Crewe Alexandra 2 Swindon Town 1: match report
STEVE Davis insists he can feel the belief growing in his squad after the Railwaymen fought back and clung on to a hard-earned three points.
Raffaele De Vita nodded the visitors in front, but Byron Moore found the net twice before the Alex survived a second-half battering to claim their first victory in three games.
While Moore's mature, direct and strong performance suggested a player coming of age, it was goalkeeper Alan Martin and his back four that eventually stole the show.
Gresty Road has seen many grandstand finishes, but this was a grandstand second half with the visitors camped in the Alex box, but somehow failing to find a way through a back four that refused to be breached under relentless pressure.
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Davis said: "Every point in this division is hard earned, but none as much as that.
"Results haven't been going our way and I think one or two of the players were starting to doubt themselves at this level.
"But the fact we fought back to get a result on Saturday and then we have done it again shows they have belief and it is growing and it will do their confidence a world of good.
"I've waited two years for Byron to get in at the far post like he did for his first goal so I am delighted for him. He needs to get into double figures if he wants to kick on and prove himself at a higher level.
"There were good performances all over the pitch, but our back four and keeper were magnificent. Every one of them could have got man of the match and they were like a brick wall."
Chances were non-existent for the opening 20 minutes with both defences dominating.
The Alex had a glimpse of an opportunity when Town keeper Wesley Foderingham smacked a clearance against Moore and the ball span across the face of goal, but the keeper managed to recover and clear before Mathias Pogba could pounce.
The game got the goal it needed with 25 minutes on the clock. Tommy Miller's pinpoint free-kick found De Vita who rose unmarked and clipped a header into the far corner of the net.
It took the Railwaymen just four minutes to level. Michael West, making his Alex debut, whipped in a sublime cross, Pogba just failed to connect, but Moore arrived at the far post to bundle the ball home.
Crewe could have been out of sight within minutes if it wasn't for Foderingham. Chucks Aneke glanced Moore's cross goalwards only for the keeper to somehow claw the ball around the post for a corner.
Aneke met the resultant corner with a thumping header from six yards only to be thwarted again by another impressive save from the Town keeper.
The Alex did take the lead four minutes before the break. The influential Aneke was again at the heart of the move, slipping a perfect ball to set Moore free. The winger cut inside, beat Troy Archibald-Henville and chipped over Foderingham for his second of the game.
Town twice went close to restoring parity before the break, but Collins drilled just over from 25 yards before Mark Ellis produced a stunning block to deny the striker when he looked certain to level.
Joe Devera then saw a looping cross tipped onto the crossbar by Alex goalkeeper Martin before the stopper pulled off a wonderful one-handed save to keep out former Crewe winger Gary Robert's volley.
Kelvin Mellor headed wide for Crewe in a rare foray forward, but it was all Swindon, with Martin diving low to keep out Devera's turn and shot before parrying another goalbound effort from Roberts as Crewe hung on.
Swindon boss Paolo Di Canio laid the blame for the defeat at the feet of skipper Alan McCormack and the club's transfer embargo.
He said: "We showed desire and quality in the second half, but Alan McCormack made mistakes which cost us in the first half.
"The embargo counts a lot as well as we have spent 45 minutes in their box and couldn't score.
"This team is capable of winning 10 games in a row, but it also capable of losing 10 games in a row because a lot of people need a rest.
"We need a striker, but we also need someone in midfield who can create as well as others so we can save players' energy."
"The club knows my idea that I would love to have an academy like Crewe. They have five or six 18-year-olds they can bring in that are strong and skilful.
"When our squad is thin like it is now I could play a few youngsters too and it would help."