Goals from Mandron and Finney inside the first 20 minutes seals first league win of the season.
Two goals in 20 minutes gave Crewe Alexandra their first three points of the season in League One this afternoon. A headed goal from Mikael Mandron and a well taken finish from Ollie Finney gave the Alex a thoroughly deserved victory over the MK Dons at Gresty Road.
Crewe were excellent in executing the game plan and the only real negative was that we didn’t add to those two goals with the amount of really good chances we created. The result should have been more comfortable than it was - but boss David Artell will be pleased once again with the high level of performance and the number of opportunities created in the 90+ minutes.
At the other end of the pitch, Will Jaaskelainen and his defenders deserved their clean-sheet as well with our Finnish stopper not troubled too often. It was a fairly comfortable afternoon for the Alex and we should have killed the game off totally in the first 45 minutes but we couldn’t just force home a third.
With performance levels branded acceptable in the opening two league games against Charlton and Hull City, it was no surprise that David Artell named an unchanged side for the visit of Russell Martin’s MK Dons.
After completing 45 minutes for the club’s Under-23s against Birmingham City on Tuesday, midfielder Tom Lowery returned to the 18-man squad. Lowery replaced Travis Johnson on the substitutes’ bench.
The MK Dons pride themselves on long spells of possession and started promisingly, winning a couple of early corners but Crewe defended well and cleared the lines.
After a tentative start from the Railwaymen, Crewe were soon on the front foot. Luke Murphy found Mandron and his ball released a lively Dale down the right hand side and his low cross was blocked for a corner by Baily Cargill.
The opening goal for the Alex duly arrived after 13 minutes. Kirk switched play to find his captain Ng and he instantly fed Wintle on the overlap down the right wing. Wintle produced a superb delivery into the MK Dons box and Mandron ghosted ahead of his man to direct his header past Lee Nicholls for Crewe’s first league goal of the season. It was well crafted goal to give our summer signing from Gillingham his third goal of the campaign following his brace against Bolton Wanderers.
Crewe continued to get in behind MK Dons’ back three and wing backs with relative ease but we were punished by a few offside flags and the decision making with the final ball. A wonderful run from Kirk nearly saw him walk the ball in but he elected to try and find the advanced Finney with a pass instead of getting a shot off.
We didn’t have to wait too long for the second goal though. Dale’s through ball into the box was collected by Finney and he adjusted his body perfectly to set himself up and dispatch past a helpless Nicholls for 2-0 on 20 minutes. It was no more than Crewe deserved after controlling those early passages of play.
We continued to press and win the ball high up the pitch and we did look likely to score again every time we did in their half of the pitch.
When Beckles was called upon to defend, he was well placed to clear ahead of Callum Brittain but MK Dons didn’t have the opportunity to threaten our goal.
Crewe went in search of a third goal before the half time interval. A low cross from Pickering only needed a touch from Mandron and Finney, who both flung themselves at it. Finney also nearly found the hard working Mandron with a similar ball.
Mandron did have the ball in the back of the net again but on this occasion it was chalked off for offside.
The Alex should have been heading into the break with at least another one or two goals in the bank.
Martin’s MK Dons had a spell in the early exchanges of the second half. They again forced a couple of corners before Ng was penalised for a foul in a good position for the visitors but Ben Gladwin fired his effort into the wall and it deflected behind for a corner.
The away side’s best chance of the whole game saw Joe Mason make strides into the Crewe penalty area and although under pressure from Pickering, he managed to poke a shot goalwards and Jaaskelainen did well to stand tall and turn it behind for a corner. Cargill also whipped over a low cross right across a busy six-yard box but no-one in white took a chance.
Crewe survived that early period of pressure and soon regained control of the game. There were too many soft fouls going on and too many stoppages that interrupted the rhythm at times. Finney was booked for pulling a shirt before he was replaced by Lundstram but before he was he had a glorious chance to add a second after breaking the offside trap but instead of passing it to the supportive Dale, he went himself and saw his drive turned behind by Nicholls. It really should have been the third goal.
Another flowing move from the Alex via our own goalkick was wonderful to watch. Three passes later from Ng, Dale and Finney had send Kirk through and after checking back, his shot was blocked. It would have been some goal.
The game was drifting out to be a comfortable win for Crewe but we were desperate to add more goals in the closing stages. Ainley replaced Dale, who looked to be struggling with a dead leg.
Pickering slipped Kirk in on goal but he side footed just wide of the far post. Kirk then created an opening for the left-back but Pickering lifted his shot over the top of the crossbar.
The chances kept on coming and Mandron shot straight at Nicholls after Lundstram had pinched the ball back high up the pitch.
Crewe’s clean-sheet was protected in the dying minutes after a bit of a melee in front of Jaaskelainen but he waited patiently before pouncing on the loose ball.