Crewe punished late on at the KCOM Stadium and left to rue missed chances again.
Crewe Alexandra were left to rue missed opportunities once again as a late header from Mallik Wilks gave Hull City all three points at the KCOM Stadium. Crewe once again deserved more after another encouraging performance, but we are learning the harsh realities of League One where that extra quality at certain moments proves the ultimate difference.
The match winning quality eventually came from Hull City’s substitute Thomas Mayer when his left-footed cross was guided home by Mallik Wilks in the 81st minute.
It was extremely harsh on Crewe, who had three great chances to score in the first 45 minutes when we were on top. Firstly, Owen Dale was denied in one-v-one situation before Oli Finney had a shot blocked in a great position after he had been found by his captain just inside the box. The third great chance saw Finney in behind but his low cross was just ahead of Mikael Mandron.
It was another case of taking chance when on top, as Wilks punished us late on. It was back-to-back wins for the Tigers, who won their opener away at Gilingham.
David Artell named an unchanged side for Crewe Alexandra’s first visit to the KCOM Stadium since March 2006. That ended in a 1-0 defeat to the Alex as well thanks to a goal from Stuart Green.
Artell named the same 18 man squad that were beaten 2-0 on the opening day of the league season to Charlton Athletic a week ago. Although all the club’s injured players are making significant progress, none were under consideration for our first away trip of the campaign in League One.
Hull City’s first real venture into the Crewe half of the pitch saw Mallik Wilks use his upper body to clear a pathway to goal on the edge of the penalty area, but Luke Offord stood firm to block his well struck effort.
Crewe were being pressed all over the pitch but continued to pass the ball with purpose and move up the pitch with patience. Crewe had a couple of early free-kicks in promising positions but the accuracy of delivery was lacking and we couldn’t force a chance on Matt Ingram’s goal.
From a Hull City corner from the Alex right, George Honeyman tried to catch out Jaaskelainen with an audacious effort that was dipping under the Crewe crossbar until the young Finn managed to get his fingertips to it and divert it over for another corner.
On 13 minutes, Crewe were presented with another free-kick in a familiar position on the right. After a short delay over the malfunction in the assistant’s earpiece, Murphy’s better delivery eventually dropped to Mandron and on the swivel, he shot tamely at the Hull goalkeeper.
Three minutes later, a powerful run from Josh Magennis saw him hit the by-line and his cut back was perfect for Wilks. He looked destined to open the scoring but Jaaskelainen did ever so well to rush from his line and make a fantastic save.
Crewe almost immediately went up the other end and took the lead ourselves. Crewe utilised the great pace of Dale to get him in behind and in a one v one situation the winger saw his low drive pushed behind for a corner by Ingram. It was a great chance and Dale knew it by his reaction.
That chance did prompt a spell of good possession for Crewe and after Oli Finney slipped in Charlie Kirk, his cross had to be headed clear by the diving Jordy de Wijs.
Just after the half an hour mark, with Crewe upping the tempo, a superb move saw Finney break in behind again and his tempting cross across the six-yard was ahead of the flying Mandron. At sort of touch from the Alex striker, would have resulted in that first goal.
Moments later and Crewe pressing forward more often, Mandron flicked a header from Pickering over the top. De Wijs did likewise at the other end for the Tigers.
Three minutes before the interval, Crewe produced another fantastic move down the right. A wonderful touch from Dale, sent Ng clear and into the Hull box and his clever pull back was perfect for Finney. He took a touch and picked his corner, but his slight delay allowed his shot to be blocked. From the resultant corner, Beckles thought he was impeded at the far post but his strong appeals fell on deaf ears.
In truth, Crewe arguably didn’t want the half time whistle to come, but we had a late scare at the far post when Wilks used his strength to get another shot off but it was deflected up and behind for a corner. On this occasion, it was Hull’s turn to appeal for a penalty after a challenge from Dale - but again nothing given.
Dale showed attacking intent again in the opening exchanges of the second half but his cross was just about cut out before it reached Mandron. It was encouraging how we kept getting in behind.
The confidence continued to grow and Crewe’s build up play was purposeful and accurate. Defender De Wijs and captain Richard Smallwood were booked for a foul on Mandron as the Akex continued to press looking for that key opener.
An entertaining contest went into a bit of a lull with a few stoppages for soft fouls and offside decisions, but another carved out chance involving Kirk and the overlapping Kirk saw Murphy bravely head just wide on the hour mark.
That was enough for Hull’s head coach, Grant McCann, and he made a double substitution on 63 minutes with summer signing Thomas Mayer and James Scott introduced for Lewis-Potter and Magennis. Grant was looking for a change because Crewe looked the more likely as we entered the final stage of the game.
With Hull becoming frustrated, Callum Elder was booked for dissent after he fouled Perry Ng by our own touchline.
Jaaskelainen was forced into his first save for a while when he had to push away a free-kick from Smallwood. He also had a let off when Crewe hesitated at a deep free-kick but De Wijs with his clear header sent it wide of the target.
With 15 minutes remaining on the clock, Ainley was introduced for Finney.
Crewe’s shape had been excellent all afternoon but a wonderful cross from debutant Mayer unlocked us with 9 minutes left. His left footer delivery found the movement of Wilks and he guided his header past a helpless Jaaskelainen to break our resolve.
Mayer was sooner booked a bad challenge on Pickering and time was running out for Crewe. With that time slipping away, the legs of Lundstram and Zanzala were introduced for Dale and Murphy.
Crewe’s best chance to salvage something from the game saw a late chance for Omar Beckles but he directed his free header too close to Ingram and the Tigers held out for the points. Their relief at the final whistle was evident because Crewe had given them a right game.
Crewe Alexandra: Jaaskelainen, Ng, Pickering, Beckles, Offord, Wintle, Kirk, Mandron, Finney (Ainley), Dale (Lundstram) , Murphy (Zanzala)
Subs not used: Richards, Lancashire, Sass-Davies, Johnson