THE statistics show that Oxford United should have got something out of this match.

But the fact is that in both boxes, the U’s fell short.

They had huge amounts of possession, and more than 20 attempts at goal, but displayed a lack of cutting edge in attack. And that was key.

In the first half, while there was a touch of fortune over the opening Crewe goal, the United defence and midfield was too often cut open by some incisive passing from the hosts.

The U’s were missing key players with James Constable failing to recover from a calf injury and Peter Leven attending the birth of his child, but they still should have had enough about them to have got something out of this game.

The main criticism levelled at Chris Wilder’s side in the opening five games was the lack of goalscoring opportunities they had created.

That was addressed at Gresty Road on Saturday – but the problem without Constable, was that there was nobody able to convert any of the chances.

Oxford, wearing their away strip for the first time this season, started the game very well, with Alfie Potter and Simon Heslop both going close from distance.

But they had keeper Ryan Clarke to thank for keeping them level when Shaun Miller showed neat footwork to beat Jake Wright and then Michael Duberry with a jinking run. But Clarke smothered the shot well.

Crewe’s David Artell somehow headed wide when unmarked six yards out, but straight from the resulting goal kick Potter almost gave United the lead, but his left-foot effort was well-saved by home keeper Steve Phillips.

On the half-hour Crewe did take the lead, however.

Jake Wright mis-kicked a long ball, which set Danny Shelley free. His run towards goal was stopped by Duberry’s sliding tackle, but the ball rebounded back to Shelley, who showed great composure to lay it in the path of Miller who fired in off the underside of the bar.

Buoyed by the goal, the classy Miller almost doubled the lead three minutes later when more quick passing set the striker through on goal.

He took the ball around Clarke, but United’s keeper did well to stretch out an arm to grab it from his feet.

Four minutes later, it was 2-0.

Crewe worked the ball well on the right, and a great cross from Ashley Westwood saw Miller, unmarked, sidefoot home from six yards out.

United dug in and held out towards half-time, coming very close to reducing the deficit on the stroke of the interval when Asa Hall’s shot was spilled by Phillips, and as Deane Smalley looked certain to score, Adam Dugdale’s sliding block saw the ball deflect behind for a corner.

Oxford came flying out of the blocks for the second period and there was only one team in it.

However, they could not get the goal that would have got them back into the game.

Potter’s header was saved at full-stretch by Phillips, before the winger then fired over and saw another effort saved.

Crewe had hardly got out of their half, yet with 25 minutes to go, made it 3-0.

In their first attack of the second half, a great ball from Luke Murphy saw Ajay Leitch-Smith break the offside trap. He controlled the ball well, and shot left-footed under Clarke.

It was as against the run of play as you could imagine, but again showed that bit of quality in the final third that Oxford lacked.

Damian Batt, Josh Payne and Jon-Paul Pittman were all sent on by Wilder, and did give the U’s more bite.

Batt and Payne linked well down the right, and it was from a good run from the latter that Liam Davis pulled a goal back with 13 minutes to go.

Payne’s right-flank cross found Davis at the far post, and the left back made no mistake.

The goal gave the U’s belief, and Davis was inches away from doubling his tally.

His left-foot shot hammered against the inside of a post, the rebound coming straight, but quickly, to Smalley, who seemed caught between hitting the ball first time and controlling it, and the chance had gone.

Crewe managed only their fifth shot on target in injury time when Caspar Hughes found space, but Clarke saved well.

But while the attempts on goal over the 90 minutes read Crewe seven, Oxford 24, boy did the hosts make theirs count.