Second half goals from Powell, Kirk and Ainley make sure Alex make winning start to pre-season campaign.
Crewe Alexandra’s first outing since early March saw them host Welsh side Connah’s Quay in a behind closed doors friendly at the club’s training ground. Second half goals from wide men, Daniel Powell and Charlie Kirk and a late third from Callum Ainley made sure we started the pre-season preparations with a win - but it is more about giving players valuable match minutes and trying out fresh ideas in readiness for the new campaign.
Due to the global pandemic, it was the Railwaymen’s first encounter since a 3-1 victory over relegated Stevenage back on 7th March.
With Crewe preparing for the League One kick-off on September 12th, boss David Artell gave as many of his squad game time as they stepped up their fitness levels in readiness for the new season.
The spirited Welsh side, who were making their own plans ahead of their adventure in the Uefa Champions League in the middle of next month, also utilised their squad numbers.
Andy Robinson’s Nomads took an early lead through Callum Morris’ composed finish, but Crewe struck back ten minutes into the second half through winger Daniel Powell following a decisive run and shot from Callum Ainley.
Just five minutes later, Charlie Kirk was in the right place at the right time again to steal in at the back post and put the Alex ahead in the game for the first time. It was something we came accustom to seeing in last season’s promotion winning campaign.
Ainley made the game safe in the final minute, tapping in from close range after Luke Offord provided the assist.
David Artell named new summer signing Offrande Zanzala in his starting line-up for the first half alongside the experienced Chris Porter and first-year professional Tyreece Onyeka. Olly Lancashire made his long awaited return from injury to start his first game since October and fresh from his success on loan at Altrincham, the versatile Josh Lundstram started at centre-half.
It was the Nomads who took an early lead though with midfielder Callum Morris slotting home from the edge of the penalty area after just seven minutes. Crewe’s clearance did not have enough distance on it and Morris’ curling effort was accurate enough to give Jaaskelainen no chance of preventing the opener.
Crewe’s first real effort at the Connah’s Quay’s goal saw Harry Pickering hit a free-kick just wide of the post.
Summer signing, Zanzala, showed flashes of his pace and direct style and he threatened to cause trouble when getting in behind on more than one occasion.
Following Morris’ early strike past Will Jaaskelainen, it took a bit of time for Crewe to settle down after so long without football - but we did manage to find our passing groove without really threatening the opposition goal as regularly as we would have liked in the first half.
Crewe came close to an equaliser on 36 minutes when youngster Onyeka combined with veteran Porter, but the club’s new first-year professional shot just wide of the target. It was certainly better build up play in the final third from the Alex.
A hard working Connah’s Quay side were presented with a chance to double their advantage before the interval via a well-positioned free-kick, but John Disney fired his effort straight at Crewe’s Finnish goalkeeper.
As expected, Artell provided 11 more of his players with game time for the second half. The most notable inclusion saw defender Eddie Nolan make his first appearance since December.
It was also an opportunity for Artell to hand academy graduates, Joe Robbins and Nathan Woodthorpe some valuable first-team experience. Andy Robinson also made wholesale changes to his Connah’s Quay side.
Crewe drew level ten minutes into the second half thanks to a positive run and shot from Ainley. His drive from the middle of the park saw him put Connah’s Quay defence on the back foot and his deflected shot fell invitingly to Daniel Powell, who made no mistake by calming slotting into the net.
Five minutes later, Crewe took the lead with Charlie Kirk producing another one of his trademark finishes at the far post following a superb cross from youngster Robbins.
With Crewe taking the lead just after the hour mark, we were able to control much of the second period and our possession play was impressive enough considering we have been over four months without football.
Connah’s Quay kept going to the death though and Crewe needed a late save from Dave Richards to protect our lead in the final ten minutes. The result was assured in the final minute through Callum Ainley after good work from defender Luke Offord. His cross was tapped home from close range by Ainley for 3-1.
Crewe Alexandra (first half): Jaaskelainen, Johnson, Lundstram, Lancashire, Pickering, Wintle, Finney, Dale, Onyeka, Porter, Zanzala
Crewe Alexandra (second half): Richards, Ng, Offord, Nolan, Woodthorpe, Griffiths, Robbins, Ainley, Kirk, Powell and trialist.