Crewe Alexandra return to winning ways with a win at home to Accrington Stanley.
Omar Beckles grabbed his first goal in an Alex shirt to contribute to a valued 2-0 home win over Accrington Stanley. Whilst Chris Porter also helped himself to a goal against the 10-men of Stanley.
Beckles opened the scoring just after the half-hour mark courtesy of a Nathan Baxter mistake, before the Railwaymen were helped along the way as Harvey Rodgers was sent-off inside the opening five minutes of the second half for denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
A two-nil win rather flatters the visitors, but yet again the final product and cutting edge in the final third was to blame in an encounter packed with opportunities to increase the deficit.
Crewe Alexandra boss David Artell made two changes to the side that lost in stoppage time at Swindon Town on Saturday afternoon.
After nursing a long-term hamstring injury, Donervon Daniels, replaced Travis Johnson at right back. Chris Porter also returned to the starting line-up in place of winger Owen Dale as Artell reverted to an adaptable four-four-two formation.
Accrington boss, John Coleman named the former Alex loanee defender Michael Nottingham in his starting line-up.
Crewe couldn’t quite get a grip of the game in the opening quarter of an hour with Stanley registering the first opening of the game inside the first five minutes. Adam Phillips found himself just inside the penalty area but could only fire wide of the target.
Just after the halfway mark of the first half, the Alex began to create opportunities down both sides of the pitch with Donervon Daniels crossing an enticing ball across the six-yard area, only needing a touch to open the scoring.
Soon after, Kirk and Pickering combined for the skipper to fire a cross across the six-yard box, but the onrushing Porter was inches away from turning home.
On 32 minutes, the Alex pressure took its toll on John Coleman’s side as the Railwaymen opened the scoring. Kirk controlled possession along the left by-line and fired towards the near post, Stanley managed to scramble the ball to the edge of the area only for Beckles to drive a low driven effort through the flurry of Stanley bodies.
With Artell’s side switching to a Four-Four-Two formation rather than their usual four-three-three it was interesting to see whether Kirk would manage to find space down the left flank.
Likewise, it was to no surprise that the usual left sided partnership of Pickering and Kirk troubled Accrington full-back, Harvey Rodgers. Just before the interval, Pickering nicked possession off Rodgers and released Kirk one-on-one with Nathan Baxter, but the winger struck a tame effort at the Stanley number one.
The final action of the half saw Tom Lowery cautioned for delaying the restart of play.
Half Time: Crewe Alexandra 1 – 0 Accrington Stanley
The visitors made a change at the break as they looked to regain a hold on the game. David Morgan replaced Adam Phillips.
Meanwhile, a red card for John Coleman’s side five minutes into the second half meant that his tactics were scrapped, and Stanley had to play out the remaining 40 minutes with 10 men.
Harvey Rodgers was sent for an early shower after he was adjudged to have denied the Alex of an obvious goalscoring opportunity. Mandron sent Kirk on his was one-on-one with the full back who could only bring the winger down just outside the penalty area.
Likewise, Tariq Uwakwe replaced Sean McConville in midfield to try and steady the ship.
Despite the Lancashire side down to 10-men they conjured an immediate opening, it was route one football as Baxter launched the ball from one penalty area to the other and Colby Bishop latched on to his kick but could only lash his volleyed effort wide.
It was certainly a half chance for the visitors.
Instantaneously, at the opposite end Kirk slipped in veteran striker Chris Porter behind the Accrington defence finding himself one-on-one with Baxter but the veteran striker couldn’t convert as the Chelsea loanee saved low. Lowery latched onto the rebound but from an acute angle volleyed over, clipping the woodwork on the way through.
The game certainly began to open up and chances were appearing at either end of the field.
It was route one once again from the away side, another long ball which Dave Richards looked to have comfortably collected only for the Welshman to spill possession, but a succession of blocks from the Alex defence relieved the Crewe stopper from being red faced.
Though, from the hour mark onwards it was the Railwaymen who controlled possession as Porter once again came close, but Baxter stood firm between the sticks. Ryan Wintle tried his luck from range before Mikael Mandron looked to curl an effort into the corner but, the Stanley stopper was there again to maintain the one-nil scoreline.
Frustration began to creep in for some as Mark Hughes was cautioned for Accrington.
Midfielders, Luke Murphy and Wintle started to find space in centre-field with the former Leeds United outfit unleashing a fierce effort from range but nothing to troubling for Baxter.
With just over 10 minutes left to play the Alex doubled their lead, a cushion that was greatly received as the Railwaymen were creating chances all over the field but lacked that cutting edge in front of goal.
It was neat play out on the right flank from Tom Lowery who manoeuvred his way past his marker before crossing a pinpoint, low driven pass across the penalty area and to the feet of Porter who tapped home.
Coleman reacted with a third substitution for his side as Seamus Conneely was replaced by Jonathan Russell.
The final action of the 90 minutes saw Pickering and Wintle come close, the skipper caught his edge of the area effort sweetly before Wintle’s whistled just past the post!
Full Time: Crewe Alexandra 2 – 0 Accrington Stanley
Man of the match: Omar Beckles