Posted: 20.11.21 at 19:28 by Gwyn Griffiths
DAVE Artell should get a good night’s kip ahead of his 41st birthday on Monday.
His players delivered some early good wishes with their best performance since beating Burton back on September 18 – Crewe’s only other success this term – and offered the faithful hope that a successful relegation battle can still be mounted.
They were too good for Gillingham whose boss Steve Evans said he was making do without eight players he’d have started. Nevertheless, whatever the visitors' problems the high intensity Artell’s players sustained throughout a one-sided first half would have been enough to blow away stronger sides today.
Chris Long’s well-worked early effort could and should have been added to so as to ease the passage. The Gills hit the woodwork both sides of the interval and were still in contention, pressing gamely in the closing stages until Tommy Lowery’s delightful give-and-go allowed the midfielder to seal the three points in stoppage time.
Artell admitted: “One win doesn’t make or break a season. But will I get eight hours of sleep tonight? I hope so. This has got to be the start of something and while it’s not going to be plain sailing we’ve got to make sure we go about our work and if we do we can beat teams like Gillingham.
“We could have been 3-0 up at half-time. They hit the post twice, but we had numerous chances in both halves. We could have scored a lot more than two today.”
Evans likened the visitors’ pre-match meal to a school kids' outing because his absentees left him falling back on youth, but Crewe’s back three was equally youthful for an afternoon set up tussling with big John Akinde.
Billy Sass-Davies had the measure of the imposing striker, who scored the only goal of the game on his last visit. While fellow Welshman Zac Williams was equally impressive in only his third senior start.
Crewe started on the front foot with Rio Adebisi and Long forcing saves out of Jamie Cumming.
It was a strong first-half showing from Artell’s men in stark contrast to recent offerings. And when Cumming was caught out by Adebisi’s lofted cross, Kashket relayed the ball back from the back stick for Long to smash into the roof of the net for the 11th-minute opener.
Kashket may have added a second when Long played him through, but the angle was against the attacker and Cumming was able to divert the ball around the post.
While Akinde was kept quiet there were moments of concern around the 35th-minute when Luke Offord miscued his clearing header from Ryan Jackson’s long throw forcing Dave Richards to palm over.
The resulting corner was allowed to slip straight across to Jack Tucker, who fortunately applied a rather casual touch and the ball veered off the far post.
Oli Finney was on for the start of the second half in place of Madger Gomes, who reported feeling ill at the break.
Crewe survived another scare when teenager Harvey Lintott’s header from a corner floated onto the far post with Richards then smothering the rebound from Gerald Sithole.
Long should have made the game safe when Kashket cut the ball back into his path but the frontman glanced the top of the bar with a rising drive.
As Gillingham pressed in the closing stages while their travelling fans directed their ire at Chairman Paul Scally, Crewe were able to counter at will and sub Mikael Mandron should have done better after striding 30 yards only to plant the ball straight into Cumming’s gloves.
Right on cue Lowry sealed victory (90+1) after combining with Chris Porter to ensure a lengthy stoppage time was played out with no dramas.
Gillingham boss Evans said: “We weren’t good enough in the first half, but in the second we were. We created three or four opportunities to equalise.
“The positive to take from the game was how young we were. We sat at the pre-match meal and said it was like taking school kids for an outing.”
Crewe’s first win in 11 games: Psychologically this will be a huge fillip to a side lacking in confidence as a succession of draws has been followed by defeats. The gap to safety is down to five points and the win kept Gillingham within touching distance while basement rivals AFC Wimbledon, Shrewsbury and Fleetwood all lost too.
The emergence of Billy Sass-Davies and Zac Williams: Crewe have been let down by some of their experienced defenders this term. Sass-Davies, 21, and Williams, 17, looked like they had been playing at the back for a couple of seasons, and not like in Williams’ case a handful of games.
Chris Long is putting a slow start behind him: The former Fleetwood and Motherwell frontman could have added to his tally. But he was quick of feet and thought to pose Gillingham a lot of problems and Crewe will hope he can continue to make his mark.
Crewe: Richards 8; Sass-Davies 8, Offord 7, Williams 8; Kashket 8, Murphy 6, Gomes 6 (Finney 5), Lowery 7, Adebisi 8 (Thomas 5); Long 7(Mandron 4), Porter 6.
Subs: Jaaskelainen, McFadzean, Griffiths, Knight.
Gillingham Cumming; Jackson, Tucker, Ehmer, Akehurst (Lintott); O’Keefe, McKenzie (Gbode), Adshead (Carayol), Phillips; Sithole, Akinde
Subs: Chapman, Gale.
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