Lee Johnson's impressive side punish Crewe for mistakes with two goals in each half at Mornflake Stadium.
Sunderland inflicted a 4-0 home defeat on Crewe Alexandra this evening as our early season struggles continued in front of a gate 5,449 at Gresty Road. The Alex started well enough but were our own worst enemies on the night with the cheapness of the goals we conceded. Terell Thomas turned a Alex Pritchard cross into his own net for the opening goal on 25 minutes before Ross Stewart headed the first of his two goals on the night with a close range effort that gave Will Jaaskelainen no chance.
It got worse for the Railwaymen in the second half, conceding from another set piece corner to Stewart and then conceding another stemming from our own corner that was emphatically finished by Leon Dajaku on the counter attack.
The performance was certainly better from the Alex than the disappointing one produced at Fleetwood on Saturday but the way we conceded the goals had the alarm bells ringing.
David Artell made four changes to the side that lost 3-0 to Fleetwood Town at the weekend. Crewe returned to three at the back with Donervon Daniels returning to the starting line-up and Kayne Ramsay coming in at right wing-back. Oli Finney missed out in the reshuffle.
Chris Long, who came on as a second half substitute for Scott Kashket on Saturday, replaced him in the starting line-up. Mikael Mandron led the line against his former club with Chris Porter named amongst the substitutes.
Under the lights, it was a super atmosphere and it raised Crewe Alexandra’s early passages of play. Crewe started positively, snapping into tackles and attempting to press Sunderland as high up the pitch as we could. From a high press, Christopher Long tried an ambitious header when the ball went loose and it was encouraging stuff.
It was Sunderland though who created the first two big chances of the evening. Will Jaaskelainen tipped a header from Tom Flanagan over the bar via a corner and the club’s Finnish goalkeeper then pushed away a shot from Alex Pritchard after he had been found by the influential Sunderland skipper Aiden McGeady.
It was end-to-end stuff early on and after robbing possession from Callum Doyle, J’Neil Bennett shot straight at Ron-Thorben Hoffmann and Long did likewise with a more powerful drive.
Murphy was leading by example and with Robertson alongside him, there was a real tempo to our approach and the half chances continued for Crewe. Long found the over lapping Ramsey and his firm effort hit the back of Dennis Crikin before Bennett had another shot on the turn.
Robertson went closest with a shot from the edge of the box that bounced just wide of the right hand post. Ramsey also shot just over from a tight angle.
The game swung back into Sunderland’s favour and it was the visitors’ turn to conjure up some genuine chances. Jaaskelainen made another good stop to deny Pritchard and Daniels had to be alert to halt the danger when O’Brien should really have connected with a long ball over the top. That was certainly a chance missed.
With chances coming for both sides, it was no real surprise that the deadlock was finally broken on 25 minutes. Pritchard drilled over a low cross and Thomas could only turn it past his own goalkeeper for an own goal. It was a disappointing way to concede but you also have to credit Pritchard for his decision to smack the ball across our six yard box and cause the upheaval.
Sunderland went for the jugular. Two minutes later, Ross Stewart flicked a header just wide from McGeady’s corner. During that spell, Crewe lost their passing way and started hitting too many long balls searching for the head of Mandron. For a period, it gifted Sunderland possession back too easily and the pressure told.
The second goal duly arrived on 32 minutes and Johnson’s side showed their quality down the left hand side of our box to carve us open. O’Brien was involved and the alert Stewart got across to head home from close range.
Crewe were facing an uphill task and needed a break in the game. McGeady’s skill looked like unlocking Crewe at will. One fantastic ball found O’Brien at the far post but we couldn’t quite turn it on target and his momentum took him into the Gresty Road End.
Sunderland controlled the half and Crewe needed the half time whistle. Dan Neil shot straight at the Alex goalkeeper as they went in search of a killer third goal.
Sunderland started the second period as they ended the first with Carl Winchester shooting from distance before he was booked for a foul on Bennett. He was soon joined in the book by Dennis Cirkin.
Crewe went in search of a goal that could have made a difference. Offord was denied from a Long cross before Johnson’s side went up the other end to end the contest. It was so easy too with the towering Stewart helping himself with a tap in at the far post from a Pritchard corner. It was over as a contest after 55 minutes. Pritchard soon made way because of injury and was replaced by Leon Dajaku.
Crewe’s best chance of the entire evening, deserved a goal. Bennett flicked a fantastic ball in behind for Mandron and he was denied a goal against his former club by a superb finger tip save from Hoffmann.
Before the hour mark, Artell made changes with Kashket and Gomes on for Bennett and Long. Gomes soon had a shot deflected behind for a corner and Kashket to his credit ran his socks off to try and create something.
The third change from Artell saw Billy Sass-Davies for Thomas but barely a minute after the change, Sunderland broke away to score a fourth goal on 73 minutes. It came via a Crewe corner and after we failed to take enough care in possession around the edge of our box, they broke with purpose and Dajaku carried the ball for nearly the duration of half before dispatching it past a helpless Crewe goalkeeper.
It was really damage limitation time for the final period of the game. Crewe kept going, kept trying to pass the ball but we were limited to long range efforts from Murphy and Ramsay as Sunderland managed the game out.