Dave Artell played down Crewe’s rise to the top of the Sky Bet League Two table as he felt his side made heavy weather of beating basement club Stevenage 3-1.
The Railwaymen wasted first-half chances to add to Chris Porter’s header before Charlie Kirk and Ryan Wintle struck in the space of four second-half minutes to send the strugglers packing.
While Stevenage barely posed a threat until Charlie Carter struck a late consolation, tough task master Artell was disappointed with some of his side’s finishing.
The Crewe boss said: “We could have been sharper, although I didn’t feel we were in any danger at 1-0. But to be only 1-0 up at half-time was poor – we should have been two or three up by then.
“But I always thought we’d score next and we were terrific in the first 20 minutes of the second half and we deserved the three points, the three goals and the only blemish was their goal at the end.
“When you are second in the league you should in theory beat the bottom team, but it doesn’t always work out like that. But our quality showed through in the end. It’s three goals and three points, so now we move on.
“We could be in a lot worse position. We’ve got nine games left and if we win all nine we’re home and hosed.”
Crewe made the most of rivals Swindon’s home defeat at the hands of Forest Green to go top on goal difference.
They dominated throughout with Porter planting James Jones’ cross into the bottom corner for the opener after 15 minutes.
But poor finishing and the presence of keeper Paul Farman kept Stevenage in the game for an hour at least.
Kirk was denied at the near post by a good stop from Farman, whose acrobatic save from Daniel Powell early in the game helped postpone the inevitable.
Powell’s bad miss before the break when the winger steered Kirk’s cross into the side netting with the goal gaping aggravated Artell, but Stevenage did not look like they would trouble Crewe.
Their dismal run now stretches to eight straight defeats and by the time Carter’s late effort flew under Crewe keeper Will Jaaskelainen they were a well beaten side.
Their plight had been sealed with two quick goals in the second half.
First Farman failed to hold onto Kirk’s low drive which crept over the line and then Wintle drove in spectacularly from 25 yards off the underside of the bar for Crewe’s third.
It was caretaker boss Alex Revell’s second game in charge and the former striker is not throwing in the towel just yet, although they are eight points adrift.
He said: “It is still possible that we can stay up. The players believe we can get out of it and I do as well.
“We are playing for the future of the football club and we have to keep believing. But we have to make sure we don’t make the mistakes we did here.
“Crewe are a good side but we didn’t help ourselves for their goals. They didn’t have to really work for them.
“We’d worked hard in the week on where they were strong but when you turn off against a team like that they punish you.
“But I am enjoying the challenge here and they’re an honest group of lads. We’ve had disappointing results but we’ve got to keep working.”