Crewe U23 lose three on the bounceCrewe Alexandra Under 23's were resigned to a third straight defeat after Sheffield United took all three points from Gresty Road with a resounding 4-2 victory.
After losing to Nottingham Forest & Millwall in the previous two fixtures, Manager Alex Morris was keen to pick up a positive victory with the added boost of playing at the first team stadium.
That pursuit started well when Daniel Udoh gave Crewe an 11th minute lead, but United took control from there, scoring three times before the break with goalkeeper Dave Richards also saving a penalty.
The Blades added further emphasis to the score-line in the second half with a fourth from David Brooks despite Callum Ainley sliding in an 89th minute consolation for Crewe.
Striker Udoh had the first chance of the game on 8 minutes, being put through one-on-one, but he dragged his low shot wide of the far post.
But Udoh wasn't to be denied for long. Three minutes later in fact, when a through ball sent him away again & this time he rifled his shot past George Long in the Blades goal to give Crewe the lead.
Against the run of play, the visitors levelled it up just eight minutes later. A long, high ball down field was misjudged by Keeper Richards, coming out of his box to clear, but it held up & striker Jake Wright beat him to it to head into the empty net.
Richards began to make ammends just minutes later, saving well at his near post down low to deny full-back Bennett after a clever Blades attack.
Sheffield completed the turnaround to go 2-1 ahead on 23 minutes, Ryan Wintle being mugged in possession 25-yards from goal, with a quick pass to Jake Wright again who showed composure before curling into the far corner to give Richards no chance.
Richards completed his redemption for the first goal on 37 minutes, saving Ben Whiteman's penalty kick with a smart stop down to his left. Trialist Emilio Biyek gave the spot-kick away, taking down Wright in the box with an attempted slide tackle.
It looked as though the visitors would keep their single goal advantage going into the break, but they instead doubled that for 3-1 in stoppage time. Bennett got down the right to the by-line & cut back for Louis Reed on the edge of the box who stroked a tame effort goalwards that somehow crept under Richards.
The Blades started the second period with a barrage of attacks, Reed twice going close to grabbing his second of the evening - but he couldn't hit the target with either effort.
Sheffield keeper Long made a smart save to deny Callum Ainley at his near post on 67 minutes after the winger's lovely touch & run in-field from Wintle's pinpoint diagonal.
A clever short corner on 71 minutes almost got Crewe back into the game, Ainley feeding Tommy Lowery, but his half-volley on the angle arrowed marginally wide of the target.
Just as the Alex looked like finding a way back into the contest, United struck again on the counter to kill off the game in the 74th minute. It was another misjudgement from Richards that did it, rushing out of his box to clear a long ball, with winger David Brooks getting there first & stabbing into the empty net, 4-1.
Two minutes later & sub Callum Bullock got to the by-line for Crewe, cut-back for Ainley & his quaint finish was saved onto the post by Long to preserve the advantage.
To Crewe's credit, the continued to push forward in search of consolation goals, Charlie Kirk & Wintle having striker saved by George Long, but it all looked in vein.
That was until the home side did get the final say. Kirk got to the by-line a minute from time & fired over a low cross for Ainley to slide in at the back post for 4-2.
Crewe: Richards, Woodcock (Bullock, 57), Pickering, Biyek (Wilkinson, 57), Ray, Bingham (Lundstram, 63), Wintle, Lowery, Kirk, Ainley, Udoh