Bad night for the Alex as slow start is punished
Crewe Alexandra produced one of their worst 45 minutes of recent times to find us 3-0 down at the interval and chasing a miracle against one of the League One’s top six sides. Aiming to hold onto a play-off place, Swindon Town were relentless in their attacking play in the opening half an hour and found themselves firmly in control thanks to a brace from Adam Rooney and another from his striking partner Massimo Luongo.
Crewe started slowly and couldn’t shake that sluggish start off enough to make this game a real contest. There were glimpses of a lifeline in the first half with Byron Moore clipping the crossbar and Kelvin Mellor having another effort cleared from the line, but the first half damage made it an enormous mountain to climb.
Harry Davis did provide a hint of hope just after the hour mark when he converted a penalty with real conviction, but that was short lived, as Swindon’s substitute James Collins robbed Michael West of possession to race clear and make it 4-1.
The on loan Kevin Stewart returned to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up but was used in a more advanced role in midfield. There was also a recall for Oliver Turton in central midfield alongside Michael West. Brad Inman was rested but was included on the substitutes’ bench, along with Saturday’s impressive debutant George Ray.
The experienced Nathan Ellington was on a attack minded bench, alongside youngster Ryan Colclough and following his two goals for the club’s development squad yesterday, so was AJ Leitch-Smith.
With a play-off place up for grabs, Kevin MacDonald’s Swindon were out of blocks quickly at the County Ground and in the first minute, Matt Tootle had to be on hand to clear some potential danger after Harry Davis and his goalkeeper Alan Martin had had a lack of communication. Martin then dived onto a dangerous looking cross from Gary Roberts.
After Chuks Aneke had tried his luck from distance, Swindon took the lead after just four minutes. Crewe didn’t defend an Alan McCormack free-kick at all well and after defender Darren Ward had headed back across goal, there was Adam Rooney to stab home from virtually on the goal line. It was the worst possible start from the Railwaymen as they tried to bounce back from successive home defeats.
Almost immediately though, Aneke fed Max Clayton with a splendidly weighted pass but his cross shot was blocked for a corner. Finding some space again, Aneke shot over from 30 yards out. At the other end, Andy Williams did likewise from the same sort of range.
Some more encouraging play from the Alex then saw Byron Moore so nearly through on goal but he was only halted by a superb last ditch challenge from Nathan Byrne. Moment later, a deep cross from Mellor was headed wide by Stewart coming in from the opposite flank.
Mellor was also extremely unfortunate to see his acrobatic effort cleared from the line by Williams. It was a double blow because a mere 60 seconds later, the home side doubled their advantage through a wonderful header from Massimo Luongo. He flew at a Roberts cross to direct it past Martin and Crewe were facing a long night in Wiltshire after just 17 minutes.
It could have become even worse for the Alex but Davis just about put Rooney off at the far post, as Crewe struggled to get a foothold in midfield.
After a burst from Simon Ferry had been thawed by an onrushing Alan Martin, a simple corner routine undid the Alex again after just 25 minutes. Roberts swung in a left-footed delivery and a little bit of movement from Rooney gave him enough space to direct another header past Martin.
Swindon were looking a constant threat every time they broke forward and we were not doing ourselves any favours by surrendering possession too cheaply. It was inviting too much pressure and Crewe needed the half time whistle to regroup.
On 42 minutes, Byron Moore was unlucky not to see his great strike give the Railwaymen a lifeline back into the game. He caught a loose ball superbly and fired it against the Swindon woodwork with Wes Foderingham arguably beaten. Moments later, Mark Ellis went close again with an acrobatic effort that dipped just over. It was a stronger finish to the half but the damage had already been done in that opening half an hour.
Steve Davis made his first change at the break with Ray replacing Ellis at centre-half. Our former loanee Gary Roberts thought he had made it 4-0 in the opening two minutes of the second half but he had been adjudged to have controlled the ball with his hand before dispatching it past Martin.
Kelvin Mellor was the first player to enter the referee’s book after he had been over zealous in a tackle. Swindon continued to be on full throttle going forward and were aiming to add to their total. Roberts went awfully close again, flinging himself at another dangerous looking ball into our box. His touch took it inches wide of Martin’s left hand post.
On top and in command, Swindon made their first change with James Collins replacing Ferry on 54 minutes. Ray was called upon to make a goal preventing challenge on Collins, as he looked to take full advantage of some more loose clearing from the Alex back line. Martin also had to produce a smart save to deny the Swindon sub a goal after he had twisted and turned just outside of the six yard box.
On 63 minutes, Crewe produced their best passing move to unlock the Swindon defence. Aneke threaded the pacey Max Clayton through the middle and he was clipped by Wes Foderingham as he went round him. With no covering defender, it should really have been a red card, but referee Andy Davies only produced a yellow. It didn’t go down well on the Crewe bench. The captain on the night, Harry Davis stepped up to thump his perfect penalty home for remarkably his first goal of the season.
The second change from Steve Davis, saw Brad Inman replace Stewart. Barely a minute later, any sign of a potential revival was well and truly over. West lost possession far too cheaply as he tried to take on Collins. He was disposed and Collins raced clear to make it 4-1.
Crewe kept going though and Moore could and should have made it 4-2 after he had been found superbly by Tootle, but Foderingham raced from his goal to save his lifted shot with his frame. The final substitution from Crewe saw Ellington replace West. Moore went into central midfield and looked comfortable.
Collins headed straight at Martin from another quality delivery from Roberts, before Mark Francis replaced the hard working Williams. Adam Rooney, who's fine brace had Crewe chasing the game also made way for his namesake Luke.
Wit the minutes ticking away, Swindon still went in search of goals and Crewe were wanting that final whistle. it was a more competitive effort from the Alex in the second half but that poor start had made it virtually impossible to get a positive result from this trip to Wiltshire.
The night nearly ended on another low when Chuks Aneke was booked for kicking out at McCormack. Thankfully, the referee only produced a yellow. It summed up the frustration on a disappointing night.