Accrington score from four set-plays as Crewe suffer another defeat on the road.
Crewe Alexandra had no answer to Accrington Stanley’s set-piece routines this afternoon as John Coleman’s side scored four times from them at the Wham Stadium.
Defender Ross Sykes helped himself to a brace with two headers from corners and Tommy Leigh also headed home from a free-kick delivered from the influential Accrington captain, Sean McConville.
The home side’s number 11 added his own name to the scoresheet when electing to go for goal himself at a free-kick. His shot squirmed past Richards to leave Crewe conceding four goals for the second time in the week. Dan Agyei scored a late consolation goal to register his first goal for the club. Agyei deserved his goal for his efforts.
Crewe conjured up a limited number of chances in the game but Scott Robertson did have a great chance to level things up in the first half after going one-on-one with Toby Savin, but he shot wide of the target. Substitute Chris Long was denied a late consolation goal by a smart save from Toby Savin before Daniel Agyei did get one late on after a defensive mix-up allowed him to tap into an empty net for 4-1.
Crewe Alexandra lost Tom Lowery and Billy Sass-Davies late on through illness and injury, so David Artell had to readjust his starting line-up for the trip to the Wham Stadium. Crewe reverted back to a back three with Travis Johnson and youngster Connor O’Riordan coming into the starting line-up. New signings, Tariq Uwakwe and Ryan Alebiosu operated as the two wing-backs.
David Richards returned in goal for the Alex after missing the last two games against Gillingham and Plymouth Argyle.
Scott Robertson and Regan Griffiths returned to the Alex midfield and Chris Porter led the front line with new signing Daniel Agyei. With Luke Murphy starting on the bench, Porter captained the side.
The former Crewe loanee defender and promotion winner, Michael Nottingham, started for Accrington Stanley.
In the early exchanges, it was as expected a competitive affair with Crewe defending their box well to repel any early chances, but after six minutes, the home side conjured up the first chance of the afternoon for midfielder Ethan Hamilton, but his fierce drive from just outside the penalty area cleared the crossbar.
A couple of minutes later, Richards collected a looping header from under his crossbar from Tommy Leigh.
From a 10th minute corner taken by Uwakwe from the left, Porter acquired enough space to free himself and his powerful header just lacked the accuracy to force Toby Savin into his first meaningful save of the afternoon.
Two minutes later, Accrington Stanley took the lead from a corner of their own. There was a slight delay, as the officials searched for a replacement ball and after one was eventually found, Sean McConville’s corner to the far post was forcefully buried by the head of defender Ross Sykes. Crewe had been punished by the set-piece.
Richards was forced into a smart save to push away a downward header from Korede Adedoyin before Agyei was booked after slipping and colliding with Hamilton on 16 minutes.
On 22 minutes, Crewe went direct and so nearly created an equaliser. Richards elected to hit it longer and after Porter won his aerial dual, Harper’s instant through ball released the run of Robertson. The on-loan Celtic midfielder ran beyond the home defence and as Savin came out of his goal to oppose him, the midfielder could only screw his shot into the side netting. It was a desirable opening for the Railwaymen and perhaps Robertson should have elected to have lobbed him.
At the other end, the Accrington captain, McConville drifted off the by-line before curling a shot just wide of the far post.
Crewe had begun to get a foothold in the contest and there was certainly a loud appeal for a penalty when a Robertson cross seemed to be blocked by an arm. The referee pointed for a corner instead much to the disbelief of a number of the Alex players and certainly the away support behind that particular goal.
Matt Butcher was cautioned for pulling down Agyei as he threatened to make inroads into the Accrington half of the pitch. From the free-kick, Crewe played it short and worked it to Griffiths and his whipped over cross was headed over by Agyei from a fairly long way out.
Crewe were allowing too many crosses to enter our box and with six minutes of the half remaining, we escaped conceding a second from a McConville free-kick. Griffiths was a bit unfortunate to concede it on the edge of our box for a trip on the energetic Hamilton. The Accrington skipper clipped over a tempting delivery and Nottingham really should have scored with his header. Thankfully for Crewe it bounced the wrong side of Richards’ right hand post.
With a minute of the half remaining, some tenacious battling from Robertson saw him reclaim possession and find Porter. The veteran striker took the chance on early and fired straight at Savin from the edge of the Accrington box.
Five minutes into the second half after Rekeem Harper had conceded a foul, the home side took full advantage once again. McConville produced another quality cross from the left and the towering Leigh rose above everyone else to head past Richards for 2-0. It was so straightforward and Crewe couldn’t deal with Accrington’s superior height.
Accrington made the first change of the afternoon on 58 minutes with Seamus Conneely replacing Butcher. Moments later, the home side’s dominance in the air resulted in the third goal and it was Sykes again heading home far too easily from a corner. Crewe had failed to deal with Accrington’s aerial threat all afternoon and the game was away from us again before the hour mark.
Almost immediately, Crewe’s first substitution saw Callum Ainley come on for Harper.
On 64 minutes, after Nottingham was fouled on the edge of our box, McConville went for goal himself from the free-kick and Richards couldn’t keep him out at his near post and another disastrous start to the second half saw Crewe 4-0 down and in despondent mood.
On 68 minutes, Porter and Alebiosu were replaced by Long and Murphy.
McConville made way with 20 minutes remaining for Marcel Lewis. The contest was well and truly dead and Accrington went in search of more goals. It was damage limitation time and wanting the final whistle.
In the closing stages, Crewe enjoyed spells of possession, as Accrington dropped off and allowed us to come onto them.
Griffiths had a long range effort blocked by an onrushing Accrington body and Long was denied by Savin as Coleman and his defence demanded a clean-sheet from what turned out to be too much of a routine win for them. They didn’t get it because deep into stoppage time, Daniel Agyei helped himself to a consolation goal after a defensive mix-up. He kept going and deserved that individual reward.
With 15 games remaining to salvage our League One status, it is becoming more of an impossible task with each passing match.