Two second half goals in four minutes from goal poacher Lauri Dalle Valle saw Crewe Alexandra build on a superb 3-3 draw at Bramall Lane on Tuesday night. The on-loan Fulham striker flicked home a Luke Murphy free-kick to break the deadlock on 62 minutes and three minutes later added a second with a simple tap-in after Byron Moore had miss-hit his own shot kindly into his path.
It was no more than Crewe Alexandra deserved for an outstanding second half performance. In the first half, Crawley Town arguably looked the more likely side to score with some dangerous crosses entering the Crewe box. The Railwaymen came out second half, upped the tempo and generally bossed the proceedings. Alan Martin was hardly tested in the second 45 minutes and Crewe had chances to add to Dalle Valle’s brace with Man-of-the-Match Luke Murphy hitting the crossbar and Mathias Pogba clipping a good chance into the side netting.
With Kelvin Mellor and AJ Leitch-Smith not fit enough to return from their respective injuries just yet, Steve Davis stuck with the same starting XI that drew at Sheffield United on Tuesday evening. New loan signing Brad Inman was named on the substitutes’ bench after completing his move just before the deadline on Thursday.
Crewe Alexandra’s slow starts to matches so nearly continued with Crawley’s number nine Gary Alexander hit the outside of post barely a minute into the match.
Following such an early scare, the opening of the game became a touch hectic with some good football being played from both sides. Richie Barker’s side certainly play a lot more football now and soon became a threat with Nicky Adams influential on the right side and he and Billy Clarke were linking up fairly well to cause the Crewe back line some problems.
After 8 minutes, a mass scramble inside the Crawley box nearly resulted in Crewe taking the lead. It was pin-ball in there for a while with Chuks Aneke causing the initial danger. Pogba and Moore went close and captain Murphy in the follow-up. The visitors survived and Crewe needed Pogba and Abdul Osman doing their defensive duty at the far post to cut out deep crosses aimed for Alexander.
A burst of pace from Matt Tootle saw him collect another forward thinking pass from Aneke but the left-back dragged his shot past the post. Aneke then had a shot from distance deflected over for a corner. From the resultant delivery from Moore, the ball broke out to Dalle Valle on the edge of the box but he could only volley a couple of yards wide.
Crawley continued to be a threat with the pact and directness of Adams. Alan Martin was required to palm one really looking cross away from the six-yard box before Adams drew a save from the Crewe goalkeeper after a good break from Hope Akpan. Mark Ellis also did well to deny Alexander a clean shot on goal as Crawley began to impose some pressure.
It was a fairly even and exciting first half but genuine chances were few and far between. Crawley lost their centre half Kyle McFadzean before the interval because of injury with Joe Walsh replacing him.
The first half ended with Clarke shooting straight at Martin and likewise from their midfielder Michael Jones. It was Crawley probably just shading the first half, but Crewe gave out and bossed the second. The tempo was raised and the superb Murphy was unlucky not to give the Alex the lead early on after his effort struck the Crawley crossbar. In the build-up to that effort, Paul Jones pulled off a fine save to deny Mark Ellis the opener.
Crewe were on top and asking more questions of a Crawley defence missing McFadzean. Aneke nearly played in Dalla Valle with a clever reverse pass before Pogba didn’t get behind the follow up.
After more good work from the hard working Murphy, Pogba knocked a ball down into the direction of Aneke, but the ball wouldn’t quite sit right for him and he couldn’t control his half volley.
The deadlock was finally broken just after the hour mark and Murphy won the free-kick that would lead to Dalle Valle’s opening goal. Murphy swung a cross in and Dalla Valle’s clever movement saw him create a yard of space and flick his header above and beyond Paul Jones for his third goal of the season. His fourth goal for the club arrived barely three minutes later. Aneke fed Moore inside the box with another splendid pass and his mis-hit shot, because it was surely a shot, fell invitingly into the path of Dalla Valle and he guided home his shot past a helpless Jones.
Crewe were comfortable and in control and in truth had chances to add to their tally. Dalla Valle, now on a hat-trick curled a shot wide of the top corner, after being found again by Aneke and he didn’t quite generate enough power from Tootle’s cross to test Jones with a header.
In an attempt to get back into the game, Crawley introduced the former Manchester United youngster Nicky Ajose for Nathan Byrne. Adams who had moved inside and Clarke moving out wide ran onto a shot that was well saved by Martin. Ellis also cut out a dangerous looking cross from Akpan that was destined to Ajose.
Crewe continued to press forward and Murphy was unlucky to see a 25-yarder just clear the pass and Aneke having another goal bound effort deflected behind for a corner. From another Tootle corner, Pogba headed just over.
Michael Jones made way for Conor Clifford and a frustrated Clarke was booked for a foul on Murphy.
With Crewe looking the most likely side to score again, Pogba had the best chance after being played in by Moore but he could only clip his lifted shot into the side netting.
Martin and his back four deserved their clean sheet with the Crewe goalkeeper only asked to make saves from distance in the second half, from Adams, again, and Clarke.