Strikers on target for the Alex as they win three on the bounce
A really solid defensive performance from Crewe Alexandra provided the platform this afternoon for a well-deserved 2-0 win over Fleetwood Town at the Alexandra Stadium. The front two of Nicky Ajose and Marcus Haber scored the goals in each half as Crewe Alexandra enjoyed their third successive victory following wins over Colchester and Yeovil over the past seven days.
The on-loan midfielder Jamie Ness also played a major contribution in both goals, laying on the perfect pass for Ajose for the opening goal on 42 minutes and his cross-field pass into Ajose allowed him to create the second for Haber, who stooped superbly to head past Chris Maxwell for his first goal since August. Ajose, meanwhile, has scored nine goals in 12 games.
Crewe defended superbly throughout but Ben Garratt was called upon to tip over a good effort from Liam McAlinden over his crossbar in the first half. He also made a smart save to deny David Ball when he was adjudged to have beaten the offside trap.
Fleetwood Town’s on-loan forward Liam McAlinden was a little fortunate to escape an early yellow card after he caught George Ray with a late challenge as the Crewe Alexandra defender to clear the ball up the pitch. Referee Stuart Atwell resisted the temptation to caution him
Conor McLaughlin was booked though for catching Leigh as he skipped past him down the Fleetwood right hand side.
Our former attacking midfielder Antoni Sarcevic was trying to operate in those small pockets in behind the two strikers and he had an early shot held by Ben Garratt.
Both wing-backs combined on 12 minutes for Crewe with Greg Leigh providing a perfect cross for his opposite number Turton and he flashed a header over the top of the crossbar.
With Fleetwood looking for the diagonal passes over to our left hand side, the lively McAlinden then had a shot blocked by the impressive Ray. A loose pass out from the back from Alan Tate presented Sarcevic with another chance to get shot off but Garratt was right behind it to make the save. Tate quickly acknowledged his lapse in concentration.
McAlinden then produced arguably their best chance of their entire 90 minutes when his forceful run and shot saw the agile Garratt tip his well struck over the crossbar on 27 minutes.
Crewe were becoming a bit open in the middle of the pitch and that allowed Fleetwood to carry the ball forward but they were playing more in front of our back-line and hardly tested Garratt again. At times we were our worst own enemy, giving the ball away in our half of the pitch but the visitors didn't take full advantage.
On 32 minutes, a corner from Ness was returned to him and he quickly drilled his shot back towards goal and it took a deflection through to Maxwell.
McAlinden played David Ball in behind the back line and although he looked offside, he was allowed to go on and an alert Garratt managed to get something on it to turn it around the post and away for a corner.
Although Fleetwood were on top possession wise, it was Crewe who opened the scoring just minutes before the interval. Grant did brilliantly to win possession and feed Ness, who instantly slid Ajose in on goal and he calmly slotted it out of the reach of Maxwell. It was the ninth goal of his loan spell and once again demonstrated his clinical finishing when the chances come.
The first half ended with our former Academy youngster Gareth Evans unleashing a shot that cleared Garratt’s woodwork.
Crewe made a bright start to the second period, forcing an early corner that just cleared Harry Davis at the far post. More bright football from the Railwaymen saw Ness and Turton combine with the right-back just over hitting his final pass into the supportive Leigh close to the by-line.
Grant was putting in an immense shift in midfield, nicking possession back and starting us back on the attack. There were a few contenders for the Man-of-the-Match award but the hard working Grant was awarded it by the sponsors. He received a standing ovation when he was replaced late on by Liam Nolan.
After Josh Morris had shot over following a forceful run and Tate again hooked away a dangerous looking cross from Evans, Crewe doubled their advantage just before the hour mark.
Ness struck a superb cross field pass into Ajose, who although initially losing his footing inside the penalty area had enough awareness to reach the by-line and clip a cross to the far post to where the grateful Haber stooped to head home a second goal. It was a wonderfully crafted goal and Haber thoroughly deserved it for his late three appearances for the club, following Uche Ikpeazu’s departure to Doncaster.
Ajose could have made it 3-0 soon after and his clever movement had seen him latch on to a lifted ball from Harry Davis, who had instantly played it back into the penalty area after a Ness free-kick had been initially cleared. Ajose took it down and looked to round Maxwell, who did well to remain stood up and apply enough on the shot to spin it behind for a corner. From Ness’s corner, Ray volleyed it back with interest at the far post and Maxwell had to be alert again to clear from his crowded six yard box.
Fleetwood continued to enjoy periods of possession but Garratt was not called into action on too many occasions. The introduction of substitute Jamie Proctor added some physical presence up there but Tate, Ray and Davis were rarely ruffled and it became a fairly comfortable victory.
Garratt had to grasp a shot from McLaughlin at the second attempt but he deserved his latest clean sheet for the two saves in the first half.
Late changes for the Alex, also saw Ajose rested for Lauri Dalla Valle and George Cooper came on in stoppage time for the hard working Haber.
In the closing stages, Leigh headed a powerful free-kick from the Fleetwood substitute Nick Haughton away from danger but the Crewe defence deserved their shut-out.