Crewe Alexandra came through a testing night against Leyton Orient to record a fine 2-0 victory. A mishap from the Leyton Orient goalkeeper Sam Sargeant in the opening couple of minutes to present Charlie Kirk with a tap in, but it took until the final couple of minutes for Crewe to kill off the spirited Londoners thanks to a superb solo effort from Daniel Powell.
Leyton Orient created a succession of decent chances in the second half of the first half to have levelled things before the interval. Crewe rode their luck a touch at times but remained defensively strong to see the game through and keep another clean-sheet. It was a fantastic hard fought win and with other results going our way, it keeps us right in the hunt. We will need results like this one.
Defender Nicky Hunt failed a late fitness test ahead of kick off which resulted in a first senior start for youngster Luke Offord. Offord had recently returned from a successful loan spell from Nantwich Town and was named in the squad of 18 for the weekend draw at Scunthorpe.
Midfielder Tom Lowery has been struggling with a slight knock sustained at Glanford Park and with David Artell eager to give the young playmaker a rest, he started on the substitutes’ bench. Paul Green returned to starting line-up after being rested against the Iron. Oli Finney retained his place following his goal in the 2-2 draw and Charlie Kirk also returned to the starting XI ahead of Callum Ainley.
Another of the club’s young Academy graduates, Regan Griffiths was named on the substitutes’ bench following his form for the Under-23s.
Crewe were handed that dream start in only the second minute. The visitors were trying to find their feet in the game and had set out to retain possession and have a feel of the football. In their quest to keep it, the defender George Marsh passed it back to his goalkeeper Sam Sargeant. There was no danger but the unfortunate Sargeant took a touch and slipped under foot. Charlie Kirk hunted down the chance and took full advantage to slot home his seventh goal of the season. He wouldn’t have scored an easier one in his entire career.
The Londoners had the perfect chance to equalise when a long ball seemed to deceive Nottingham in the air and that allowed Craig Clay to nip in behind but his side footed effort just cleared the left hand post. It was a let off.
Crewe started really brightly though and a fabulous back heal from Finney set Kirk through inside the box and his shot forced Seageant into a smart save and the rebound was just out of the reach of the rushing Chuma Anene.
Anene was also involved in the next Crewe attack. He collected it in the middle of the pitch to release Pickering and his forceful run found Kirk again and his curling effort was just wide of the far post. On another day Kirk could have a hat-trick inside the first 20 minutes. He also hit one just over after once again getting slipped in.
After those early scares, mainly from winger Kirk, Leyton Orient really began to grown more into the game.
Clay fired just wide of the mark with an ambitious effort from distance before Ruel Sotiriou fired into the side netting following a terrific cross from the Crewe right by Josh Wright. Orient also had a shout for a penalty after Finney was facing his own goal inside the six yard box.
The visitors looked the more likely to score the next goal in the first period. Cisse forced Will Jaaskelainen into a good save with a great effort from 30 yards and moments later, the Alex goalkeeper was called into action again as a shot from Wright went through a crowd of players. The Finnish U-21 International did exceeding well to watch it and palm it clear from his top corner.
From a Crewe corner, Finney shot a bouncing ball a yard wide of the left hand post before Leyton Orient had their best chance to equalise before the break when a strong and shot from Sotiriou forced the Alex keeper into action once again and Conor Wilkinson failed to get the rebound on target when he really should of levelled things up.
Crewe had an early chance in the second period but Powelll didn’t quite get his effort on target to test Sargeant.
Leyton Orient had a goal chalked off for a push on the impressive Offord and Kirk also had a fine finish ruled out after he had just strayed offside after Chuma Anene had prodded the ball through to him.
Crewe struggled to keep the ball well enough and the Leyton Orient midfield began to dictate the play again with Clay, Wright and Sotiriou all purposeful in possession. They played a lot in front of the Crewe back line, who stood firm and were well marshalled by man-of-the-match Wintle.
Marsh was booked for a block off on Kirk before Wintle joined in the attack and Finney dragged a low shot just wide of that far post. There were still chances there.
Finney also shot straight down the throat of the Leyton Orient goalkeeper after more hold up from Anene, who looked to be carrying a knock but he worked his socks off.
With Crewe at times sloppy in possession, Artell understandably introduced midfielders Jones and Lowery for Green and Finney. They made a difference with their passing.
Crewe began to keep the ball a lot more and Powell fired over the top of the crossbar after good work from Wintle, Kirk and Anene.
Leyton Orient went for broke by introducing forwards, Lee Angol and Matt Harrold but Crewe limited their efforts on our goal. Jaaskelainen had to adjust to make a low save down in his six yard box after an effort from Wilkinson took a deflection and sent it in the wrong direction.
Debutant Offord was forced off with cramp. He had been excellent on his debut but left the field with 10 minutes left. Wintle went to centre-half and Ainley came on.
Crewe finished strongly with the fitness level and with just two minutes left, a fine passing move saw the ball played out to Powell. The winger showed tremendous strength to bounce off the intentions of Dan Happe and his final shot seems to go through Sargeant, who will be disappointed with his night. Crewe were happy with their night’s work. A clean sheet and three points.