Under pressure at the bottom of Sky Bet League One, Crewe Alexandra produced one of their most outstanding performances of the season to record a superb 3-1 win at Coventry’s Ricoh Arena.
The Alex players performed the game plan to the last detail to be 2-0 ahead at the interval thanks to goals Lauri Dalla Valle and Ryan Colclough.
The Canadian International Marcus Haber headed home a third from Ollie Turton’s cross to seal the points with 73 minutes.
Coventry pulled a goal back with five minutes remaining through their target man Nick Proschwitz. He rose highest to head home and add some anxiety to the remaining few minutes.
Midfielder Jamie Ness was not deemed fit enough to return to the Crewe Alexandra squad for the trip to the Ricoh Arena. Ness has been struggling with a calf strain. There was a recall for forward Ryan Colclough ahead of Nicky Ajose in a three-man attack and defender Jon Guthrie made a return as Steve Davis reverted back to the three centre-halves.
Brad Inman started on the substitute’ bench and there was a recall to the squad for James Baillie.
Both clubs impeccably observed a one-minute silence to mark the 30th anniversary of the Bradford fire tragedy when 56 football supporters lost their lives at Valley Parade.
An early burst up field from Ollie Turton nearly resulted in a corner for the Alex but his blocked cross didn’t quite spin out of play.
The Sky Blues defender and former Crewe loanee Chris Stokes also had Paul Rachubka back pedalling to save from underneath his own cross bar after he miscued a cross goallwards. The Alex goalkeeper retracted to palm the ball from crossing over the line. After ten minutes, the Coventry captain Jim O’Brien dragged a shot wide of the target.
A minute later, O’Brien forced Rachubka into his first smart save of the afternoon after he latched onto a knock down from Nick Proschwitz. The Alex goalkeeper was quickly off his line to block his shot and deflect it behind for a corner.
Under pressure from Harry Davis, the lanky Proschwitz couldn’t guide his attempt on the run on target and his effort bend away for a goal kick.
Crewe settled down and on the 20 minute mark conjured up their first half chance. A deep cross from Greg Leigh found Marcus Haber at the far post and his intelligent header so nearly broke kindly for the opposite full back Turton but he was just eased out of it by Stokes.
Almost immediately, Leigh did superbly well in a defensive capacity. The full-back did magnificently to hook a header from Proschwitz off the line as he defeated Rachubka to a high ball.
Crewe’s next attack resulted in the opening goal of the game on 23 minutes. Haber played the ball out wide left to Colclough and his forceful and purposeful run saw him reach the by-line and cut the ball back for Lauri Dalle Valle to poke home from close range. The Finn seemed to react quickest after Lee Burge in the Coventry City goal couldn’t quite grasp Colclough’s cross.
A confident Lauri Valle Dalle then attempted a really ambitious volley over his own shoulder after Jones had clipped a cross over to him.
On 35 minutes, Colclough banged home a second goal for the Alex. A deep free-kick from Jones wasn’t grasped by Burge and the ball was returned back across the box by defender George Ray and Colcough confidently lashed past everyone and into an unguarded net.
Two minutes left, a deflected cross from Turton then clipped the woodwork with Burge struggling and Haber couldn’t quite direct it goalwards at the far post and it was hooked clear.
On 42 minutes, a break from the home side saw the ball break through to Frank Nouble and after riding a challenge from the retreating Grant, he unleashed a powerful drive from 25 yards that flashed a yard or so wide.
As the half drew to a close, O’Brien couldn’t keep his shot down at the far post and it sailed over Rachubka’s cross bar.
Tony Mowbray made two changes during the interval. James Maddison and Aaron Martin came on for Matthew Pennington and Adam Barton. Rachubka came for an early cross and collected it confidently. O’Brien then unleashed an effort from distance that drifted away from danger.
Crewe were dealt a blow on 50 minutes when Captain Harry Davis was unable to continue and had to be replaced by Ant Stewart.
As would expect from a team chasing the game, Coventry had a lot of possession but Crewe were containing them and forcing them to play in front of them. Nouble did get in behind but from an acute angle he drove his shot into the side netting. O’Brien was always willing to shoot from distance and he flashed another effort over the bar just before the hour mark.
Coventry’s third change of the afternoon saw Phillips make way for Sanmi Odelusi. With Haber clutching his face after a stray hand from Reda Johnson had caught him in the face, play was allowed to continue and Maddison curled a shot a yard wide of Crewe’s left hand post.
On 70 minutes, Rachubka made a fine save low down after the ball broke invitingly to substitute Sanmi Odelusi. He hit it accurately enough but the Crewe goalkeeper got down to turn it behind for a corner.
Three minutes later, Crewe scored a superbly crafted third goal. Colclough initially did superbly down the wing to beat Grant Ward and cross to the far post. The ball was cleared but Grant collected it and threaded a sublime pass through to Ollie Turton. He clipped a cross to the far post and Haber was hungry to get his head on it the most to make it 3-0.
Moments later, Colclough tricked his way past Grant again and whistled a shot onto the top of the netting.
With 12 minutes remaining, Crewe introduced midfielder Nolan for the excellent Colclough.
Coventry City pulled a goal back with five minutes left on the clock with target man Proschwitz heading home a right wing cross to give the home side a glimmer of hope.
Haber brought down a pass from Grant on his chest and his pull back was cut out before it reached the supportive James Jones.
Crewe had to see out six minutes stoppage time at the Ricoh Arena but the shape restricted the Sky Blues to long range efforts only from Maddison and Odelusi.
In fact, Crewe had the best effort to score again with Dalle Valle’s deflected effort just about spinning over the crossbar deep into stoppage time.