A second half hat-trick from Crewe Alexandra’s 6ft 2” summer signing Vadaine Oliver helped ensure a win in a pre-season friendly over local rivals Nantwich Town.
The forward was only brought on at half time but had a profound impact on the final score line, bagging his first treble for the club.
The sun shone down amidst clear skies at the Weaver Stadium on Saturday afternoon as a crowd of 928 waited for the game to kick off.
The Alex started with a strong line-up, with Guinean striker Mathias Pogba returning to the side after playing a bit-part role in the match against Leek.
Crewe also started with regulars Steve Phillips, Mark Ellis and Max Clayton amongst academy graduates and trialists as the Alex were put to the test in a tough encounter.
Meanwhile former Crewe Alex academy player Harry Clayton, brother of Max, was upfront for Evo-Stik Premier League’s Nantwich Town.
Immediately, Crewe seemed eager to get back to winning ways after a 1-0 defeat to Leek Town the previous night.
The first half was albeit it a tense performance, with the Clayton brothers coming the closest for both sides.
For the Dabbers, Harry Clayton squandered a good opportunity. Nantwich had three-on-one, however, Thierry Audel and Steve Phillips managed to pressure Harry into blazing the chance wide of the post after Aaron Burns had squared the ball to him.
Crewe’s own Max Clayton struck from near 25 yards several minutes later, forcing Terry Smith into a smart save to deny the 18-year-old the opener.
Young Max was unlucky again after attempting to take the ball past Smith following a superb pass from Michael West, Smith was able to deal with the threat and again denied the young England international.
Nantwich had more clear cut chances as a lapse in the Crewe defence allowed Aaron Burns a free header which he wasted, putting a good cross from Adam Carden over the crossbar.
Moments later, Tom Moore tested Steve Phillips with a quick free-kick. Phillips managed to narrowly push the shot past the post as Nantwich failed to capitalise on their pressure.
The ball was in the net before the whistle as Mathias Pogba scored the rebound from a Michael West effort, but Pogba was ruled offside by the match officials.
Despite the score remaining 0-0, Crewe had several positives to take from their performance so far. Lee Molyneux, whom recently signed from Accrington Stanley, was active in the first half, with several decent attempts on target. In the centre, young midfielder Liam Nolan put in a composed performance.
Despite several stray passes, Mark Ellis was effective as he protected the Alex back line comfortably with several aerial clearances and standing tackles throughout the early stages. Crewe’s number 7, Billy Waters was also heavily involved in the first 45.
The Alex’s performance had only lacked some composure in front of goal.
This problem was clearly identified by Steve Davis before the interval, who opted to switch Max Clayton and Mathias Pogba for Sam Winnall and Vadaine Oliver.
The substitution would turn out to have an instrumental impact by the game’s conclusion. Only one minute into the second half, Sam Winnall rose to get on the end of a corner to make the score 1-0 to the away side.
Just minutes after the deadlock had been broken, former Lincoln striker Oliver threatened, as he hit a shot a matter of inches wide of the post.
Crewe began to really impose themselves on the game as trialist Winnall unselfishly squared for Oliver to smash the ball into the net to establish a comfortable 2-0 lead.
Winnall was very impressive and had now gained a goal and an assist for his efforts.
This prompted more changes from Davis as he opted to replace those fatigued from the sweltering Cheshire heat.
Thierry Audel, Mark Ellis, Billy Waters and Michael West all made way for Dugdale, Abdul Osman, Ollie Turton and George Ray.
After the substitutions, Vadaine Oliver struck again to increase the Railwaymen’s lead over the Dabbers to 3-0. It had looked likely the ball would run past him, a wonderful acrobatic improvisation received applause from all four corners of the Weaver Stadium.
In fact, many supporters were taken away from the finish. Oliver executed the move to perfection to put the ball past the keeper on the far right and his athleticism was highly praised afterwards.
Nantwich Town had been obliterated by Oliver’s two quick-fire goals in the 61st and 63rd minute and they had failed to maintain the pressure they put on the Alex in the first half.
Nantwich had been most definitely made to pay for the lackadaisical finishing. Nevertheless, they replied with substitute Chris Amadi scoring at the near post on 70 minutes.
A goal that Steve Phillips will undoubtedly been disappointed to concede. Phillips attempted to push the shot past the post, but there was too much power in the shot and it crept into the corner of the net.
Crewe were not setback from conceding and responded quickly as Oliver claimed his first hat-trick for Crewe. He tucked home coolly after substitute Jake Green had found space in the centre of the park and found Oliver.
Crewe had the opportunity to further extend their lead as Sam Winnall found himself another opportunity, unfortunately he could not round off his fantastic performance and dragged his effort just wide of the far post.
Steve Davis demanded possession football on the touchline as the game came to a close and he must pleased with the improved performance after his side slipped to a defeat the night before.
The final whistle blew.
Speaking to the official Crewe site after the game, assistant manager Neil Baker said: “It was another tough afternoon for us. But we have managed to get players some minutes under their belt, and haven’t picked up any injuries.
“We have managed to score some goals and the players have gone on a stage further this afternoon. They didn’t manage to do that yesterday at Leek but they were much better this afternoon.
“Vadaine has scored three terrific goals this afternoon and he has surprised us with the quality of his second goal today. That isn’t the sort of goal we would expect him to score but of course it is pleasing to see.”
Ultimately, Crewe put some recent negative press to bed and put in a sumptuous second half display as several players made notable contributions to help claim the win.
Overall, a more than satisfactory performance with Crewe Alex frontman Vadaine Oliver the stand-out man of the match.
Bring on the new season, as Gresty Road hosts last year's League Two runners-up Rotherham United in a League One tie on the 3rd of August.
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