Crewe 2, Albion 1.

We should have feared the worst when the fixture computer condemned Albion to an opening visit to the Alexandra Stadium.

Their Crewe hoodoo struck again as they lost a match they should have won.

Dean Wilkins guided the Seagulls to a 1-1 draw at their bogey ground back in February, their first point in seven trips to Cheshire. They looked like going one better after an early strike by Dean Cox, who celebrates his 20th birthday today (Sunday).

But referee Steve Bratt became the focal point of Albion's chronic sense of injustice.

Gary Roberts equalised with a first-half penalty for handball against Dean Hammond. Bratt at first rejected Crewe's appeals, only to change his mind on the advice of the linesman flagging much further away from the incident.

The Seagulls were convinced they should have been given a penalty themselves in the closing stages after Roberts headed in Crewe's winner in the 79th minute.

Cox was brought down by Byron Moore but, to Albion's dismay, Bratt awarded a free- kick just outside the box.

As if that was not all frustrating enough, Hammond and Tommy Fraser also headed against the woodwork in each half for a dominant Albion after Crewe lost their attacking spearhead Nicky Maynard midway through the opening period with a suspected broken ankle.

There were no surprises in Albion's starting line-up.

The back four virtually picked itself, Kerry Mayo continuing at left-back in preference to Sam Rents who did not even make the bench.

Fraser played on the right side of a home-grown midfield quartet, with Jake Robinson ruled out by an ankle injury.

As expected, Alex Revell prevailed in the battle to join Nicky Forster up front.

The Seagulls had plenty of fire power in reserve, with Bas Savage and Nathan Elder among the substitutes.

Crewe gave a first start on the right side of midfield to 18-year-old Moore after Ryan Lowe suffered an ankle injury in training.

The home side included two new faces, left-back Billy Jones from Exeter and midfielder Steven Schumacher, who was on target for Bradford City against Albion last season.

The general consensus following Albion's summer dealings in the transfer market was that they might be lacking creativity.

Those fears were dispelled as they swiftly exposed an aerial vulnerability in the Crewe defence.

Hammond was desperately unlucky not to give the Seagulls the lead just six minutes into the contest.

The skipper began a move which also involved Cox and Fraser before Andrew Whing was found in space on the right.

His cross was met by Hammond with an angled header which beat the diving Ben Williams, only to rebound off the far post.

Just five minutes later a diagonal cross from Fraser picked out Forster but his downward header was held by Williams.

Crewe were fortunate to survive on both occasions but there was no escape for them in the 14th minute when Albion's lively attacking was rewarded with a well-worked goal.

Mayo's cross was nodded back from beyond the far post by Fraser and Cox found the bottom corner of the net in precise fashion with his right foot from 15 yards.

The threat to Albion's defence had been sporadic up to that point, although Moore and Maynard looked inventive.

Whing blocked an early shot from Moore when Maynard set him up but the Seagulls were comfortable until Crewe were presented a controversial route back to parity midway through the first half via a penalty.

A cross from the right by Jones appeared to bounce against Hammond's hand in a packed penalty area.

Bratt gestured with his hands no penalty but his assistant flagged for a spot kick and Bratt changed his mind.

Hammond delayed the taking of the penalty with a word for Michel Kuipers but it made no difference, Roberts slamming the ball down the middle past Albion's helpless Dutch keeper.

Crewe were fortunate to be level but they suffered a major blow almost straight from the re-start when Maynard was involved in a firm but fair challenge with Mayo.

It was instantly apparent that Crewe's main striker, a goalscorer twice against Albion at Withdean last season, was seriously hurt and he was stretchered off clutching his right leg.

As often happens, the sickening incident if anything seemed to affect Albion more than Crewe, although they still should have been back in front by the interval.

Hammond's free header from Mayo's corner in the 38th minute caused an almighty scramble inside the six-yard box, with Forster just unable to force the ball over the line.

There was no suggestion of Albion easing off and settling for a point after the break. They carried on carving out opportunities.

Early in the second half Fraser threaded Revell through the inside right channel but he dragged his effort well wide.

A neat move a couple of minutes later launched by Cox, was almost finished by the little man when Revell nodded Fraser's cross down into his path but he could not get sufficient power in the shot to beat Williams.

The dominating Seagulls were denied by the woodwork for the second time in the 51st minute.

A centre from Whing was headed back across the face of goal by the ever-dangerous Forster and Fraser's diving header deflected off the challenging Chris McCready and against the bar.

Crewe's attacking efforts were contrastingly sparse. It was not until well into the second half that Kuipers was forced into his first serious save, a snapshot from Miller causing the keeper to parry the ball to safety above his head.

From the resulting corner, it was Albion, for once, who were found wanting in the air at the back when Roberts, one of smaller players on the pitch, spurned the chance to give Crewe a flattering advantage by heading wide.

The Seagulls still looked good for at least a draw until Roberts made amends with 11 minutes left.

A slip by substitute Paul Reid during a Crewe attack down the left ended with Jones crossing for Roberts to crash in a header from close range.

An eventful match ended in more controversy when Cox was bundled over by Moore. Albion's playmaker and his team-mates were convinced it was inside the box but referee Bratt, villain of the piece once more, awarded a free-kick a yard outside the right-hand edge of the area instead.

The Albion players must have been kicking themselves all the way back down the M6. To come away with nothing was a travesty.

Brighton: Kuipers, Whing, Mayo, Butters, Lynch, Fraser, El-Abd, Hammond, Cox, Forster, Revell. Subs: Sullivan, Reid, Savage, Elder, Elphick.

Crewe: Williams, Woodards, Jones, Baudet, McCready, Moore, Cox, Roberts, Schumacher, Miller, Maynard. Subs: Tomlinson, O'Donnell, Vaughan, Bopp, Pope.

Referee: S Bratt (W Midlands).

Attendance: 5,394.

Were you at Crewe? What do you think of Albion's result? Should there be any changes for Tuesday's game at Cardiff? Let us know your thoughts