Two goals in two second half minutes saw Crewe Alexandra extend their impressive home record. Crewe have lost just once in 11 games and two superb goals from Greg Leigh and Marcus Haber made it 10 points from the last four matches at Gresty Road.
The game had been in need of some quality after a fairly even first half and full-back Leigh provided on 54 minutes with a wonderful strike. The on-loan youngster from Manchester City rocketed a shot into the top corner after a Jamie Ness free-kick had been cleared to the edge of the penalty area. He would never have struck a shot like that before and his goal of the season contender was the perfect way to open his goal scoring account at senior level. It altered the complexion of the game.
Just over a minute later, the man-of-the-match James Jones provided a sublime cross to the far post and Haber headed home his 6th goal of the season.
The result puts Crewe into 18th place in League One and seven points above the drop zone.
George Ray was ruled out of today’s game after suffering a rib injury against Rochdale on Tuesday evening. Ray tried to attempt training yesterday but was struggling to breathe. Jon Guthrie moved into the centre-half role alongside Harry Davis.
The experienced Alan Tate returned from his one match suspension following his red card against Swindon last week and he operated in front of a back four.
Bradden Inman and Anthony Stewart dropped back to the substitutes’ bench after they started the 4-0 defeat at Spotland in mid-week.
Mark Robins’ Scunthorpe United side contained the former Crewe loanee George Evans in midfield and our former non-contract goalkeeper Joe Anyon on the bench.
A fairly opening to the game saw Scunthorpe’s Liam O’Neill bounced a shot through to the Crewe goalkeeper Paul Rachubka from 20 yards. Paddy Madden also had a shot on the run that spun into the gloves of Rachubka.
Crewe also conjured up an early opportunity for our leading scorer Nicky Ajose. Anthony Grant lifted a perfectly timed pass through to the on-loan Leeds man and his instant shot bounced awkwardly in front of Luke Daniels, who had to readjust to push it behind for the corner.
Isiah Osbourne was booked for catching Oliver Turton after coming in off his wing before The Iron created their best chance of the game on 25 minutes. Full-back Conor Townsend’s crossed from the Crewe right hand side but the impressive Liam O’Neil couldn’t keep his header down to test Rachubka.
Some of Crewe’s build up play was promising but we were just lacking that quality with that final pass or cross into the Scunthorpe box. Daniels rushed from his goal to deny Ajose as he tried to latch onto a pass from Ness.
Tate also poked through to Marcus Haber but he was denied a clean run at goal after a fair but necessary nudge from the covering full-back Jordan Clarke.
After Kevin Van Veen was caught some 30 yards out, Captain Gary McSheffrey curled his central free-kick over the crossbar, with Rachubka having it covered.
On 39 minutes, one of Crewe’s best passing moves of the first half saw young James Jones find the overlapping Turton, who managed to stretch and get the ball to Grant. The midfielder got the ball out of his feet but his low drive took a slight deflection as it hit the side netting. It was better from Crewe.
Scunthorpe continued to press looking for the opening goal and O’Neil’s low cross just evaded Madden and Van Veen as they rushed into the six-yard box.
Ness grew in confidence and showed some nifty footwork to release Ajose again but Alex Davey just did enough to prevent him having that clear run at goal. Ajose kept going and trying to find that opening.
The first half ended with Haber and Leigh combining down the left to find Grant and his powerful shot was blocked before a late free-kick from Ness evaded everyone. It deserved better because it was a terrific delivery across the penalty area.
Arguably, Crewe’s best chance of the half came in the final minute. Tate spun away from O’Neil to find Leigh and his instant pass across the box found Ajose but he could only side foot his shot wide.
Crewe re-appeared for the second half with a greater intensity and the increase in tempo paid off. Jones nearly picked out Ajose with a wonderful cross and Crewe went on the front foot, winning a successive of corners.
A superb move then saw Haber head down intelligently to Harry Davis and his lay-off allowed the supportive Jones to get a shot off. The energetic midfielder was unfortunate to see his well struck shot saved by Daniels. It appeared to also brush the post on its way out for the corner but it was still a fine save by the Scunthorpe stopper.
At the other end, Evans slipped in O’Neil behind the Crewe back line but his shot across the box was just a yard box.
Ajose nearly latched onto a backward header from Niall Canavan before the deadlock was finally broken on 54 minutes. Ness’s free-kick was arguably one of his poorest of the game but Scunthorpe could only clear it as far as Leigh and without breaking stride, he stepped onto it and thumped into straight into Daniels top corner. It was a spectacular goal.
Leigh’s superb strike lifted the atmosphere and barely two minutes later, Jones provided a perfect cross for Haber to head home at the far post for 2-0. Crewe were now firmly in the driving seat and playing with real confidence.
A Haber run and cross just evaded Ajose and the two strikers nearly combined again but Ajose couldn’t quite pull his cross back far enough to find the tall Canada International.
Scunthorpe boss Robins made two quick changes with McShefrrey and Osbourne, before he was sent off, were withdrawn for Neal Bishop and Hakeeb Adelakun.
After Ajose had been loose with a pass and Turton had seen possession pinched from him, the covering Davis had to show great strength to prevent Madden from getting a shot off.
Rachubka was called upon to push a deflected effort from substitute Adelakun behind and Niall Canavan was unlucky to see his towering header from a corner cleared from the line.
After Evans had fouled Jones, Tate nearly found Ajose with a quickly taken free-kick. With Crewe looking to hold on to the clean-sheet, Guthrie threw himself in front of a shot from Canavan and in the final minute the Crewe goalkeeper had to push another shot from O’Neil away for a corner. He deserved his clean-sheet.
Chris Atkinson came on late for Ajose and was quickly in the action, running down the touchline and then winning a free-kick deep in the Scunthorpe half.
With Ness receiving a late knock and Haber suffering with a bloodied mouth, there were late introductions for Ant Stewart and Lauri Dalle Valle.
Crewe were not troubled in the final stages to make it four successive clean sheets at Gresty Road since that 5-0 home defeat by MK Dons.