Goals in each half from Long and Lowery seal three points for the Alex!
Crewe Alexandra recorded their second league win of the season with a deserved 2-0 win over Gillingham. An early goal from Christopher Long set us on the way to three points but we had to wait until the dying minutes for a decisive second goal converted by Tom Lowery after a fantastic passing move that opened up the tiring Gills.
It was no more than Crewe deserved but we also had scares during an entertaining encounter at the Mornflake Stadium. The visitors hit the post twice through Jack Tucker and substitute Harvey Lintott.
Crewe also hit the crossbar through the excellent Long after Scott Kashket had picked him out. There were also good chances for Kashket, more for Long and a late one for Mika Mandron before Lowery sealed it.
Veteran Chris Porter was recalled to the Crewe starting line-up, partnering Chris Long up front. Club captain Luke Murphy returned for the suspended Scott Robertson. The on-loan Glasgow Celtic midfielder sat out the first of his three-match ban as a consequence of his off-the-ball challenge at Bolton Wanderers last Friday night.
Following his latest involvement with the Wales Under-21 squad, defender Billy Sass-Davies regained his place in David Artell’s starting XI alongside his fellow Welshman, youngster Zac Williams, and Luke Offord.
Scott Kashket was preferred on the right flank as Artell went with a more attack-minded formation. Callum McFadzean dropped back down to the substitutes’ bench.
Steve Evans had his own injury concerns and could only name five on his own bench. Crewe’s former forward, Vadaine Oliver, was not deemed fit enough to face his former club at the Mornflake Stadium.
It was evident that Crewe wanted to get off to a positive start and set the pace. Long spun early and had a shot deflected behind for a corner. From Gomes’ low hit corner, Rio Adebisi stole a yard and forced Jamie Cumming with a near post shot.
After 5 minutes, Kashket roamed off his wing to put Long through on goal but his fierce shot was too straight at the well positioned Gillingham goalkeeper.
It took the visitors’ 10 minutes to really stay for any sustained period in our half of the pitch and that was because Murphy and Lowery conceded needless fouls. Robbie McKensie bend one of them wide of Richards’ right hand post.
A minute later, Crewe deservedly took the lead. Richards deserves great credit for his clipped pass into midfield to find Gomes in space. The ball was worked superbly to the far post and Kashket arrived to tap it back across the goal and Long poached home his second goal for the club from close range. It was a well crafted goal and Artell made a point of praising his goalkeeper for his vision and execution of pass.
There was a loud shout for a Crewe penalty when Billy Sass-Davies had his shirt pulled at a Murphy corner. Referee Blackhouse gave the free-kick the other way.
Kashket and Long continued to terrorise the Gillingham left hand side and the two combined again on 17 minutes but Long’s low cross just evaded Porter and then Gomes.
Akinde showed his strength and awareness to run into the left hand side of our box and set up Daniel Adshead but Sass-Davies stood firm to take one in the face.
Some of the football Crewe played was a lot better and we looked dangerous every time we went forward, especially down the Gilingham left hand side.
On 27 minutes, it should really have been 2-0. A swift counter attack from the Alex saw Long release Kashket through the middle and the hard working forward looked odds on to double our lead but after virtually rounding Cumming, the Gills goalkeeper got something on it to take it behind for a corner. It was certainly a chance wasted.
Kashket and Long were really effective and the Crewe midfield continued to bite into tackles and get the ball back when we lost it. Murphy led by example with the armband.
On the half an hour, Adebisi flashed a shot just wide from the edge of the box and Gomes dragged an effort wide. A clever dummy from Kashket saw Long then find Lowery but he was just outmuscled this time by Tucker.
It was Crewe looking the most likely to score again and Evans made an early change with Lintott introduced for Askehurst. It was a logical switch to help that side of the pitch.
Gillingham actually the better of the late first half chances with Akinde looking offside and forcing Richards into another smart save at the foot of his post and from the corner that shouldn’t have been given, Tucker turned the ball against the foot of the post. The first half ended with a flat ball. The contest was all but flat.
David Artell made a change at half time with Gomes forced off with illness. Finney replaced him. There was an early booking for O’Keefe after he clattered into Murphy.
Chasing a goal, Gillingham certainly got on the ball more and with the one goal in it, it was nervy at times. Crewe played too short at times and Gillingham created some half chances. Linnott hit one against youngster Williams before his header from a corner looked to have levelled things up on 63 minutes. He rose highest to head Adshead’s corner and it looked like it was going to drop in, but it struck the foot of the post and Akinde and Sithole couldn’t force the loose ball home. Richards dived on it to make another key save.
Moments later a forceful run from Lowery saw him lay on a chance for Long and he forced Cumming into another decent save. Finney saw his follow up shot blocked.
Crewe had to dig in at times and work our socks and the players did it to the letter. Murphy cut out a dangerous cross from Ryan Jackson before Adebisi headed a Lowery cross into the side netting.
With 10 minutes remaining, Long smashed a shot off the Gilingham crossbar after Kashket had found him after Murphy got on the ball and got us playing again.
With the minutes ticking away, Artell used the fresh legs of Mandron for the hard working Long and Kashket made way for defender Thomas as it headed to stoppage time.
Mandron nearly sealed it with a forceful run that saw him carry it almost the length of the pitch before Lowery did seal it in stoppage time. It was such a Crewe-like goal. Murphy inevitably was involved and he released Finney, who in turn found Lowery. The busy midfielder played a clever one-two with Porter before tucking home his second goal of the season via the foot of the post. It was a mighty relief to see it hit the back of the net and seal those three points.