Millwall forward Aiden O’Brien scored a hat-trick as the Lions inflicted Crewe’s fifth defeat in League One at the Alexandra Stadium.
The Lions striker gave Neil Harris’ side the lead after 23 minutes when he was in the right place at the right time to convert a low cross from Carlos Edwards and his match winning performance saw him score twice more in the second half.
O’Brien’s second goal was a fine strike from around 22 yards out that flew past Ben Garratt before he claimed the match ball after waltzing around the Crewe defender with some really quick feet before placing it beyond Garratt.
Crewe had deservedly equalised before the half time interval when a powerful shot from Brad Inman hit Lauri Dalla Valle as he tried to rush into the penalty area to completely wrong foot Jordan Archer.
The Railwaymen also had a great chance to go 2-1 up in the second half but somehow close range efforts from Captain Harry Davis and then Dalla Valle didn’t cross the line and Archer deserves some credit for a making a close range save to deny the Finn.
The club's second home defeat in succession by a 3-1 scoreline leaves Crewe bottom of the table on two points.
Crewe Alexandra boss Steve Davis named the starting XI for the visit of Neil Harris’ Millwall side but forward players Marcus Haber and Harry Wilson returned to the squad after being away on International duty with Canada and Wales respectively.
Young players Ryan Wintle and last weekend’s debutant Callum Ainley dropped out of the squad that somehow ended up losing 3-1 to Swindon Town.
Crewe Alexandra settled into their passing style early on and remained patient in their build-up. Some excellent possession play soon resulted in Ryan Colclough winning an early corner after Mark Beevers struck his clearance against his own player, Fred Onyedinma, but we couldn’t make anything of the set play.
Millwall’s first chance fell in the 12th minute after the experienced Steve Morison broke the offside trap but Garratt stood firm to push his shot from a tightening angle behind for a corner.
Soon after that opportunity an outstretched leg from Nugent saw him deflect a cross into the gloves of the Crewe goalkeeper.
Crewe dominated much of the possession early on but were not troubling Jordan Archer in the Millwall goal nearly enough.
The Railwaymen were then hit on a shift counter-attack from the visitors on 23 minutes. The former Sunderland man Carlos Edwards provided the cross from the right hand side and his low delivery missed all the Crewe players out to allow Aiden O’Brien to calmly convert at the far post. It was a cruel sucker punch for the Alex to take but with Millwall making the decisive breakthrough it only increased their confidence for the next five minutes.
An almost carbon copy cross from Edwards nearly picked out the onrushing O’Brien again but on this occasion the Millwall forward did not apply a decisive touch from close range. The danger was still not cleared with any real distance and midfielder Ed Upson fired a 20-yard shot onto the top of the netting.
After those chances, Crewe began to impose themselves on the game again and looked more threatening. A pass from Turton nearly saw Lauri Dalla Valle get his first opportunity at goal before midfielder Chris Atkinson forced Archer into his first meaningful save following a Fox corner. Atkinson drifted past a couple of Millwall players and hit a firm shot but the Millwall keeper was equal to it to push it behind.
Crewe’s pressure finally did tell on 36 minutes with Dalla Valle deflecting a shot from Inman past a helpless Archer. It was a slice of luck that had deserted us in previous games, giving Dalla Valle his first goal of the season.
There was still enough time in the half for Morison to draw another save from Garratt after some skill had taken him past Davis. Turton also did well to deny Upson a free run at goal with a last ditch tackle just inside the box.
After a couple of early corners for both sides in the second period, defender Byron Webster had to come on to replace the injured Sid Nelson.
Ben Nugent was penalised for placing his hands on Morison and a dangerous looking free-kick from Shaun Williams was headed back across goal by Tony Craig and substitute Webster headed over.
Crewe’s best chance to take the lead came via a Fox corner. Nugent applied a positive touch at the near post to take Archer out of the equation and Davis must have thought he had scored when applying a touch, but his shot from close range was blocked and in the follow-up Archer somehow denied Dalla Valle twice! The whole of the Alexandra Stadium couldn’t believe that the chance had not been decisively taken.
That near miss seemed to inspire the visitors and they took the initiative in the second half. Virtually out of nothing, the confident O’Brien unleashed a superb shot from close to 25 yards out that flashed past Garratt and Crewe were once again chasing the game.
Milwall taking the lead again on 64 minutes prompted a quick change from Steve Davis with youngster Harry Wilson handed his senior debut for Fox. Milwall also made a change with the influential Fred Onyedinma making way for Shane Ferguson.
Atkinson drew a smart save from Archer from the edge of the box after good approach play from Colclough and Inman. It was well held by Archer at the foot of the post.
Crewe remained in the game but were not creating a great deal in terms of opportunities and man-of-the-match O’Brien sealed the points on 74th minutes when we danced past a succession of challenges on the edge of the box before firing past the Crewe goalkeeper.
Chasing the game, George Cooper replaced Dalla Valle but a genuine chance never fell until Colclough forced Archer into a save from his on-target free-kick.
Young Wilson was busy, forcing Archer into rushing from his line to deny the young Welshman and he also poked a cross from Atkinson a yard wide of the mark.
Match winner O’Brien left the pitch to warm applause from the travelling Millwall fans and he just had to wait a few more minutes before claiming the match ball for his treble.