Crewe Alexandra enjoyed their second successive home win with a fairly comfortable afternoon against John Sheridan’s Wigan Athletic. It ended 3-0 and Crewe could and should have scored more.
The Railwaymen fully deserved the three points, the clean-sheet and the three goals scored by defenders, Luke Offord, Harry Pickering and a fourth of the season from forward Mikael Mandron.
Crewe could have added to their deserved three goal tally, especially in the first half when Donervon Daniels and Daniel Powell were both denied at close range by the busy Wigan Athletic goalkeeper Jamie Jones. With the buffer of three goals, the Railwaymen controlled the game throughout.
Daniel Powell and Callum Ainley were handed starts in the absence of Owen Dale and Oli Finney, who both tested positive for coronavirus in mid-week.
With Will Jaaskelainen away on International duty with Finland Under-21s, David Richards deputised. Ryan Wintle and Omar Beckles were named in the 18-man squad whilst Donervon Daniels made his first league start for the club.
Last season’s leading scorer, Chris Porter, returned to the squad for the first time this season. Porter had been struggling with a troublesome heal until this point of the season.
In the early exchanges both sides were testing each other and genuine chances were few and far between. The first real attempt on any goal came about in rather bizarre circumstances. In the 5th minute, Charlie Kirk made a block tackle some 30 yards from the Crewe goal and the ball flew through the air, resulting in Richards having to backtrack and tip it over his own crossbar.
From the resultant corner, the ball dropped awkwardly off the mid-drift of captain Perry Ng and Kal Naismith shot high and wide from a very good position.
Crewe Alexandra soon grew into a confident groove and should have taken the lead in the 13th minute. Ng manoeuvred himself into a shooting position from 25 yards and his low drive forced Jamie Jones to only palm it out into the six yard box. The following in Donervon Daniels must have thought he had scored on his league debut for the club but from close range he was denied by Jones. From the ensuing shot, Daniels seemed to aggravate a muscle and was unable to continue. He was replaced by Beckles.
At the other end of the pitch, a deflected free-kick from Tom James rebounded behind for another Wigan Athletic corner but Crewe cleared their lines decisively.
Crewe began to gain control of the game and looked a real threat in the final third. A wicked cross from Murphy nearly found Kirk at the far post and forced a corner out on the left before the Alex created another golden opportunity that should have led to the first goal.
Pickering delivered a fantastic delivery into the Wigan box and after Mandron had collected it with a sublime touch, he didn’t make a proper contact on his shot, but it ran through to Powell, who must have thought he had a tap in from close range but again Jones spread himself to make a decent save. Crewe had squandered two great chances and there was a worry that it could come back to haunt us. It didn't.
Thankfully, the deadlock was finally broken on 27 minutes. Another Murphy cross was cleared for a corner. A well worked quick one, saw Kirk find Pickering and the ball was worked into Ainley. He immediately whipped over a sublime cross to the far post and Luke Offord stole in to head home his first ever goal at senior level. It was a really well worked goal and Offord’s clever run to get himself free gave Jones no chance this time! It was no more than Crewe deserved.
Crewe continued to whip over some really good crosses from both flanks and Tom Pearce, the Wigan full-back, had to keep his bearings on one as Powell and Mandron threatened to do more damage in the air.
With Kirk having a growing influence on the game, his wonderful cross found Mandron but his header was too close to James. The Frenchman had once again ran the line up there for us with aggression and purpose. He was excellent collecting the ball and finding his supportive team-mates.
The second goal for Crewe duly arrived four minutes before the break and it was a fantastic team goal. Wintle sent a cross field pass over to Kirk and after he pulled the ball down and juggled in possession, he waited for Pickering’s inside run before feeding him. Pickering raced in and made no mistake with a clinical finish beyond James for his first goal of the season.
Crewe had the comfort of the second goal and could and should had two more in a first half they had dominated for large periods.
Wigan had a short spell at the end of the half in an attempt to get back into it before rhe interval. Naismith produced a teasing cross that went right across our six yard box but no-one took a gamble and could reach it. The first half ended with Will Keane finding a yard of space from Beckles on the edge of the box but he sliced wide of the target.
The second period started with a bit of a let off for Dave Richards. He didn’t quite connect right with a punch and needed Pickering there to hook the danger away from close to the Crewe line. His second punch out was a lot more substantial and cleared the box. He didn's have too many saves to make.
After being fed by Ng, the hard working Mandron, shot wide from a good position on the edge of the box.
2-0 is always a dangerous scoreline in football and Crewe didn’t have to make any unnecessary risks. It was up to Wigan to chase the game and get that goal that could have changed the complexion of the game. It never looked like materialising, as was our dominant play.
Wigan made a change with the former loanee Dan Gardner replacing Chris Merrie on 57 minutes. A minute later, Crewe finished the job off.
Ainley produced a moment of skill worthy of Berkgamp. He flick it round the bemused Darnell Johnson to leave him in his wake and he cracked a shot that was pushed out by James. The Wigan goalkeeper then got up to deny Powell on the rebound but there was Mandron to help himself to a tap in and his fourth goal of the season.
The points were secured on the hour mark.
Now it was all about game management, not conceding and staying free of any unnecessary injuries.
Wigan tried to get a goal back with winger Viv Solomon-Otabor making inroads down the Crewe right and Keane set Gavin Massey for a shot but he shot wide of the target. It was one of their best moves of the game.
Crewe continued to press forward with Kirk finding Pickering inside the box but his shot was blocked and should have been rewarded with a corner but the referee didn’t spot it.
More good positions continued but we just lacked that decisive, clinical final ball, but Crewe played some entertaining stuff.
As the minutes ticked away, it was about keeping that clean-sheet. When Kirk was adjudged to have made a back-pass that took a deflection and the referee awarded an indirect free-kick just inside our box, you could see the desire and determination to make blocks and protect the goal. Wigan had two bites at it but we cleared it.
In the final 10 minutes, the excellent Ainley and Mandron were handed rests for Lowery and the returning Porter. Crewe kept the ball really well and controlled the game throughout.
In stoppage time, Gavin Massey dragged a shot well wide, more out of frustration than anything. It was one of those afternoons for the Latics but Crewe were top drawer for the majority of the game.
Crewe: Richards, Ng, Pickering, Daniels (Beckles), Offord, Wintle, Powell, Kirk, Mandron (Porter), Ainley (Lowery), Murphy