Crewe lose top-of-the-table clash after seeing mistakes punished by Robins.
Swindon Town cemented their place at the top of the League Two table with a 3-1 win over Crewe Alexandra this afternoon. Richie Wellens’ side reversed the scoreline that occurred at Gresty Road back in mid-October and the Robins deserve credit for taking their chances.
They led 1-0 at half-time after a shot from full-back Rob Hunt had flashed off the head of Ryan Wintle to take it beyond Will Jaaskelainen. The opening goal came somewhat against the run of play after Crewe had enjoyed the majority of the possession and the better of the half chances. Callum Ainley and Perry Ng had forced Swindon goalkeeper, Steven Benda into two decent saves.
Crewe hit back just after the hour mark with Kirk, comfortably our best performer on the day, laying on another goal for Chuam Anene. Kirk reached the by-line before giving Anene a relatively easy tap-in.
From that point, David Artell would have wanted his side to kick on but after we lost Nicky Hunt through injury, the Robins struck twice in just over three minutes to take the game away from us. First a ball went over the head of Ryan Wintle to allow the lethal Jerry Yates to unleash past a helpless Jaaskelainen.
Then from a corner, Crewe did not react no where near quickly enough to deal with the ball striking our crossbar and the Swindon captain Danny Rose drove it home into an empty net for 3-1.
Crewe had been in the contest throughout but after not making the most of our first half display, our defensive mistakes were clinically punished and we now find ourselves 9 points adrift of the leaders but with those two games in hand against Macclesfield and Exeter. 7,601 watched it.
David Artell named an unchanged Crewe Alexandra side for the trip to the County Ground. The only change in the squad of eighteen saw a promotion to the substitutes’ bench for young midfielder Josh Lundstrum in place of the injured Rio Adebisi. The injury to the Alex left-back is not thought to be too serious.
The former Crewe Alexandra midfielder Anthony Grant started for Swindon but in the unfamiliar position of centre-half.
A couple of early clearances in the air from Perry Ng and then his goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen demonstrated the strong wind that Crewe had to play into during the first period. The ball almost went backwards. It made for a tentative opening 10 minutes with no chances for either side.
Crewe’s first real break arrived in the 11th minute with Chuma Anene racing into the right hand channel. The Crewe striker tried to pick out the onrushing Paul Green as he entered the Swindon penalty area but the tracking Michael Doughty did just about enough to deflect it back into the gloves of his goalkeeper Steven Benda.
Moments later, Callum Ainley registered the first effort on goal. The midfielder occupied a dangerous position just outside the box and after being found by Kirk, his fiercely struck shot had to be pushed away Benda.
Jaaskelainen was called into action for the first time after 15 minutes after a long cross nearly found the advanced full-back, Rob Hunt at the far post but through a combination of the Crewe number one and his captain Ng, the danger was nullified before it reached Hunt cleanly.
Despite the hefty wind playing against them, Crewe conjured up some promising moves with Kirk and Ainley interchanging well and Lowery controlling the middle of the park. A nutmeg from Ng saw him trick his way into the Swindon box and his low shot was blocked by the foot of the busier Benda but Anene had strayed into an offside position as he tried to make something of the loose ball.
Jerry Yates, who has the extra responsibility of scoring goals for Swindon now that Eoin Doyle has returned to his parent club Bradford City, was rather lucky to have escaped a yellow card in the first half after dragging Perry Ng down three times. Danny Rose also escaped a caution after going through the back on the Alex skipper.
Crewe were certainly on top possession wise and looking the more likely to create an opening. The football was really good, with Swindon finding it difficult to subdue Ng, Ainley and Kirk coming down the right flank. A teasing cross from Kirk had to once again be picked out of the sky by Benda as Anene threatened.
Therefore, it was a major surprise that Swindon took the lead on 34 minutes. It was sloppy from Crewe in the initial build-up because a couple of stray passes out of defence presented Rob Hunt with possession some 25 yards from goal and after he fired it back, it took a wicked deflection off the head of Wintle and flew past Jaaskelainen. It was totally against the run of play and a rare mistake from Wintle with his passing had been punished.
Two minutes later, Jaaskelainen had to be alert to tip over a Paul Caddis corner after his delivery was taken by the wind. It really looked like curling into the top left hand corner, until the Finland Under-21 International produced a fine save to tip it over for a corner.
The opening goal certainly gave Swindon a major jolt and another deflected effort this time from Diallang Jaiyesimi went through to the Crewe stopper. Yates also went close to reaching a testing cross from Doughty before Kaiyne Woolery headed another opportunity wide of the target.
Swindon had the better of the final minutes of the first half and in that spell had taken the lead through Hunt’s deflected effort. Crewe were left to rue the fact that they had dominated large parts of the half but had nothing to show for our efforts.
An early break in the second period, saw Ainley dig the ball out and find Powell on the right and he used his strength to shield the ball away from Tom Broadbent and wait for the overlapping Ng but his low cross was pounced upon by Benda before it could reach Anene.
Kirk continued to look our best bet with the accuracy of his deliveries and he provided some telling crosses that just needed a Crewe boot or head on the end of them.
From a short corner, Swindon’s Jaiyesimi produced a nice touch but he lashed his shot into the roof of the stand. As the home side began to have some concerted pressure, the corner counter began to rise.
Crewe hit back on the hour mark after a brilliantly crafted goal by that man by Kirk. After Pickering had switched play over to Ng, the Alex played it back across the line and after Ainley had played in Kirk, his sublime touch took him past Caddis and his low cross was touched over the line by Anene for his 9th goal of the season. It looked so simple but it was a fantastic move. The Railwaymen were deservedly level.
Nicky Hunt limped out of the action on 66 minutes. He tried to run off the injury but was forced off just minutes later and had to be replaced by youngster Travis Johnson. Ng moved to centre-half.
Crewe had barely time to settle after losing Hunt, before the ball went over the head of Wintle and Yates finished emphatically past Jaaselainen in the 68th minute for his 12th league goal of the season.
The Railwaymen didn’t cope with that set-back at all well and from another corner, the ball smashed the Alex crossbar and the Swindon skipper Rose reacted quickest to lash it home into the unguarded net. Crewe had let the game slip away from us in those telling minutes.
With less than 20 minutes remaining, David Artell made a double change with Finney and Dale replacing Ainley and Lowery.
Crewe needed a goal to make a real fist of it in the closing stages and although Kirk still tried to provide some ammunition from the left flank, we didn't create any real clear cut chances that would have forced a grandstand finish.
The best chance saw another cross just deceive Powell as he found himself centrally.