Albion's propensity to give up the points against sides with poor home records continued at Gresty Road this evening.
Crewe had a worse home record than basement side Darlington at start of play but two goals in the first eighteen minutes from former York City striker Clayton Donaldson and also Joel Grant gave Dario Gradi's side a great platform to build from and they probably should have won by more if the truth be told, Richard Walker's late scrambled effort giving Albion a modicum of respect in terms of the result.
In truth it was another case of Albion coming up against a side brimming with pace and movement in attack and not having the answers to overcome it.
After the successful deployment of Russell Penn in a familiar role behind the main striker in Saturdays win against Hereford United, Brewers boss Paul Peschisolido adopted an if it aint broke, dont mend it philosophy, naming an unchanged team and substitutes bench for the Brewers first ever visit to Gresty Road. It meant a return to his former club for Ryan Austin who swapped Crewe for Burton back in 2004 and also meant that an ex Burton defender lined up against former team mates.
Full back John Brayford, for whom the Brewers received a club record fee in August 2008 returned to the Crewe line-up after missing their draw at Northampton on Saturday with a shoulder injury.
Trying to capitalise on blustery conditions right from the kick off, Joel Grant slung in a teasing right wing cross in the opening seconds that had Artur Krysiak flapping at thin air but which also eluded all of Grants onrushing team mates.
Albion quickly began to settle but conditions were making any flowing football difficult. Krysiaks confidence was restored somewhat in the 8th minute when a flurry of activity on the edge of Albions penalty area ended with Ashley Westwoods shot being safely caught by the Polish keeper.
It was an old face though who came back to haunt Albion in the 12th minute. Former transfer target Clayton Donaldson took advantage of a slip by Ryan Austin and although the defender got to his feet quickly the former York striker cut back inside and curled a delicious right foot shot into the far corner off the post from 18 yards out on the angle of the area.
Donaldson was instrumental in Crewe's second goal just five minutes after the opener. Roaming on the right side of midfield the forward played in leading scorer Calvin Zola who chipped over Krysiak from just inside the box but could only watch on as his shot cannoned back off the far post. Grant, though was on hand to spare his colleague's blushes to fire in the rebound from close range.
The Brewers had a great chance to get themselves back into the game in the 24th minute, Russell Penn releasing Jimmy Phillips down the left but the youngster showed a lack of experience and spurned two of three chances to get his shot away before the chance was lost.
Albions approach play was all too often neat and tidy but the pace and power of Crewes front line was proving much more effective and difficult to cope with especially Donaldson who almost bagged himself a second in the 34th minute working himself a yard of space on the edge of the box before firing wide.
Grant almost put the game out of Albions reach in the 43rd minute, Again the three frontmen linked well together and with Albions defence retreating the striker cleverly disguised a low shot that very nearly caught out Krysiak, the keeper staying alert and keeping his eyes on the ball to smother the shot. The Pole did even better shortly after as Ashley Westwood found himself all alone in the box and the keeper had to push his shot around the post.
Albion finished the half with their first real effort to seriously test Alex keeper Steve Phillips. Russell Penn was bundled over just outside the box and Aaron Websters thunderous effort beat the wall but not the alert Phillips.
Paul Peschisolido made a double change at half time replacing both wingers, Phillips and Cadogan with Jacques Maghoma and Greg Pearson. The formation changed to a 4-3-1-2 as Pearson joined Harrad in attack.
It almost proved inconsequential as Crewe threatened to extend their lead right from the kick off. Donaldson was again allowed to surge deep into Albion territory and his cross seemed certain to be turned in at the far post by Luke Murphy but Aaron Webster did well to force him to put his shot into the side netting.
Albion began to look a little more cohesive with Harrad having some much needed support from Pearson but they were still not getting that much change out of the Crewe defence.
Webster became the first name in referee Salisbury's notebook just after the hour mark following a tussle with Donaldson just outside the penalty area.
Russell Penn went agonisingly close to getting one back for Albion in the 67th minute. A Crewe corner broke down and Tony James led the breakout feeding Penn on the left. Cutting inside he let fly from 25 yards and with Phillips nowhere near the ball saw his shot crash back off the crossbar.
Pearson also went close in the 74th minute but his header at the near post from Michael Simpson's cross was just wide of the upright.
With Albion at last having some pressure at the right end of the field Richard Walker was brought on for the last twelve minutes to try and unlock the home defence. His first touch was a neat hook into the box that Michael Simpson could only volley high over the bar.
Walker also had Phillips at full stretch in the 84th minute with a cross that took a wicked deflection off a home defender and almost crept over the Crewe keeper into the net until the home custodian got a hand to the ball.
As Albion continued in search of a consolation Walker again tested Phillips with a long range shot that the on loan Bristol Rovers keeper collected above his head.
As stoppage time beckoned Albion's summer signing went even closer with a shot that beat the Crewe keeper but got deflected just wide of the post.
Walker finally got the reward for his bright twelve minute cameo appearance, glancing in Michael Simpson's well flighted free kick deep into added time and both Walker and Phillips found themselves on a yellow card after a skirmish in the back of the goal as Albion desperately tried to get the game restarted quickly.
It was too little too late and Albion were left to wonder what might have been had Penn's thunderbolt nestled in the net rather than come back out.