Alex lose opening league game of the season to two first half goals from Charlton.
Crewe Alexandra’s first game in League One since 2016 ended in a 2-0 defeat to Charlton Athletic. First half goals from Alfie Doughty and Conor Washington proved to be the difference as the Addicks showed that clinical edge to take their chances when they came.
Crewe created some good chances though that could have changed the complexion of the contest with Perry Ng firing over from a corner inthe first half and Mikael Mandron smacked the crossbar with 10 minutes remaining after Charlie Kirk had pulled the ball back to him.
It was the Railwaymen’s first encounter with the Addicks since January 2000 when both sides were battling it out in the Championship and there were two divisions between the two clubs last season. Lee Bowyer’s experienced and impressive side will be aiming to get out of League One at the first attempt.
Defender Luke Offord returned to the starting line-up after overcoming his slight groin problem. The Crewe youngster partnered new signing Omar Beckles in a Crewe back-line that also included the returning Perry Ng as captain.
Regular goalkeeper Will Jaaskelainen returned from international duty with Finland to replace Dave Richards.
To complete the six changes, Luke Murphy, Ollie Finney, Charlie Kirk all returned to David Artell’s starting XI after all being rested against Bolton Wanderers on Tuesday evening.
The former Crewe forward, Chuks Aneke started on the bench for the Londonders.
Crewe almost made the perfect start to the new league season with Ng shooting just over from 25 yards out in the first minute. It was a tremendous effort from the Alex skipper.
Charlton soon settled into the stride though and Jaaskelainen had to rush from his line to deny Conor Washington from getting onto a long ball. Minutes later, Alfie Doughty drilled a low shot that was deflected behind for a corner.
After the ball broke to Charlton on the edge of the Crewe penalty area, Finney did well to block a shot from Alex Gilbey before Jaaskelainen held a shot from Washington.
Crewe played some encouraging football though and it was just that final ball into the box that prevented us from really testing Ben Amos in the first half. Finney just failed to control a bouncing ball as he raced through the centre of the pitch and Murphy did call the Charlton goalkeeper into a straight forward save when he registered a shot on target.
The deadlock was broken on 24 minutes with Crewe hit on the counter attack. The Alex were making inroads into the Charlton half but an ambitious flick from Finney didn’t quite reach Kirk and Gilbey’s instant pass in behind Wintle sent Doughty away down the left.
Doughty drew Jaaskelainen to where he wanted him and slotted it into the far corner for the opening goal of what had been a fairly even opening.
Crewe created a chance to equalise just three minutes later from a Kirk corner from the left. His deep ball was headed back by Mandron and at a stretch Ng sent it over from a good position. It was our best chance of the half.
Kirk and Ng combined with an interchange of passes across the pitch before the Alex number 10 shot over before Charlton doubled their lead three minutes before the interval.
Doughty was again involved in the initial build up but after his run was halted by Pickering, his clearance was put back in by Charlie Barker and after a headed contest dropped to the edge of the box, Adedji Oshilaja won his header first up against the retreating Murphy and Wintle and Washington away from Beckles tucked home the second with relative ease.
Crewe tried to get on the front foot quickly in the second half with Wintle forcing Amos into an early save. Moments later a fantastic ball from Pickering found Mandron but he couldn’t quite get the ball under his spell when under pressure from the advancing Amos. If he had controlled it, it was a good opening.
There was a strong shot for handball after Kirk and Finney combined inside the box but referee Sailsbury waved away the appeals. It was better from Crewe and the pressure on the Charlton goal continued.
A cross from Dale just had too much on it for Mandron to control it inside the six yard box before Amos made a fine save to push a header from the Frenchman after Beckles had headed a Wintle cross on to him.
Artell made some changes with Murphy making way for Ainley and then a double change introduced Lundstram and Zanzala for Finney and Dale. Charlton introduced Aneke for Washington.
Crewe continued to press, looking for that goal that could have made a game of it. Kirk shot straight at Amos as did Ainley after being found by Kirk inside a crowded box. Pickering also dragged a shot tamely at the Charlton goalkeeper.
A wicked cross from Dale only needed a touch before Mandron struck the crossbar with 10 minutes left after fine work from Kirk. His side footed effort deserved more.
Charlton came through that spell of concerted pressure and could have added to their 2-0 scoreline with the impressive Gilbey having a firm shot blocked. Aneke also had a half chance blocked when his presence created a little opening out of very little.
If Crewe had found that goal it could have made it interesting in the closing stages. A through ball from Crewe’s best performer on the day, Ng, released Lundstram after a fine break from midfield but his lob cleared the top of the bar.
The last kick of the game saw Kirk curl his free-kick on the top of the netting and Amos had his clean-sheet and his team had the first three points of the season.
Crewe: Jaaskelainen, Ng, Pickering, Beckles, Offord, Murphy (Ainley), Wintle, Finney (Lundstram), Kirk, Dale (Zanzala), Mandron.
Subs not used: Richards, Sass-Davies, Lancashire, Johnson