able to clear any potential danger.
Crewe’s first attack nearly saw Alex Nicholls take a George Ray pass under his control inside the box but he couldn’t quite get hold of it and Notts Country broke with real purpose. Enzio Boldewijn broke with real pace and purpose and he played in Kane Hemmings down the left hand side and although he was held up initially by the covering Perry Ng, he still managed to provide a low cross for Jon Stead.
The experienced striker held off Ray and applied a deft touch to allow the supporting Rob Milsom to smash it into the centre of the Crewe goal. The Railwaymen from looking like a threat at one end, within seconds, were behind after just five minutes of play.
Crewe tried to respond quickly and after an initial free-kick from Jones was headed away by Tootle, his follow up pass in the second phase was first class to find the run of Kirk, but the winger couldn’t quite get it under control and it ran through to goalkeeper Ross Fitzsimons. If Kirk had been able to control it, he would have been through on goal just outside the six-yard box.
After a disappointing start to the proceedings, Crewe settled down and played some neat possession football. We patiently build up with some fluent passing and it was Notts County who were hitting a much longer pass and aimlessly returning the ball to us.
That sustained period of play from the Alex paid off in the 14th minute. The ball was swept out by Nicholls to the overlapping Corey Whelan and his cross looked at first to have been touched by a stray hand of a County defender, but Bowery didn’t mess around to find out and he spun superbly to find the bottom corner for his third goal of the season. It was a deserved equaliser and our first league goal away from home this season.
Stead caused a nuisance of himself to find the supportive Boldewijn, who in turn found Elliott Hewitt on the edge of the box but he lifted his curling shot well clear of Garratt’s far post. Moments later, Hemmings bravely headed over the top after he flung himself at a cross.
Following a stoppage for the injured O’Connor, there was a questionable decision when Milsom’s high footed challenge on Nicholls floored him. The Alex players were incensed by the studs up tackle but the referee, rather leniently only cautioned the Notts County goalscorer.
After a period of stop/start refereeing, Crewe conjured up half chance on 38 minutes. Some neat play found Kirk on the left and he teed up James Jones for a shot from the edge of the box, but you had to credit Tootle and Ward for throwing themselves in front of the shot. In the second phase, O’Connor slipped in Bowery but his chipped cross was gathered by Fitzsimons.
Crewe were passing the ball around with a lot more confidence and in first half stoppage time a late break saw Kirk get in behind Tootle and find Lowery. His cross to the far post found Jones in a bit of a space but off balance he couldn’t quite control his shot enough to get it on target. It was much more like it from Crewe and we deservedly went in level at the interval and were perhaps a bit disappointed not to be leading.
At the beginning of the second half, Wintle was rather harshly adjudged to have fouled Hemmings after chasing him down - but from the resultant free-kick, Crewe stood firm with Ray winning his header inside a crowded box.
Ray and Wintle were also involved in applying an important block inside the box as Lewis Alessandra twisted and turned to get a shot off. The Alex pair threw themselves in front of Alessandra and he could only eventually squirm a tame effort that spun wide.
The Alex also swarmed around Enzio Boldewijn as he threatened to get a shot off and the home side felt they should have had a penalty when Whelan and Stead wrestled each other inside the box. It would have been soft but Notts County’s assistant manager Warren Feeney was actually booked for his protests.
Crewe continued to play some attractive stuff but after getting ourselves in some really promising positions, we couldn’t quite find the perfect final pass or cross.
Just after the hour mark, Notts County regained the lead. The home side had applied from pressure from the restart and they were rewarded when Cedric Evina’s deep cross to the far post was powerfully headed home by Elliott Hewitt.
The second goal lifted the home side to another level and Ng had to be well placed to flick away another dangerous cross from Evina. Stead then curled one a yard wide after managing to get the ball out of his feet. Crewe were having to weather a storm to remain in the game.
In the 69th minute of the game there was warm applause from both sets of supporters to commemorate the ten-year anniversary of the passing of Notts County legend Jimmy Sirrel.
Following the one-minute applause, David Artell made his first change with James Jones making way for Callum Ainley.
With the Crewe centre-halves encouraged to bring the ball out from the back, it created some extra space going forward and following a probing burst Ng, the winger Kirk was a touch unfortunate to see his low shot strike the heal of Bowery and spin away for a goal kick.
Crewe were holding on from set-plays with Alessandra having another shot blocked after we presented them with a one versus two situation. Hewitt was then denied at the far post as Garratt pushed his header away.
With 10 minutes left, the hard working Nicholls was replaced by Porter. Soon after Bowery so nearly reached a dangerous ball from Kirk and Crewe sensed that we could still take something from the game.
Ainley found Kirk in space down the left but his curling effort cleared the far post.
Kewell made his first change to introduce the fresh legs of Nathan Thomas for Boldewijn.
Crewe needed the ball up the pitch, but it was Notts County looking the more likely side to score again as the minutes ticked by. Garratt was forced into a smart save to deny Hemmings a goal as his clever little flick was applied to catch him out.
Wintle unleashed a good effort from 25 yards that was pushed away for a corner by the diving Fitzsimons. Artell replaced Lowery for Finney and moments later, fellow sub Ainley went on a terrific run but he couldn’t direct his final shot on target.
The Alex were giving it a real good go to try and find an equaliser.
In the final minute, Alessandra made way for Shaun Brisley, as Notts County aimed to protect their slender lead and eat up the remaining few minutes.
The home side, seeking that first win of the season, pressed Crewe into the corner and that late, genuine chance never materialised.