A BELOW par first-half performance proved to be Wrexham's undoing as they slumped to a 2-0 defeat against Crewe Alexandra at Gresty Road.

League Two outfit Crewe played some excellent football in the second half and Wrexham struggled to cope as the home side continues to get into some excellent positions.

Eventually it took its toll and poor defending enabled Crewe to take a two-goal lead before the break.

Although Crewe were impressive going forward, it was probably Wrexham's poorest performance during their pre-season programme and they only had a couple of half chances to show for their efforts.

There was an improvement after the break as Dean Saunders switched to a 4-5-1 formation but with less goalmouth action at either end, Wrexham were unable to get on the scoresheet and pin their hosts back.

The Reds will continue their build up to the new Conference campaign with a friendly against Airbus tomorrow evening.

Although he once again took a full squad to Crewe, for the first half Saunders named what will surely be close to the starting eleven that he will select for the opening Conference fixture against Cambridge United in less than a fortnight.

The first scoring chance fell to Crewe's Calvin Zola after he outpaced the Wrexham defence but he fired wide with just goalkeeper Scott Shearer to beat.

Dave Artell also hooked the ball over the bar from close range after Shearer failed to claim Ashley Westwood's free-kick that was headed back across goal as Crewe continued to enjoy a lively start.

Wrexham responded through Declan Walker whose goalbound cross from the right flank was tipped over the bar by keeper Rhys Taylor, but it was Crewe who took a 13th minute lead.

Skipper Westwood delivered a cross that Shaun Miller nodded down for Zola who escaped Chris Blackburn before sliding the ball past Shearer from six yards.

Andy Mangan cleared the bar and stand in a rare Wrexham attempt at goal but Crewe doubled their advantage after 18 minutes.

Westwood put Miller through on goal and after beating Walker he fired past Shearer from just inside the penalty area.

Clayton Donaldson was only just too high with a 25 yard shot as Crewe kept the pressure on Wrexham, and the striker also brought a save out of Shearer after he shook off some weak challenges on his route to goal.

Mangan came close to reducing the deficit after 28 minutes with a dipping 25-yard drive which only just cleared the bar after he latched onto Nat Knight-Percival's flick-on.

A well worked move involving Dean Keates and Neil Ashton set up Knight-Percival whose effort was deflected wide for a corner as Wrexham started to come more into the game, and Walker's well struck free-kick from the left edge of the area landed inches over the Crewe bar.

Saunders made one change for the start of the second half with David Brown taking over from Kevin Gall as Wrexham switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Westwood headed narrowly wide in the 52nd minute as Crewe pressed for another goal but Wrexham came closer when Keates 25-yard free-kick was blocked by keeper Taylor and Lee Bell put the loose ball out of play for a corner.

More substitutions were made by Saunders as the half wore on, including the introduction of trialist midfielder Danny Racchi who is without a club after he was released by Bury at the end of last season.

Patrick Ada's overhead kick was easily saved by Shearer while Racchi came close to scoring at the other end in the 71st minute when he ran from his own half and attempted to chip Taylor from 25 yards but the keeper managed to tip the ball over the bar for a corner.

Walker also fired wide, Mangan headed narrowly off target and Brown also cleared the bar but Wrexham ended up drawing a blank in front of goal.

CREWE ALEXANDRA (4-3-3): Taylor; Tootle, Artell, Ada (Davis 73), Blanchett; Westwood (Moore 65), Bell, Murphy; Donaldson, Zola (Leitch-Smith 65), Miller.

Subs not used: Fogler, Mitchel-King, Connerton, Mellor, Sarceivc, Dugdale, McCarthy, Maguire.

WREXHAM (4-4-2): Shearer; Walker, Blackburn, Sinclair, Ashton (Hunt 62); Gall (Brown 46), Harris (Tolley 62), Keates, Knight-Percival; Morrell (Racchi 62), Mangan.

Subs not used: Maxwell, Mawer, Cieslewicz, Williams, Baynes, Obeng, Smith, Rushton.

Referee: D Mohareb.

Attendance: 1,532 (333 from Wrexham).