Crewe Gatecrash Play-Off Spots
A fantastic 3-0 win over 3rd placed Wycombe Wanderers at Gresty Road saw the Alex leap into 5th, hitting the play-off spots for the first time this season.
The comfortable New Year's Day win over Northampton swiftly followed by the crushing defeat of Shrewsbury Town, their first on the own patch this season, raised expectations going into arguably our toughest game of the season. We certainly lived up to them.
Wycombe went into the game on a six match winning streak and, results dependent, the chance to go to the top of the table with a win. Even with us in form we probably weren't quite favourites.
There was no letting up from last week though. We were our sprightly selves from the off although, but for a few half chances, offered nothing in front of goal.
It took Wycombe a good 20 minutes to find their rhythm and catch up with the pace of the game. The duo up front in Stuart Beavon and Scott Rendell certainly caused a few worrying moments, forcing Rhys Taylor into some top drawer saves.
The best chance of the first half undoubtedly fell to Clayton Donaldson when Luke Murphy provided a killer ball to put Donaldson clear. All Donaldson needed to do was dink it over the onrushing keeper, which he did only to see the ball bounce inches wide. As we know too well though, Donaldson needs a warm up before he really starts playing.
The warm up proved useful in the second half as the Railwaymen came out even livelier, smelling blood. The impressive Byron Moore, who was my Man of the Match, added to Wycombe's problems as they struggled to deal with the pace of Miller and Donaldson.
Moore twice went close, seeing a shot - or perhaps it was a mis-hit cross - tipped onto the cross bar as it looked to be looping over the keeper's head. He wasn't quite as close though when he tried to curl one into the top corner from the edge of the area.
Then the floodgates opened as Donaldson and Miller finally started to unlock the Chairboys defence in what seemed to be every attack. The opening goal arrived on 70 minutes, after being fed the ball by Miller a run by Donaldson into the box saw him wrong foot two Wycombe players before firing past the keeper from the edge of the 6 yard box.
Unlike at Shrewsbury, 1-0 wasn't a lead we wanted to sit back on. In fact we wasted no time in doubling it. Substitute Danny Shelley was this time provider as, just 60 seconds after the first, Donaldson broke on the counter attack and smashed it low into the keeper's bottom right corner from the edge of the box.
It was a sucker punch for Wycombe and they failed to muster anything worthy in reply, although it's fair to say they did have the lions share of the possession as they looked for a way back into the game.
However, the game was over as a contest five minutes from time when Donaldson turned provider for Lee Bell to try and curl one in. Belly's shot was tipped onto the post by Bull in the Wycombe goal but it came back straight into the path of Shaun Miller who converted into an open net from six yards out.
A 3-0 win over a promotion favourite and the Alex moved into 5th - one place and four points behind Champions elect Port Vale FC. It's funny how Alex fans have been so disgruntled over the course of the season yet still remain on Vale's tales, who are, apparently, all be certainties to go up.
Next up is Torquay. Anything from that game will mean a win on Saturday against Vale will take the Alex above the Burslem club, but a win at Torquay would also see the Alex really cement a place in the top 7, moving four points ahead of 8th place with 8th & 9th on equal amount of games played.
Out of nowhere, these are suddenly exciting times for the Alex.... but still a long way to go!