Crewe well beaten on travels and Kirk sees red after coming off the bench.
Crewe Alexandra’s winless streak stretched to 11 matches after Paul Tisdale’s in-form Exeter City side demonstrated the importance of being clinical in front of goal. The promotion hunting Grecians were ahead inside the opening 12 minutes of play after their determined captain Jordan Moore-Taylor bundled over from close range.
Striker David Wheeler put the points beyond doubt with a well taken brace in the second half and Lloyd James also added a late fourth, but at 1-0, Exeter needed some great goalkeeping from Pym to deny George Cooper twice when he raced into a one-one-one situation. Cooper also clipped the crossbar in the first half, as Crewe again struggled to find the back of the net.
A miserable afternoon was completed when substitute Charlie Kirk was sent-off for a high tackle on Jake Taylor. Referee Gavin Ward showed the youngster the red card, as it was a sorry walk back to the dressing room for the winger.
Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell made two changes to his side for the club’s first visit to St. James’ Park since 1991. New loan signing Callum Cooke was handed his senior debut in midfield after completing his move from Middlesbrough on deadline day. Forward Chris Dagnall dropped to the bench, as Artell switched to a 4-3-3 formation. Reverting back to four at the back saw Jon Guthrie move across to left-back.
Alex Kiwomya was recalled to the starting line-up on the left hand side, in place of the rested Charlie Kirk. Kiwomya and Cooper flanked Jordan Bowery.
Exeter City had to make a late change to their starting line-up with Reuben Reid forced to miss the match after being withdrawn following the warm-up. Liam McAlinden took his place in the home side’s starting line up.
An early passing move from the Railwaymen saw a deft touch from Bowery find Cooper and the ball was quickly played out to Kiwomya. The on-loan Chelsea starlet used his pace to slip in behind full-back Jack Stacey, but from an acute angle his shot was deflected into the side netting. Kiwomya crashed into the advertising hoarding behind the goal and he needed treatment before he was able to resume.
From the resulting corner though, the home side broke quickly and at one stage had four runners heading towards only a back two for Crewe. George Ray did well in his recovery to apply a decisive touch to halt them in their tracks and Turton eventually cleared our lines from the edge of the six-yard box.
The home side took the lead after just eight minutes and it was a really soft and scruffy goal to concede from a Crewe perspective. The Railwaymen failed to clear properly following a Lloyd James free-kick and with the ball being kept alive inside the penalty area, Exeter City’s captain Jordan Moore-Taylor forced the ball home from close range. It was an avoidable goal with Crewe not being decisive or strong enough to clear the danger.
The opening and eventful 13 minutes got worse for Crewe with centre-half George Ray forced off with what looked a serious knee injury. Zoumana Bakayogo replaced the unfortunate Ray and Guthrie moved back to his move familiar central role.
Crewe tried to respond from a shaky start at the back almost immediately, but Kiwomya couldn’t find the acquired space to pull the trigger and his lay-off to James Jones was a little short for the midfielder to do likewise.
On 17 minutes, Crewe had to rely on their goalkeeper for restricting the vibrant home side from doubling their advantage. Cooke gifted the lively Ollie Watkins with a stray pass and the in-form forward threw a step-over to deceive Guthrie but thankfully Garratt had raced from his line to make a fantastic block with his body.
Exeter’s high pressing continued to put Crewe under pressure and after a pass from Guthrie into Hollands was pinched by McAlinden, the late draft into the team, forced Garratt into another smart save with a powerful shot from 20 yards.
After overcoming that early mistake, Cooke began to get on the ball more for Crewe and one of his dangerous looking crosses into the penalty area had to be flicked behind for a corner with Bowery poised. Some concerted pressure from the Alex then saw Cooper whip in a shot that clipped the crossbar on the way over. It just didn’t quite dip enough to really cause Christy Pym a real problem in the Exeter goal.
The game lost his second player through injury with the impressive Watkins forced off on the half an hour mark. Robbie Simpson had to replace him.
On 34 minutes, Kiwomya was halted by a deliberate handball as he looked to get in behind again. There was surprisingly no yellow card for Jack Stacey forthcoming from referee Gavin Ward. Cooper hit a fantastic free-kick that only needed a positive touch from a Crewe shirt. A slight deflection at the far post took it behind for another corner. From the set-piece, Turton’s fierce shot from distance was pushed away by Pym.
With the first half drawing to a close, Ben Nugent threw himself into a goal preventing tackle to stop David Wheeler from asking a serious question of Garratt. Jordan Moore-Taylor also collected a second ball just inside the box to drill a shot just wide but Garratt had shifted across to cover if it had been closer on target.
Early in the second half, Crewe had to defend an early free-kick on the edge of our own penalty area after Nugent looked to be harshly adjudged to have blocked McAlinden off. Craig Woodman struck the free-kick well enough to beat the wall but Garratt grabbed it at the second attempt. McAlinden then flicked a header just over as the Grecians went in search of a second goal.
Ten minutes into the second half, Cooper raced through the middle of the Exeter back line to force Pym into a really good save and credit to the goalkeeper who pulled himself up quickly to save the rebound as well. It was a golden chance but also a superb double save from the Exeter goalkeeper. Then from the resulting corner, McAlinden did exceptionally well to clear with his head as Kimoyma looked to apply a definite touch.
Those near misses would come back to haunt the Railwaymen and that crucial goal arrived on 58 minutes for the Grecians. From a quick throw in, Ryan Harley provided the cross from the Crewe right hand side and David Wheeler headed home from close range to give Garratt no chance.
David Artell made his first change on 66 minutes with Dagnall replacing Kiwomya but barely 30 seconds later, Exeter scored a third goal with Wheeler finishing low into the far corner after Simpson had rolled the ball across to him.
Cooke continued to impress with his willingness and competitive edge. He also produced a cross that saw Bowery draw another decent save from Pym with a header.
Another change from the Alex saw Kirk replace Hollands. Garratt continued to be kept busy in the Devon rain and he made another save to deny McAlinden low down to his right. The Crewe goalkeeper produced another stunning save to prevent Simpson from making 4-0. It was a tremendous reflex save and Garratt deserves credit for his individual performance.
Crewe’s miserable time in Devon intensified when young Kirk was shown a straight red card for a tackle on Jake Taylor. It was a slow walk back to the dressing room.
The hard working Dagnall was a bit unfortunate to see a late effort clear the far post and barely a minute later, Lloyd James hit a fantastic strike to beat Garratt from just over 20 yards. After a cross was half cleared James raced onto the loose ball and he kept his composure to guide it home.
Crewe and Dagnall did have the ball in the net late on but with luck really going against us, the goal was chalked off for a Bowery push at the far post from Cooper's cross. It about summed up our afternoon.