First half goals from wingers Kirk and Dale give Alex another home win.
Crewe Alexandra’s wide men, Charlie Kirk and Owen Dale, scored first half goals to defeat Ryan Lowe’s Plymouth Argyle side at Gresty Road this evening. The influential midfielder Tom Lowery provided both assists to unlock the Pilgrims defence and it should have been far more comfortable than the 2-1 scoreline suggested.
Plymouth substitute, Luke Jephcott, netted with five minutes to go to make it an uncomfortable last few minutes, but in truth Will Jaaskelainen did not have too many saves to make on the night. Crewe deservedly held on for three points to make it 10 points out of 12.
David Artell named the same starting XI that deservedly defeated Northampton Town late on at the weekend. With Perry Ng still out with suspension, Luke Offord once again demonstrated his versatility by switching to right-back.
Chris Porter returned to the substitutes’ bench after missing Saturday’s 2-1 win due to personal reasons. He took the place of Offrande Zanzala in the squad of 18.
Our former player, Ryan Lowe, named our former wide players, Byron Moore and George Cooper in his starting XI. Our former loanee midfielder, Conor Grant started on the bench.
Brimming with confidence, Crewe were quickly on the front foot in front of the home support. Oli Finney forced Mike Cooper into an early push over and after Charlie Kirk and Harry Pickering combined down the left hand side, Finney’s drilled effort was blocked inside the six yard box.
Crewe were excellent in the early exchanges and after Kirk and Wintle linked up once again, there was a strong shout for a penalty after Wintle was felled as he tried to get on a return pass. It was certainly worth another look.
Owen Dale was troubling Plymouth, and certainly full-back Kelland Watts, with his trickery and directness down the right and Tyrese Fornah was booked on 15 minutes for pulling the winger back by the shoulder as he threatened to sprint away from him. Pickering bent the resultant free-kick into the side netting.
It was no great surprise that Crewe took the lead on 22 minutes and it was a wonderful goal, crafted superbly by Dale and then Tom Lowery. Dale accelerated away yet again and then the diminutive midfielder produced a fantastic crossfield pass to Kirk and his deft touch took it over Cooper for score his fourth goal of the season.
Plymouth were struggling to mount any sort of attack in the Alex final third. Mayor was been marshalled superbly by young Offord and the Pilgrims couldn’t get Cooper in the game. He occupied pockets of space but his team-mates couldn’t get the ball to him often enough.
More good approach play from the influential Lowery and captain Pickering, gave Mandron enough space to get a shot off from the edge of the box but his shot was blocked by Scott Wootton.
On the half hour mark, Lowery hit another wonderful pass out to Kirk and he quickly found Finney and he was unlucky to see his poked effort just clear the far post.
Crewe needed to make the domination count and after more wonderful wing play from Dale, Finney spun on the by-line and his chipped cross to the far post and the head of Mandron was just touched away by the stretching Cooper. Finney was so unfortunate.
Plymouth didn’t register a shot on target in the first half and Crewe were tracking back and the defensive shape was excellent. Omar Beckles was immense up against the robust Frank Nouble and his defensive partner, Olly Lancashire was just as effective.
There was another strong appeal for a penalty when Kirk’s knockback struck Moore’s hand but again referee, Oldham, waved them away.
Crewe needed that second goal after such a dominant first half display and it duly arrived three minutes before the break. Lowery was once again the provider, twisting and turning away from the presence of Fornah in his own half before setting Dale racing away down the right wing. The in-form winger still have a lot of work to do but leaving Watts again in his wake, his deflected effort ended up in the far corner. It was Dale’s fourth goal in the last four games and this one would prove decisive overall.
It was no surprise that Lowe changed personnel and formation at the interval. Luke Jephcott and Lewis MacLeod came on for Watts and Fornah, with the visitors switching to a 3-5-2. It certainly gave them more of the ball but Crewe pressed and still made things difficult. Crewe were determined to prevent Plymouth a passage back into the game.
Cooper playing wider then drifted inside before flashing one across the six yard box.
Beckles and Lancashire never put a foot wrong and snuffed out any danger. Nouble made way for Ryan Hardie to inject some fresh legs up front.
Crewe kept the ball and after being found by Finney, Wintle on his spin, fired straight at the Plymouth goalkeeper. The Railwaymen played some great football, with one and two touches opening up the Plymouth wing-back system.
Jaaskelainen was forced into a rare save after Hardie tried his luck from distance. The Crewe goalkeeper had to gather at the second attempt before Grant and Edwards replaced Mayor and Moore.
Finney forced Cooper into a stunning tip over and he found Kirk twice inside the box but the unselfish winger tried to re-find his team-mate instead of taking the chance on himself.
Dale received a standing ovation when he was replaced by Powell and the hard working, Mandron made way for Porter with the minutes ticking away. Porter got us up the pitch with his header and physique down the touchline.
Plymouth Argyle got a late passage into the game with Jephcott tucking home into the corner of the net after a chance fell to him from a cross from Niall Canavan into the Alex box. It was disappointing to concede the clean-sheet with five minutes remaining and it led to a nervy finish.
The visitors only had one half chance to force a draw but Wootoon shot wide after good work from Panutche Camara. It would have been a travesty if Crewe had conceded late on because of our dominance over the 90 minutes.