Crewe slip to the bottom of the table after Swindon inflict fourth league defeat of the season
Crewe Alexandra slumped to their fourth league defeat of the season after goals from Yaser Kasim via a splendidly hit free-kick in the first half and a confident finish from Andy Williams with 14 minutes left on the clock sealed the points for the home side.
Crewe also had their man-of-the-match Ben Garratt to thank for keeping the home side at bay in the first half after they stepped up a gear after the 20 minute mark. He made three outstanding saves to keep us in the game going in at the interval.
Crewe didn’t trouble the Swindon goalkeeper Wes Foderingham enough over the course of the 90 minutes with substitute Chris Atkinson registering a late effort that curled just wide. Atkinson had replaced Jamie Ness in the first half after he was injured in the build-up to the opening goal from Kasim.
The Wiltshire-born Jon Guthrie returned to the Crewe Alexandra starting line-up at left back with the on-loan Greg Leigh dropping to the bench. With Steve Davis keeping faith with the majority of his team that was the only change from the Alex side that were beaten 5-2 by Rochdale on Tuesday night.
Prior to kick-off there was warm one minute of applause for the former Swindon player George Hudson, who sadly passed away at the age of 90 recently.
Mark Cooper’s Swindon side started the game in confident mood, keeping possession and having touches on the ball, but it was Crewe who ignited the game early on with Marcus Haber playing Lee Molyneux in down the left hand side. After playing it past full-back Nathan Byrne he was tripped to win a free-kick some 30 yards from goal. Molyneux took it but clipped the top of the Swindon wall.
Crewe continued to work hard to contain Swindon, mostly in the centre of the pitch with our 4-3-3 system quickly becoming 4-5-1 to prevent them playing between our lines. It made for a tight opening with no clear cut chances.
Byrne began to push forward down the Crewe left hand side and Matt Tootle had to be alert at the far post to flick one of his deep crosses away from the head of the incoming Brad Smith. After George Ray was a little unfortunate to concede a soft free-kick, Yaser Kasim curled one over Ben Garratt’s crossbar.
Just after the 20 minute mark, Jamie Ness was surrounded in the middle of the park and he surrendered possession too cheaply. Swindon broke on the Crewe four through Ben Gladwin and he slipped in Kasim behind the back line, but his low drive was blocked by a firm hand from Garratt and Ray took no chances to complete the clearance. It was a major let off.
Kasim turned provider on 26 minutes as Swindon began to apply sustained pressure on the Crewe penalty area. His cleverly released the run of Louis Thompson to allow him to go one-on-one with Garratt, but the Crewe Alexandra goalkeeper stood tall to make a telling block with his body. Moments later, Williams poked a shot a yard wide whilst under severe pressure from Tootle.
Garratt completed a hat-trick of important saves to deny Brad Smith at close range after the ball had dropped to the attacking full-back at the far post. The Crewe Alexandra goalkeeper was keeping us level with his agility but we were leading a charmed life.
On 33 minutes, Waters was harshly penalised when conceding a dangerous looking free-kick 25 yards from goal. It didn’t really look a foul but Kasim stepped up to place it superbly into Garratt’s top corner. It was a splendidly struck deadball from Swindon’s specialist and in truth the goal was coming, albeit Crewe will be annoyed after referee Lee Collins awarded it.
Ness’ afternoon ended soon after the opening goal. He had been receiving treatment off the pitch for an injury when Kasim had struck the opening goal and he had to be replaced by Chris Atkinson, who made his second appearance for the club following his summer switch from Huddersfield.
A well worked short corner from the home side then allowed Andy Williams to drill over another low cross that Garratt did well to get a hand to and the retreated Marcus Haber was on hand to clear our lines. Swindon came again though and the dangerous Brad Smith fired into the side netting from an acute angle.
As an attacking force, Crewe didn’t test the Swindon goalkeeper Wes Foderingham at all in the first period and our ball retention had to improve in the second half if we were going to conjure up some genuine chances.
A tough first half ended with Ben Gladwin curling another effort into the gloves of Garratt from just inside the Crewe penalty area.
In the opening minutes of the second half, the Swindon striker Michael Smith connected with another cross from Byrne but his side foot was straight at Garratt.
A promising break from Turton just saw him over-hit a through ball as he looked for the run of Waters and the pace of it took it through to Foderingham.
On 54 minutes, Swindon went as close as you can to doubling their advantage. Smith latched onto an over hit pass to reach the Crewe by-line and his excellent cross invited Michael Smith to out jump Dugdale and head goalwards. The ball hit the underside of the crossbar with Garratt beaten, but thankfully for the Alex it bounced down close to the line and Dugdale reacted to clear the impending danger.
Byrne, arguably the most effective player on the pitch, continued to produce dangerous looking crosses from his right back position, but Garratt continued to read the situation and smother the ball at his near post.
Crewe’s progress up the pitch was sometimes wasted by poor crosses going into the Swindon penalty area. There were far too many planted too close to Foderingham. One delivery from Molyneux did panic the Swindon goalkeeper though but the ball just didn’t drop in the favour of Haber or Waters.
Kasim tried his luck from even further out with a free-kick but from close to 35 yards it would have taken something really special to trouble Garratt and the Crewe goalkeeper was equal to it to push it over.
On 76 minutes, Swindon doubled their lead after Molyneux lost possession to leave the Crewe back line awfully exposed. The Alex winger lost the ball too easily and Williams calmly raced into the penalty area before slotting it past Garratt.
Atkinson, who did his chances no harm with a neat and tidy performance in midfield, tried his luck with an ambitious effort from 81 minutes that just curled away at the death. It was really Crewe’s first attempt at the Swindon goal.
A late double change from Steve Davis saw Haber and Molyneux make way for Vadaine Oliver and Brad Inman, but there was no real improvement from Crewe as an attacking force. Oliver did show some real commitment for the cause though when he went in for a bruising collision with the onrushing Foderingham.