Stunning goals from the Alex see them storm back with sublime second half display.
There will probably never be a game of two halves quite like this one this afternoon! Crewe Alexandra came out in the second half to blitz a shell-shocked Salford City side who had deservedly gone in at the interval 1-0 up thanks to Adam Rooney’s tap-in.
Two goals from the influential Tom Lowery, a first of the season from Harry Pickering and a superbly directed header from Chris Porter saw Crewe run out deserved 4-1 winners on our second half performance alone. They were four goals of the highest quality from a rampant Crewe Alexandra side, who completely controlled and dominated the second period.
With Crewe playing at our tempo, Salford had no answer to our fantastic football this afternoon in that second 45 minutes. It ended 4-1 and it could have been more. It was a second half spectacle from David Artell’s side and it cements our second place in the League Two table behind Exeter.
After some impressive performances as an impact substitute and some starts in the Carabao Cup, winger Owen Dale, was handed his first league start of his career. Daniel Powell dropped to the substitutes’ bench after he started at Leyton Orient on Tuesday night.
Defender Nicky Hunt retained his place in the centre of defence ahead of Olly Lancashire.
Salford City set their stall out very early and they were well organised in setting traps for Crewe to surrender possession far too easily.
They would pounce on us early when the ball was played into midfield and we found it increasingly difficult to break them down. Salford’s captain Adam Rooney flicked an early header wide and then Eddie Nolan was a relieved man to see Nicky Hunt cover behind him after his miss hit back pass dropped invitingly for Scott Wiseman to cross into the Crewe box. Hunt was well placed to clear.
Crewe’s sloppiness continued in that first half and little things were not coming off. Our decision making was not like it has been in recent weeks and that gave Salford some real impetus.
Tom Lowery tried to get us going by getting on the ball in and around the Salford penalty area. He worked off Chris Porter on the edge of the box but couldn’t quite bring his curling shot round enough to trouble Kyle Letheren. Lowery, who was arguably our most forward thinking player, in that first 45 minutes then shot wide of the mark.
Salford were tactically drilled by Alexander and they continue to frustrate Crewe. The tempo was wasn’t quick enough and the passing not crisp enough to drag the Salford players out of position.
The visitors were always prepared to hit the longer ball as well, looking for the nuisance factor of Rooney and the height of Mani Dieseruvwe. They combined before the goal but the eventual cross was a little high for Rooney to reach and Dieseruvew wasted an unchallenged free header after centre-half Carl Piergianni had won the first header from a set-piece free-kick.
Eddie Nolan also had to race from his position to block a fierce drive from Mark Shelton as Salford continued to have their best spell of the half.
Salford continued to drop off and make it a wall of bodies to get through. When we did make some inroads mainly through the trickery of Lowery, he was fouled by Sam Hughes, who was booked.
Crewe huffed and puffed trying to make some genuine chances, and Kirk had a half chance at the far post but it wasn’t easy and he drilled his shot a yard wide.
In truth, Salford shaded that half in terms on being on the front foot and they took the lead on 39 minutes due to a mistake from Will Jaaskelainen. The young Alex goalkeeper had a routine collection to make from a low cross from Dieseruvwe - but it bounced up at a critical moment and after it slipped from his grasp, an alert poacher Rooney poked it home. It about summed up our first half display.
Whatever David Artell and his coaching staff said at half-time it certainly worked. Crewe came out a completely different side and were quick to get on the front foot. After Rooney had volleyed a half chance wide, Crewe began to impose themselves on the game.
The Railwaymen became more fluid in our passing and after a fantastic period of possession that saw a host of players involved, Ryan Wintle provided a really tempting cross and Chris Porter pulled off to direct his header past Letheren for his fourth goal of the season. It was just the response Crewe needed and it seems to inject a real dose of confidence into our play.
Moments later a lively Dale rocked the woodwork and he was then unlucky to see his header cleared from the line by Ibou Touray. The raised tempo was causing Salford all sorts of problems.
Then a deep cross from Pickering was headed just wide by Porter as we looked to take the lead for the first time.
On 57 minutes that goal we deserved finally came and what a goal!
James Jones who continued to drive Crewe forward, played the ball into Lowery and after he had accepted a touch off from target man Porter, Lowery produced a sublime flick with his heal to deceive the final defender and race through on goal.
Not only was the trick unbelievable that went over his own head, but he showed a real composure to sit the Salford goalkeeper down and then dink it over him. It was an outstanding finish and it will take some beating for our goal of the season! It was Tom’s third of the campaign and there would be more to come from the Man-of-the-Match.
Dale continued to torment Piergianni with his pace and direct approach and the outstanding football from Crewe really raised the atmosphere inside Gresty Road.
The roof nearly came off the place when on 62 minutes, the ball was moved around to eventually find Pickering on the edge of the Salford box and he didn’t hesitate to arrow an unstoppable shot into the opposite top corner. Letheren didn’t stand a chance as it flew across him. In fact, he never even moved.
It was a wonderful strike and his first goal of the season. Crewe had the cushion of two goal lead and everything we were trying to do in the first half was coming off now.
Jones forced a good save from the busier Salford goalkeeper with a low drive and Perry Ng sent a shot over the bar after more good play. Another wicked cross from Pickering only needed a touch from Dale at the far post.
Crewe were really enjoying their afternoon now and Dale left the field to a standing ovation to be replaced by Daniel Powell.
At the other end, a rare corner for the visitors hit Maynard and could have gone anywhere and their pacey substitute Devante Rodney whistled a cross over that Pickering did exceeding well to turn behind. They didn’t threaten nearly as much as the first half as Crewe continued to dominate the football.
The final goal of the game was well worked as well. Jones timed his pass to perfection to release Porter into the right hand channel and his cross was met by Kirk. His initial effort was saved but the grateful Lowery was there to tuck home the loose rebound for 4-1. It was sparkling stuff from Crewe and such a contrast from the first half when we had struggled to really trouble Salford.
Anene and Ainley were given a run out as subs and caught the eye as well. The excellent Lowery had a late chance to hit a hat-trick when he was presented with a chance from a free-kick in the 90th minute but on this occasion he fired a yard wide.