Crewe Alexandra’s disappointing start to the new season continued with a heavy home defeat inflicted by Keith Hill’s Rochdale side. The newly-promoted Dale scored five at Gresty Road with Matt Done helping himself to an early season hat-trick. Peter Vincenti and captain Ian Henderson via a touch from George Ray scored the others as our North West neighbours got their first three points of the season.
They thoroughly deserved their victory but Crewe gift wrapped a large proportion of the goals. Cutting out conceding ridiculously simple goals has to be the priority after this performance.
The only positive from such a disappointing night at the Alexandra Stadium was the two goals from full debutant Marcus Haber, who showed excellent strength for his first goal after 9 minutes and then demonstrated his aerial ability with a firm header in the second half after Matt Tootle clipped over a cross to him.
Crewe Alexandra manager Steve Davis made three changes to the side that narrowly lost 2-1 at home to Barnsley on Saturday. Ben Garratt returned in goal ahead of Scott Shearer as Davis continued to rotate his goalkeepers. There was also a recall for wide man Lee Molyneux for his first start for the Railwaymen since October 2013 against Stevenage. The other change saw summer signing Marcus Haber make his first start for the club in place of Vadaine Oliver.
Keith Hill’s Rochdale side started positively possession wise at the Alexandra Stadium, but it was Crewe who opened the scoring after just nine minutes. A slick passing move involving captain Matt Tootle and Anthony Grant allowed the midfielder to slide in Haber into the Rochdale penalty area and the powerful forward held off his man before slotting his shot past Conrad Logan. The Rochdale goalkeeper only joined the club on loan yesterday following an injury to their first choice stopper Josh Lillis at the weekend.
Two minutes later, a flowing Alex were unlucky not to double their advantage. More confident passing involving Grant and new loan signing Jamie Ness found the ball at Molyneux’s feet and his round the corner pass released the lively Waters on goal. His low shot was blocked by the legs of Logan. It was an encouraging start from the Railwaymen but a Rochdale side under the guidance of Hill were always going to continue passing the ball.
An early break from Henderson saw his low cross blocked by Adam Dugdale and then the impressive Rhys Bennett headed just over from a Tom Kennedy corner. After a succession of corners, Vincenti headed into the side netting after the advanced Ashley Eastham won the first header inside a crowded penalty area.
Crewe never really build on the lead and Rochdale grew in confidence with their football. They continued to probe looking for the runs of Henderson and the ability of Done and Vincenti and got their just rewards on 31 minutes. Crewe had actually been on the attack, but Ness hit an over ambitious pass into the corner, aiming for the overlapping run of Greg Leigh. Rochdale stole possession and the energetic Jamie Allen raced down the left hand side before crossing into the box, with both Henderson and Ray stretching for it at the near post. Whoever got the final touch was unclear but it zipped past Garratt for the equaliser.
Three minutes later, Henderson had a golden chance to make it 2-1 after being played in behind by the influential Bennett but he couldn’t control his shot and it went wastefully wide.
On 39 minutes, Tootle did exceedingly well to come off the touchline to feed Grant and he instantly found Turton in an advanced position and his snap shot missed the near post by just a yard. It was better from Crewe because Rochdale had been dominating areas of the pitch since equalising.
Therefore, it was no great surprise that the visitors went in at the interval ahead. Again, the Alex will be so disappointed with the goal. Kennedy’s initial cross missed everyone inside a crowded penalty area before it reached Henderson at the far post. The Rochdale captain quickly turned it around to drill it back across the six-yard and Done was on the front foot to tap home.
After slipping behind, to their credit Crewe actually ended the half strongly and could have gone in level but for a quite brilliant save from Logan to deny George Ray from a corner. The centre-half must have thought he had scored when he applied his head to Molyneux’s corner, but Logan somehow got across to get a strong hand on it to claw it out.
Crewe made a nervous start to the second half and Rochdale looked the more likely side to score again. Ray did well to dive in front of a curling shot from Henderson within the first couple of minutes before Kennedy shot straight at Garratt from outside the box.
On 55 minutes though a short back header from Ray was latched on by the alert Done and he raced clear to fire emphatically past Garratt. It was so simple and Rochdale gleefully accepted the gifts.
Ray tried to make up for his mistake by winning a header from a Tootle free-kick but the ball wouldn’t drop kindly to Waters.
A spirited Crewe effort though saw us back to 2-3 thanks to a well worked goal on 62 minutes. Tootle broke forward and clipped an inch perfect cross for Haber to powerfully had past Logan for his second goal of the night.
Just when it looked it as though the Railwaymen were back in the contest, Vincenti played a neat one-two on the edge of the Crewe box before dispatching his shot past a helpless Garratt on 67 minutes.
On 72 minutes it really was all over. On this occasion, the Crewe backline tried to pass the ball out, Rohdale pinched possession 30 yards from our goal and almost in a flash Done raced clear to smash home his hat-trick on the night. Again, Garratt was left awfully exposed.
The fifth goal prompted some changes with Chris Atkinson handed his debut for Grant and Vadaine Oliver replacing Molyneux.
To his credit, Oliver so nearly got his first goal of the season when he rose to meet Tootle’s corner but his header was saved by the legs of Logan.
Late on, Crewe had a couple of late free-kicks in half decent positions but Atkinson and Tootle both hit their efforts into the wall.
In the last minute, Done was substituted for Stephen Dawson to receive the acclaim of the travelling Rochdale support and he will be taking the match ball home.