REPORT FROM CREWE SITE
Five Star Show At Field Mill
Crewe Alexandra moved up to fourth in the Second Division table with an emphatic 5-0 victory at the Field Mill Stadium. It is no exaggeration to suggest that if the Alex had been more clinical in front of goal they could have netted double figures against a Mansfield Town side restricted by injuries.
Crewe boss Dario Gradi would have been delighted to see five different goal scorers on the score-sheet. They included a first senior goal from Richard Walker and first of the new season for Stephen Foster and Kenny Lunt. Rodney Jack, who was the main reason that Crewe went in at the interval three goals to the good, scored the goal of the game with a ferocious shot, created Walker's at a set piece corner and then ran Mansfield's defence ragged for Hulse to tap him home his third of the season. This was the Crewe Alexandra we had all been waiting for.
It was a lively start from Crewe and Stuart Watkiss' depleted Mansfield side found it increasingly difficult to get hold of the ball in the midfield areas and control the influential Lunt. The Crewe-born midfielder was outstanding throughout the match and fully deserved to complete the glutton of goals on 65 minutes with his beautifully struck free-kick. Watkiss was fuming that his midfield failed to track the forward runs of Lunt and with a returning Sorvel and a busy Brammer supporting him defensively, the creativity of Lunt, the pace of Jack and the brawn of Hulse destroyed them within the first 45 minutes.
In fact, it was a brief spell of just 8 minutes that saw Crewe romp into a 3-0 lead. Before Walker's opening goal on the half-an-hour mark, Crewe had been awfully wasteful in front of goal and the watching Dean Ashton must have been as frustrated as everyone to watch three glorious chances go begging. If selected I'm sure the young striker would have got off the mark.
Jack tested former Manchester United trainee Kevin Pilkington in the 5th minute, firing in a shot, which the Stags keeper did well to push over the top. Then in the 12th minute, Lunt blazed the first real chance of the afternoon over the top of the stand after Hulse cleverly headed David Wright's fantastic cross into the path of Lunt.
A minute later and Jack was again tormenting the Mansfield defence with his pace and directness. He glided past three defenders, leaving them lagging behind before feeding the unmarked Little, who in turn wriggled his way into a shooting position. Pilkington did well to push his effort away - but with Hulse and then Lunt forming an orderly queue to give Crewe the lead, they stumbled over their own feet and the chance was lost.
When Mark Lever managed to throw himself in front of another Jack effort on 29 minutes you sensed that it could turn out to be another one of those days. Thankfully, from the resulting corner, the Alex finally broke the deadlock. Jack headed Vaughan's cross back into the danger zone and Walker was on hand to thump home his first senior goal.
Six minutes later and Crewe extended their lead when another clever through ball from Lunt was executed with extreme power by the inspirational Jack. The St. Vincent international was never going to be caught for pace but with his angles limited he had to go for power and to be honest Pilkington did quite well to get his hand to it. It was hit with such venom that the keeper had little chance of keeping it out of his net.
Three minutes later and with the confidence oozing from every player, Jack went on another of his trademark runs. He destroyed Lever for pace down the right wing before trying to pick out the supportive Lunt in the 6-yard box – but Pilkington looked to have the ball in his grasp, before for some bizarre reason deciding to leave it and when the ball popped up at the feet of the grateful Hulse, he couldn't believe his luck and stroked it into an unguarded net for 3-0.
The first-half, which was completely dominated by a rampant Crewe ended with Colin Little drilling yet another effort into the arms of Pilkington, who must have more grateful than most to hear the half-time whistle soon after.
His rest-bite was extremely short-lived though because his first touch of the second period was again to pick the ball from the back of his net. The second half was just three minutes old before Foster's determination and bravery saw him stoop to head home a Lunt free-kick at the far post. The travelling Alex fans behind the goal were simply loving it. “Alex going up” they sang throughout this emphatic display, but of course now isn't the time to get too carried away. We were a different class to newly promoted Mansfield - but there is still a long way to go.
Colin Little, making his first start of the season in place of the unlucky Ashton was desperate to add his name to the tally and he was rather unfortunate to see two goal bound efforts blocked, once strangely by the 'every-where' Jack!
The only real blemish on the day was the booking of Walker for a tug on Andy White's shirt – it was in fact our first and as yet only caution of the season. It appeared a bit harsh on the young defender too, because it certainly looked as if both players were at it. From the resulting free-kick Neil Mackenzie tested if Ince was actually still awake with a low drive that somehow went past the Crewe wall.
Lunt acquired his deserved goal with just 25 minutes remaining. He originally won the free-kick some 25-yards out, picked himself up and bend it superbly low into the net for his first goal of the campaign. It was a wonderfully struck free-kick by the youngster and when he was taken off as a precaution with just over 10 minutes remaining, the ovation he received was completely justified. Lunt has his critics but on this display he may have silenced a few of them.
It is a bit unfair to select individuals from such a convincing performance – but Brammer in the second-half was immaculate and a special word of praise for unsung Neil Sorvel, who did the dirty jobs efficiently throughout the game.
Hulse should have grabbed his second with 20 minutes left but found himself a little off balance after Pilkington had saved his original effort and then the substitutes nearly got on in the act with Steve Jones heading into the arms of the busy Mansfield keeper and John miles nearly outdoing everyone with a cleverly disguised curler and then an adventurous effort from distance. But hey, we were happy with 5-0.
Crewe: Ince, Wright, Vaughan, Foster, Walker, Lunt (Bell), Brammer, Sorvel, Jack (Jones), Hulse (Miles), Little
Dario Gradi : 'Its Been A Good Day'
Dario Gradi praised his side as they romped to a 5-0 away win at Mansfield. It was the first time the Alex had scored five on their travels since we did the same to West Brom at the Hawthorns back in March 1999.
Dario told crewealex.net: "Its been a good day and I'm very pleased with the way we performed. I think the big difference was that more players played to the standards we know they can. Most of them had their best performance of the season today.
"Kenny Lunt was fantastic in midfield and I continue to pick him because he is a good player and his attitude is great. I also thought Dave Brammer had an outstanding second-half, he did precisely what we asked him to do, but there were a lot of good performances today.
"Their tactics suited us perfectly because they were very bold and played with three at the back. I like to attack that way with the two wide men and Rodney (Jack) was certainly the match winner in the first-half. They couldn't cope with him and the chances came our way.
"We may have missed a few but it is better to miss them that not be in there at all.
"They changed the way they played in the second half as we expected, making it more difficult to create chances - but I still think we had a considerable number in the second-half.
"It was a strange first-half because we scored three but that was only because they were bold and tried to attack us with four strikers. The defence did well to cope with that threat and our three did better than their three at the back.
"I just told them that the game wasn't over at half-time and that if they continued to play this way, we would get more chances, but to be honest I didn't think Mansfield were too bad.
"Their forwards certainly caused us a few problems and I really thought they were decent against Stockport when I went to watch them. Andy White is deceptive, strong and was a real handful.
"It was our best performance of the season and it was good to have five different goalscorers and to score from the set-plays we had been working on. We set out to raise the tempo of our play and it worked. The players out worked them and we could have scored even more."
Latest | August 2002