Crewe actually played some decent football in the first half, creating half chances for mainly Brad Inman and George Ray at set-plays, but lapses at the back allowed firstly the Italian Gianvito to head them into a 23rd minute lead and then the excellent Chris Dagnall to add an acrobatic second 15 minutes later.
Orient took that advantage and positively into the second half and on the verge of the hour mark, Dagnall got clean through on goal and although his initial effort was saved superbly by Ben Garratt, Dean Cox gleefully helped himself to the rebound.
A fantastic strike from Anthony Grant with his right foot on 68 minutes did give Crewe a glimmer of hope in the capital, but although we enjoyed our fair share of possession in the closing third of the game, we couldn’t find that second goal to make it really interesting.
As Crewe threatened to maybe find that lifeline back into the game in the closing stages, Orient hit us on the break with Dagnall unselfishly rolling the ball across the six yard box for substitute David Mooney to stroke home a fourth goal.
Steve Davis selected George Ray as one of his three centre-halves for the trip to Brisbane Road. The on-loan Manchester City full-back Greg Leigh also returned as left-wing back with Jon Guthrie having to settle for a place on the substitutes’ bench. Midfielder Chris Atkinson was also left out after appearing in the FA Cup replay at Sheffield United.
Billy Waters came into the Crewe side in a front three after Febian Brandy picked up a slight injury in training yesterday. Callum Saunders retained his place and Marcus Haber travelled down to London this morning to make himself available from the bench. Haber has been on International duty with Canada and wasn’t expected to be available after two weeks away in Panama City.
Crewe made a bright start in the capital with Greg Leigh winning a free kick in a good position in the opening 60 seconds. Jamie Ness’ delivery was awkwardly turned behind for a corner by Orient’s captain Nathan Clarke. From the resultant set-play, again taken by Ness, Ray climbed highest to head just over Adam Legzdins’ crossbar.
After six minutes, Inman’s prodded pass nearly released Waters through on goal, but the experienced Andrea Dossena had come across from his left back position to intercept.
At the other end of the pitch the diminutive Dean Cox found the penalty box poacher Chris Dagnell but he dragged his cross shot harmlessly wide. That half chance did produce an upsurge in Leyton Orient’s performance though and Crewe for a brief period, began to surrender possession a little too easily. Dossena drew warm applause with a really ambitious acrobatic effort from more than 30 yards out, but it was straight at Ben Garratt.
The composure in our play did return pretty sharply though and following some good possession play involving Waters, Grant and Leigh, the supportive Bran Inman curled a shot just over the crossbar from his position just inside the Leyton Orient penalty area. Another superb searching pass from Grant then found Inman but he couldn’t quite get the ball under his spell on the edge of the box.
On 20 minutes, another flowing passing move from the Railwaymen saw Turton and Waters involved down the right flank and after Waters had slipped Inman in behind them, he was forced wide by the diving ex-Crewe goalkeeper Legzdins, but still managed to provide a low cross that was cut out before it reached Saunders for a tap-in.
After such a promising beginning from the Alex, it was somewhat against the run of play that the home side took the lead on 23 minutes. Dagnall turned provider with a splendid cross that allowed the Italian Gianvito Plasmati to attack it unopposed and direct his header past a helpless Garratt.
Almost immediately after going behind, Inman dragged a shot wide before Josh Wright was cautioned for a tug on Grant. Full-back Elliott Omozusi joined Wright in the book with a lunging tackle into Waters after the ball had been played out to Inman.
On 35 minutes, the just-booked Omozusi delivered an accurate cross right across the box and Dagnall acrobatically caught it on the volley to make it 2-0. Garratt got a decent hand on the powerful scissor-kick effort but couldn’t keep it out. It was a fantastic finish and after playing reasonably well for the opening half-an-hour, the Railwaymen found themselves chasing two goals.
Dean Cox became the third Orient player to be booked for a foul on Inman before a floating pass from Ness was just too long for the advanced Grant to reach at the far post. A deep cross from Ray was just too long for Saunders as well as Crewe looked to pull a goal back before the interval.
The home side conjured up the first half chance of the second half with Dagnall a willing runner into the left channel. He held up play waiting for support from Wright and then Omozusi before Cox got a tame, first time shot off that Garratt gathered comfortably. Then from a corner, Scott Cuthbert saw his far post header hit one of his own players and Crewe were able to clear their lines.
The lively and impressive Dagnall then whistled a powerful effort just wide after he had picked up another smart position inside the Crewe box, this time on the right. The Orient captain Nathan Clarke then saw his firm header cleared from the line by Ness.
Crewe needed a foothold in the game and the next goal was going to be crucial, but with the Railwaymen doing more defending than attacking the confident Londoners appeared the more likely side to score.
Ten minutes into the second half, Inman volleyed over the top of the crossbar after Saunders had bravely gone in between the two Orient centre-halves.
Mauro Milanese made the first change of the game with David Mooney replacing goal scorer Plasmati.
On the hour mark, the real danger man Dagnall got in behind again and although Garratt did well to save his initial effort, Dean Cox was the first to react to help himself to the rebound. In truth that third and decisive goal had been coming following the O’s really positive start to the second half.
After substitute Mooney drew a save from Garratt, an unstoppable shot from Grant on 68 minutes reduced the deficit. Grant’s first effort with his left foot was blocked from on the edge of the Orient penalty area, but the midfielder quickly adjusted his feet to drive it beyond Legzdins with his right for his first goal of the season.
Almost instantly, Steve Davis made a trio of substitutions with Waters, Saunders and Dugdale making way for Cooper, Haber and Jones. Crewe reverted back to a straight back four again as they tried to find a possible second goal to make it a nervy ending for the O’s.
As the game headed towards the final ten minutes, an accurate cross from Inman found Haber but under pressure from Clarke, he could only head over the bar. It wasn’t an easy chance.
Cooper was booked for catching Romain Vincelot before Ness was denied superbly by the former Crewe goalkeeper from close range. Inman found Haber again with an excellent cross and his nod down fell for Ness, who got a good contact on it but Legzdins got enough on it to turn it behind.
With five minutes remaining and Crewe looking to try and get that second goal and a possible late lifeline, we were left really exposed on the counter-attack. Cox found Dagnall again and as he raced towards the Crewe goal, he unselfishly rolled the ball across for Mooney to help himself to a goal.
Mooney needed grabbed a second goal for himself in stoppage time but he was denied by Garratt at his near post and from the resultant corner Davis did well to block an effort from Cuthbert.