Crewe's recent unbeaten home record goes as Alex gift wrap matchball for Burton's Kane Hemmings.
Crewe Alexandra’s proud unbeaten run of 11 games at home came to an abrupt end this afternoon. Burton had the game won just after the half an hour mark thanks to a hat-trick from Kane Hemmings, but Crewe simply gifted the goals away against an in-form Burton Albion side that are really building some momentum under Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink in League One.
Hemmings’ first goal arrived after just ten minutes via a Tom Hamer long throw-in into a crowded penalty area.
The second saw him take advantage of a rare defensive slip from Omar Beckles to race through and fire through Dave Richards and he then completed his treble after he intercepted a loose pass from Rio Adebisi to get ahead of Beckles once again to calmly slot away his and his team's third.
Following the 1-0 win over Doncaster Rovers in mid-week, it was no surprise that David Artell named an unchanged starting XI for the visit of Burton Albion. A fit-again Callum Ainley was named on the substitutes’ bench for the first time since recovering from the hamstring injury he sustained back in late November against Cheltenham Town in the FA Cup. Daniel Powell missed out after failing a late fitness test.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink named the former Crewe players, Ben Garratt and John Brayford, in his Burton starting line-up.
After a fairly tight ten minutes, Crewe gifted the opening goal of the game to Hemmings from a long throw-in. Crewe failed to deal with the bounce and suddenly Hemmings found himself in front of Richards. His first touch wasn’t a clean contact but he was permitted a second chance and managed to divert it past the Alex goalkeeper from close range. It was an awful goal to concede.
Moments later, the on rushing Richards came out of his area to clear and was rather fortunate that Ryan Edwards couldn’t direct his half volley on target.
Crewe were uncharacteristically not assured enough in possession and chasing an equaliser were trying to force the issue too much.
On 16 minutes, we produced our best move of the first half to finally unlock a stubborn Burton defence. After Sean Clare mis-hit a clearance out to the left wing, Charlie Kirk and Tom Lowery combined to lay on a chance for Murphy and his side-footed effort needed a superb tip around the post from Garratt to deny him a first goal on his return to the club. It was a fine stop from our former goalkeeper.
Minutes later, Murphy was presented with another decent chance inside the Burton box but got underneath it and sent it sailing over the crossbar.
Crewe continued to give the ball away too much and Richards had to collect a bouncing shot from Jonny Smith before Dale tried to squeeze a header in at the far post.
Burton were gifted their second goal on 23 minutes. Lucas Akins flicked on a goal kick from Garratt and Beckles tried to lean and chest the ball, but in process trying to avoiding his arm, and that allowed Hemmings to steal in behind him. The sharp number 9, kept his composure before drilling it through the legs of the advancing Richardsurton' for his second.
Hamer’s long throw-ins continued to be a nuisance and Burton's work ethic and high press made it hard for us to get any real rhythm into our play and passing. It wasn’t quite coming off and it was game set and match, just after the half an hour mark.
Adebisi tried an ambitious pass cross across our own back-line and it didn’t quite have enough purchase on it to reach Beckles. A grateful Hemmings read it too easily and raced through again to net an unforgettable first half hat-trick for himself. Crewe had gift wrapped him the match ball and it was so unlike us.
Crewe had an absolute mountain to climb and a goal in the first half could have possibly given us a slight lifeline but Garratt confidently came to collect crosses and he tipped one over from Ryan Wintle. Dale couldn’t quite stretch enough to reach a header from Lowery’s far post cross.
Kirk also had a late looping header aimed back towards Mandron but Garratt collected it well. Crewe were finding difficult to create clear openings.
Lowery had an early shot saved at the beginning of the second half as Crewe tried to get that goal to get us back in the encounter. Dale was also halted by Brayford as he threatened. Pickering also shot over from distance.
Burton’s pressing continued and Sean Clare’s dipping volley forced Richards into an early tip over.
Unsurprisingly, the changes came from the Alex boss with Kirk and Murphy making way for the returning Ainley and Porter.
Ainley showed some nice touches on his return and soon after his introduction, a forceful run from Lowery saw him hit the by-line but his cross destined for Dale as cut out by Akins.
More changes occurred from the Alex gaffer with Walker and Evans on for Wintle and Dale.
Crewe huffed and puffed, loaded the Burton box whenever we could with crosses - but those genuine opportunities never materialised. We didn’t test Garratt enough throughout the afternoon.
Burton remained solid in defence and protected their clean-sheet. In fact they should have had a penalty when Beckles looked to have fouled Burton’s substitute Michael Fondop, who had replaced the match winner, Hemmings - but referee Graham Sailsbury waved away the appeals. It looked a dead cert inside the Stadium.
Burton continued to win the majority of the aerial duels in their box and Lucas had a shot blocked well by Adebisi as they threatened to find a fourth goal.
It was a rare off day for the Alex, especially defensively but credit to Burton Albion who thoroughly deserved the points and worked hard to contain the Railwaymen on our home patch.