At last...an away win!
Oh what fun it is to see the Alex win away!
It's even better that it came without too much fuss. Listening to the radio on the way back from Southend on how several sides dropped two or three goal leads in 10 goal thrillers was quite sweet after these last few weeks. I'll be quite content with a rather drab 2-0 and the three points.
Yesterday's win could have been no simpler. Southend were about as poor an outfit as we've faced this season, it's no surprise to see Paul Sturrock, their manager, pretty angry having witnessed it. Toothless (and clueless) in attack and shaky in defence, they never managed to trouble a Alex defence which was suffering with sub zero confidence. That's not to say we were particularly great; it's fair to say that our passing and movement had Southend on their backsides at times but as an overall display we helped make it a poor affair. Let's just say the neutral wouldn't have been returning to League Two football in a hurry.
Possession wise we were in comfortable control for a good 70% of the game but, for the first half at least, struggled to really get a clean chance on goal. We got a lot of joy down the right, exploiting the Southend left back Johnny Herd, who has recently been on trial at Reaseheath, but crosses weren't quite finding their target whilst Donaldson and Westwood wasted a couple of good free headers.
Then came a dreaded penalty. Donaldson chopped down in the box and the referee immediately gave it. I'm starting to join the opposition in their protests because Crewe Alex and penalties just do not mix; it was proven again when Ashley Westwood stepped up and smashed the crossbar in a similar fashion to Lee Bell last week. We've only scored four of the last 12 penalties we've been given, apparently. It's an appalling record that will cost us, even if we're getting ourselves off the hook at the moment.
The penalty miss proved why we need to be sticking them away; it was a lift that Southend needed. Their fans perked up and they started to sense blood. Not that much came of it, the Shrimpers best chance of the game actually came just 10 minutes in when Westwood had to whack the ball off the line after Anthony Grant's shot had Rhys Taylor well beaten.
At half time, Dario made the surprising decision of taking off Danny Blanchett, who had had a steady first half, in place of Mat Mitchel-King. It didn't turn out to be a forced change, as assumed, instead Dario had de died to shake up the formation in response to Southend's 3-5-2 set up. It gave a chance for Mitchel-King to show what a useful player he's become, he put in a good showing and its good when you have a player who can put in a good performance anywhere along the back four as well as in midfield.
The change seemed to allow us to just open up Southend that little bit more and the long in coming goal finally came 10 minutes in. Luke Murphy provided a peach of a ball from the centre, over the top of the Southend defence and onto the head of Clayton Donaldson, who nestled it just inside the bottom right corner of the Southend net. Southend came back with the typical home-team-1-0-down-response but it was less of a storming come back and more of a whimper, nothing challenging Taylor to a great extent.
Just as it looked like we were going to see out the game for 1-0'er, the Southend 'keeper gifted us the clincher. Another Luke Murphy cross, this time from the byline, baffling the Southend keeper and his defender on the line it found it's way through to Shaun Miller, who just let it bounce off him into the empty goal.
We may know how to throw away a lead but this one wasn't for being thrown. Southend pressured to little joy whilst we were happy to knock the ball about and see down the clock. After a few minutes of injury time the whistle finally blew and we finally had our first away win of the season on the board. It also marks 10 unbeaten and, perhaps more importantly, the end of five straight draws. Everything is looking a little sweeter once again, 10th in the league and two point off the play offs also makes for easier reading on a Sunday morning.
It perhaps wasn't the most spectacular of wins or performances, every player did their job and no player disgraced themselves. It could be just what we needed though, a comfortable no nonsense win to help us drop the drawing habit and pick up the winning habit.
It's Aldershot at home next week; a good solid side who aren't easy to break down but, as with any game at Gresty Road, it is certainly winnable. It's the beginning of a tough few weeks though, Aldershot, Vale and Shrewsbury all currently sitting in the top six. Not that we have anyone to fear and a good five or six point return wouldn't be too shabby, in my opinion.