Crewe Alexandra ended 2019 with a deserved 3-1 win over Scunthorpe United at Gresty Road. Winger Daniel Powell hit a goal in each half and veteran midfielder Paul Green helped himself to a tap in from a Charlie Kirk cross on his return to the starting line-up.
The only disappointment on a really good performance was the goal we conceded with seven minutes remaining with Lee Novak firing into the top corner. Crewe thankfully hit back two minutes later through Powell to extinguish any Scunthorpe hopes of snatching a point. The Scunthorpe goalkeeper Rory Watson let the ball slip through his gloves when he should have saved it and perhaps set up a grandstand finish from the visitors.
David Artell made two changes to the side that lost 3-1 to Salford City on Boxing Day. Callum Ainley, who made an impressionable performance as a substitute against the Red Devils started only his second league game of the campaign. Paul Green recovered from illness to retain his place in Artell’s starting XI. Centre-half, Christian Mbulu missed out, so Ryan Wintle switched to centre-half like he did for the second half at Salford. Oli Finney also dropped to the bench.
Scunthorpe United’s starting line-up contained the former Crewe youngsters, Matt Lund and Junior Brown but Ryan Colclough didn’t make Paul Hurst’s squad of 18.
Crewe forced a free-kick in the opening minute but Harry Pickering’s delivery into a crowded box was headed clear. Pickering’s next involvement saw him force the first meaningful save from the Scunthorpe goalkeeper Rory Watson, who was forced to push it behind for a corner after good build up play from Chuma Anene and Charlie Kirk out on the left.
Crewe continued to enjoy the majority of the possession with Scunthorpe content to retain their shape and try to hit the Railwaymen on the counter-attack. Abo Eisa was lively early on but Perry Ng soon got to grips with his threat.
Brown whipped over a cross that was too high for Kevin van Veen and Lee Novak before a swift break from the Alex saw Powell have his low drive blocked by Rory McArdle. He was setting his marker.
The opening goal from Powell came after just 20 minutes. Crewe played out from the back and once it was played up to Anene, he applied a telling touch into Powell and his shot into the floor deceived the dive of Watson for his third goal of the season. It was no more than Crewe deserved.
Crewe were dominating the proceedings and playing with a real swagger. Kirk came off the wing to force a really good save from Watson on 23 minutes before Kirk dropped another shot just shy of the far post.
The battling ram Anene won a free kick from Brown and Lowery’s cross was headed just over by his skipper Ng.
Crewe needed the cushion of the second goal before half time and continued to press in search of it. It duly arrived with five minutes of the half remaining and it was a wonderful team goal. Crewe were patient in the build-up, keeping possession at the back and looking for the right moment to break forward. The movement occurred down the right hand side with Wintle finding Ng. The rampaging right-back took the ball over the half way line and used Anene as a decoy block to race infield. He picked his moment to switch it over to Kirk.
The winger headed for the by-line and his low cross was gleefully turned in at close range by Green. He tapped home his third goal of the season on his return to put the Alex firmly in the driving seat.
Scunthorpe tried to hit back before the break but Hunt was well positioned cut out a cross from Eisa and Perch became the first player to be booked for catching Hunt with a rather reckless lunge. Crewe thoroughly deserved the two goal advantage at half-time.
Hunt soon joined him in the book in the opening minutes of the second half but not before captain Ng had a great chance to make it 3-0 but after playing a neat one-two with Lowery, the return pass just got caught under his feet and the chance was lost.
A powerful early run from Powell saw him felled by McArdle, who was booked. From the resultant free-kick from just over 25 yards, Ng whipped it just wide with Watson scrambling across his goal in a bit of a panic.
The Alex continued to conjure up good chances. Lowery fed Anene through the middle, and he just couldn’t lift it over Watson, who did well on his occasion to come from his line and narrow the angle.
Watson dropped a Pickering cross and Anene tapped into an empty net but was flagged for offside. The goalkeeper was relieved. The on-loan Norwegian also fired wide after being fed superbly by Ainley, who began to have a growing influence on the game.
More great football from the Alex saw Kirk and Ainley combine again and Lowery should have scored from close range but he lifted his effort high over the crossbar.
Ainley also shot straight at the goalkeeper and then forced him to push one into air after Kirk had found him inside the box. Crewe really should have scored more than the three we did.
Crewe lost Pickering with a slight injury scare after he looked to tweak his hamstring. Rio Adebisi replaced him.
Scunthorpe were given a lifeline into the game on 81 minutes after good work from Alex Gilliead and a wonderful finish from Novak into the top corner.
Crewe didn’t panic though and deservedly scored again two minutes later when Ainley fed Powell and his well struck shot found its way past Watson, who should have saved it. It ended any potential comeback from the visitors and Crewe could see the final minutes out safely.
Ainley received a standing ovation for his great all-round performance and he was replaced by Finney.
There was still time for Will Jaaskelainen to produce a rare save on the day to deny Lund.