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17:13 6th August 2011

Report: Town 3 Crewe Alexandra 0

Goals from Callum Kennedy, Oliver Risser and Aden Flint sealed what turned out to be a comfortable 3-0 for Town at home to Crewe Alexandra on the opening day of the 2011/12 season.

The afternoon could have panned out very differently for Paolo Di Canio's side, had their visitors converted one of a host of first half chances, but in the end a fortuitous penalty award of the stroke of half-time, and a clinical second half performance sealed the points for Town. The hosts controlled much of the early possession, but could have found themselves behind after just six minutes as both David Artell and Shaun Miller were denied by Phil Smith in quick succession. 

The 'keeper moved sharply to firstly deny Artell's back post header, before reacting quickly to smother Miller's follow up. The visitors then began to dominate proceedings, with Town looking uncomfortable at the back and struggling to gain control of possession for any length of time. They went close again after 16 minutes, as Joe Devera slipped on the edge of his own box, allowing Nick Powell to surge goalwards, but Smith was again on hand to keep the score at 0-0, diving bravely at the striker's feet and blocking his effort.

It took until the 27th minute for Town to fashion an opportunity, as a neat passing move ended with Callum Kennedy crossing for the lively Matt Ritchie, but his back post header well off target. After what had been a lacklustre start, Town began to find some impetus, but it was still the visitors who looked the more threatening of the sides. And they squandered a golden opportunity to take the lead, as Devera nodded the ball straight into the path of Powell, who had time to slide in Danny Shelley, but the winger blasted over from eight yards out when he really should have done better. Shelley was in the thick of the action again minutes later, as he blasted a 25-yard free-kick inches wide with Phil Smith rooted to the spot.

Just as Town looked set to be clinging on to level terms before the break, they nearly snatched the lead on two occasions. Firstly Michael Timlin sliced an 18-yard volley towards goal which Steve Phillips did well to tip over, before the veteran 'keeper was in action again seconds later, denying Billy Bodin's side-footed effort from the resultant corner. The young Welshman was heavily involved as Town proceeded to take the lead on the stroke of half-time, latching onto a Raffaele De Vita through ball, before taking a tumble under pressure from David Artell. What had looked like an honest tussle for the ball ended with referee Michael Naylor pointing to the spot and booking the Alex skipper, much to the understandable consternation of the visitors.

Up stepped Callum Kennedy to send Phillips the wrong way, and with the final whistle sounding moments later, Town somehow went into the break a goal to the good. Town started the second half brightly, and might have added to their lead eight minutes into it, as Michael Timlin floated a deep cross to the back post, where Matt Ritchie rose well, but headed wide under pressure. Despite largely dominating possession, the hosts still looked susceptible at the back, and were nearly exposed as Byron Moore showed quick feet to cut inside Kennedy and shoot, but his deflected shot drifted just wide of the post with Phil Smith stranded.

But it was Paolo Di Canio's side who were beginning to wrestle the initiative, and when they doubled their lead through Oliver Risser after 59 minutes, it came as little surprise. The ball had ping-ponged around in the Alex box for a number of seconds before it eventually came to Risser 20 yards from goal, and the skipper - largely anonymous all afternoon - cushioned it on his chest before guiding an excellent volley into the top corner. Town looked comfortable from then on, and might have stretched their lead after 75 minutes, as substitute Alan McCormack drifted a pinpoint cross onto the head of Ritchie, but the winger headed over when he should have hit the target. But it was three minutes later as Aden Flint capped a fine performance by nodding home a Callum Kennedy cross from six yards out.

It was over as a contest from then on, Town brimming with confidence and seemingly far superior to their visitors - a turn of events that could not have been in starker contrast to the first half. Town could have extended their lead late on as McCormack and fellow substitute Ferry let fly from distance but the home fans were made to settle for a 3-0 victory. The visitors would be within their rights to point to the controversial penalty award on the stroke of half-time as a turning point in a match they had controlled up until then, but in truth Town dominated most of the second period and took their chances which, in the end, made them good value for their victory.

    Data provided by Press Association