Solid Alex Take Points
Lee Barnard, on a 6 month loan from Tottenham Hotspur, scored a debut goal to help Crewe to a good 3 points over Huddersfield Town. Eugen Bopp sealed the win before half time, handing Huddersfield their first league defeat of the season.
It was a solid defensive performance from the Crewe back five, including Ben Williams between the sticks. Despite being bombarded with crosses for 90 minutes, they stood firm to deny Huddersfield of any notable clear cut chances.
At the other end of the pitch, Lee Barnard introduced himself to the Alex faith with his first touches of the ball. Showing his intent inside the first two minutes of the match, he had a good shot blocked on the edge of the area.
Fans knew instantly that the 23 year old Spurs striker may well be the answer to our striking problems. His enthusiasm with his quick thinking movement and excellent touch offered more than the rather inexperience Tom Pope.
It was rather inevitable that Barnard would open the scoring, and he did so 16 minutes in. He took superb through ball from Gary Roberts, his 3rd assist of the season, in his stride, breaking away from the Huddersfield defence. Bearing down on goal he only had to beat the keeper, and he did so stroking it into the bottom right corner.
Barney wasn't going to settle with one. In Crewe's best period of the game, he could have had another two. Continually breaking free from the Huddersfield defence, he found space to the right of the Crewe area and fired a clever shot to the inside of the keeper's near post. Unfortunately, the keeper was equal to it, pulling off a fantastic one handed save. It wasn't long after that he was through again, only for the Huddersfield keeper to deny him again.
Gary Roberts was then given a chance when Glennon in the Town goal was a bit too eager coming out of his area, the ball found Roberts 35 yards out from an open net. However, in a rush he completely spooned his shot wide.
Crewe's game settled down for a bit and Huddersfield began to see some more of the ball again. However, the defence were proving how far they've come since last season and restricted Huddersfield to limited chances. Their best of the half being a Mirfin header from a corner being superbly tipped over the bar by a confident Williams.
Up the other end, Billy Jones' left foot caused problems for Huddersfield. A free kick from the right flank was cleverly taken by the former Exeter man as he saw his shot whizz inches past the far post, leaving the keeper stranded.
With the second half drawing to a close, it seemed to be heading for a 1-0 half time score. However, a long ball down the left saw both Bopp and Glennon go for the same ball. Arriving at the same time, a 50/50 tackle dropped Bopp's way and with the keeper stranded Bopp calmly passed the ball into the net from 25-30 yards out.
At half time it left the Crewe section rather happy. Not only had we taken the lead first for the first time in a league game this season, we were also quite comfortable with it.
That was much the story of the second half. Crewe seemed content with the 2-0 scoreline and asked Huddersfield questions, only to get no response. Balls were whipped into the area but they could be tidied up all day by the excellent O'Donnell and Baudet in the centre. At full back, Jones and Woodards limited the Huddersfield wingers to cross from deep, never allowing them to the byline.
Chances were few and far between for both teams in the second half. Ryan Lowe's pace would never let him run clear of the Huddersfield defence, and he was left to shoot from distance and not really testing the 'keeper. He also provided some width up front, allowing Gary Roberts to get forward in attacks, unfortunately on one ocassion Roberts couldn't quite connect with Lowe's cross. The slightest touch from Roberts would have meant a certain goal.
The game never really livened up for Crewe till a 70th minute substitution with Byron Moore coming on for Eugen Bopp. Moore began showing why he's this season's academy breakthrough, making excellent runs down the left wing and linking up superbly with Lowe and Barnard. It certainly livened up the crowd anyway.
Whilst Huddersfield generally dominated possession, they were left to 30 yard bobbling shots, never really testing Ben Williams. In a way, they mirrored out attack from the past month - if you can call it an 'attack'.
Lee Barnard continued to 'be around', keeping the ball up the right end of the pitch for good periods but a 3rd goal clearly wasn't the true ambition as the clock ticked down.
After Barney went off to a standing ovation, the game was to have just one more talking point. The impressive Byron Moore linked up well with Rix and Lowe and he was soon clear on goal. However, as he reached the edge of the box a tackle from behind saw him tumble. The referee pointed to the ball, to say it was a clean tackle although convinced most in the ground he'd given a penalty.
It was debatable whether it was a penalty or not. To me, it could have been given either way. The ball was half won but at the price of bringing Moore down. I think the referee didn't want to have to produce a red card when the game was simply dying out.
So Crewe took their second win of the season, and a fairly impressive one. Whilst we didn't dominate or demolish Huddersfield, we got the goals and then stood firm. Huddersfield never really had a meaningful shot on target thanks to excellent defending by the back four and last ditch blocks going in all through the second half.
Today saw the start of a real tough spell of five games against real quality opposition, all who you'd expect to be in the top 10 or so by may. Next week sees Doncaster on Sunday afternoon, a pre-season favourite for promotion. It's here we will find out if we really are up to the challenge of a play-off push, or better. Can our defence hold firm against the best the division can throw at us? And will Barnard continue to find the goals.
Ben Williams 8/10
Billy Jones 8/10
Danny Woodards 9/10
Julien Baudet 8/10
Danny O'Donnell 8/10
Neil Cox 7/10
Steven Schumacher 7/10
Gary Roberts 8/10
Eugen Bopp 7/10
Ryan Lowe 8/10
Lee Barnard 8/10
Byron Moore 7/10