Alex suffer 3-0 defeat
First-half goals from Charlie Wyke and Jonathan Franks set Hartlepool United on their way to a comfortable 3-0 victory over a below par Crewe Alexandra side at Hartlepool. Sub Andy Monkhouse added a third late on a night to forget for the Alex.
Crewe created very few chances on the night, and in truth were well-beaten by the impressive home side, who went some way to getting revenge for their 5-0 Capital One Cup defeat to the Alex on the opening day of the season.
Boss Steve Davis made two changes for the game with Ajay Leitch-Smith and Chuks Aneke replacing Harry Davis and Mathias Pogba. Matt Tootle was also back for Crewe, but the Widnes born defender had to make do with a place on the bench.
Crewe started a diamond in midfield, with Abdul Osman holding, Luke Murphy and Brad Inman wide, and Aneke in the hole behind Leitch-Smith and Byron Moore.
The Alex started the game very confidently with plenty of early possession and on six minutes Moore was denied a clear run on goal by an excellently timed Peter Hartley challenge.
As the game settled down, so did Hartlepool and after Kelvin Mellor failed to clear a free-kick, Steve Phillips had to make a super stop to deny Franks the opening goal of the game.
Crewe will still having plenty of the ball though, and after Moore won possession, Brad Inman teed up Aneke on the edge of the box. Unfortunately for the Arsenal loanee, he could only strike straight at the Hartlepool keeper.
It really was an open game, and after Steve Phillips rushed out of his goal and survived a hand-ball appeal the Alex broke and Moore curled an effort just wide of the Hartlepool goal.
As the game moved past twenty minutes, the Alex began to retain the ball better, although Jack Baldwin did whistle a long-range effort just wide of the Crewe goal.
That served as a warning for the Alex as the the opening goal of the game came just after the 25 minute mark. Franks whipped in a deep cross and after Gregor Robertson lost a header to Baldwin and Wyke dived in to nod the home side ahead.
Hartlepool were forced in to a change just after the goal with former Alex man Simon Walton been replaced by Monkhouse. The game was then stopped after Aneke and Baldwin clashed heads.
It took the Alex 10 minutes to respond from that goal, but good linkup play between Leitch-Smith and Moore saw the later get in behind the Hartlepool defence, unfortunately his cross was well blocked with Aneke ready to pounce for the leveller.
But Crewe's good work was undone after Murphy gave the ball away in the middle of midfield. Hartlepool broke with Franks running in behind Mellor to beat Phillips from the edge of the box. It was a well placed finish, but the Alex would have very disappointed with the way they lost the ball in the build-up.
It could of got worse moments later as James Poole missed a decent chance from the edge of the box. After Crewe's good start to the half, it was now firmly the home side on top as the first-half came to an end.
Poole immediately tested Phillips again at the start of the second-half as the home side started with a similarly impressive tempo. Minutes in to the second-half Inman was replaced by Mathias Pogba. The Newcastle loanee limped off, appearing to still be suffering the impact of a heavy first-half tackle.
Another clash of heads saw Mark Ellis suffer a nasty knock and the change of a shirt, moments later a third head-to-head collision saw Aneke require further treatment.
Wyke was proving to be a real handful for the Alex defence and only a diving Phillips save denied him his second goal of the game with a powerful header. Moments later, Phillips produced a fine stop to deny Evan Horwood.
The Alex desperately needed a way back in to the game, and Aneke nearly provided it as he glanced a header just wide from a Murphy corner. With the game now entering the final 20 minutes, Max Clayton replaced Aneke for the Alex, but it was still Hartlepool pressing and Mark Ellis had to make a great block to deny Wyke. Moments later Franks whistled an effort just wide for the home side.
With the clock at 79 minutes, Ryan Colclough replaced Leitch-Smith, while Poole was replaced by Nathan Luscombe for the home side.
The Alex looked to make a late charge, with Gregor Robertson having an effort deflected just wide but the Hartlepool defence stood firm.
Deep in to stoppage time Hartlepool added some gloss to the score line as sub Andy Monkhouse crashed in a late third after the Alex failed to clear their box.
It was a disappointing night all round for Crewe who will be hoping for better when they host Portsmouth on Saturday.