Crewe Alexandra: Lauri Dalla Valle double sinks Crawley Town
LAURI Dalla Valle's quickfire brace ensured the Alex returned to winning ways – and gave boss Steve Davis belief his team can challenge at the top end of the table.
The on-loan Finn netted his third and fourth goals of his short stay at Gresty Road as the Alex cruised to victory with a second-half performance as dominant as their first-half showing was inadequate.
The Railwaymen have now lost only one of their last seven games and Davis hopes results like this and the midweek 3-3 draw at Sheffield United will help convince his players they belong at the business end of the table.
Davis said: "This win was very important. This week's results have given us the belief that actually we're not a bad team and we should be in that top seven or eight of the league.
"It is a young team and we won't get carried away. I targeted 30 points by Christmas and we are nearly there, so I am delighted with our progress.
"They knew when they came in at half-time that I was going to say some unpleasant things and they were ready for it. They knew they could do better.
"I don't know what it is about our first-half performances. They always respond to my half-time talks, so maybe I need to do my half-time talks at the start of the game."
Crewe could have been behind straight from the kick-off.
Mark Ellis misjudged Nicky Adams' low cross, but Matt Tootle was on hand to block Michael Jones' goalbound back heel.
The loose ball rebounded to Gary Alexander, but the striker's drive hit the post and flew to safety.
The Alex regained their composure and Fulham loanee Dalla Valle poked Chuks Aneke's centre inches wide.
Byron Moore then found Mathias Pogba in the box, but the winger misjudged his sidefooted effort.
The ball fell to Moore, who produced a much better effort, although keeper Paul Jones kept it out with his feet.
The visitors started to exert more pressure and it took some last-ditch blocks from the Alex rearguard to keep the scores level.
Adams was the source of some quality deliveries for the visitors, but Mark Connolly and Alexander failed to find the finishing touches with the goal at their mercy.
Crewe threatened sporadically and Tootle dragged wide from 25 yards and Dalla Valle was off target with a volley from the edge of the box.
Ellis saw a goalbound header clawed away by Jones and Luke Murphy crashed the rebound against the crossbar when he should have scored.
But the home side took control when Dalla Valle headed in Murphy's 62nd-minute free-kick.
The Finn got across his marker and flicked a superb finish over the keeper and into the top corner.
The striker doubled his account three minutes later when Aneke's superb through-ball found Moore and the winger's miscued shot was snapped up from close range by Dalla Valle who had instinctively chased the move into the box.
Minutes later Dalla Valle fired over when he was well placed to complete his hat-trick.
But he wasn't the only one guilty of missing chances as Crewe could easily have ended the game five or six goals to the good as Murphy shot wide, Abdul Osman headed over and Pogba chipped into the side-netting.
Crawley manager Richie Barker said: "The first half everybody was really positive, but the second half I was struggling to pick out anybody.
"If there's a game that proves that no two halves of football are ever the same, that is one of those games.
"I was positive with my players at half-time. But in the second half, the conditions got a little bit worse with a stiff breeze and we never really got going.
"Nicky Adams was providing some good deliveries into the box, but we didn't create any clear-cut chances from any of them – there was just no desire to get on the end of them.
"Their lad got across his marker and on to the end of something. That is what we should be doing. You deserve your luck if you get across your man."